A CHILDHOOD dream of owning a castle has finally come come true for a long-time campaigner.

Gwrych Castle, which overlooks Abergele, has been purchased by its preservation trust.

The fairytale-like grade one-listed castle was due to be put under the hammer by Pugh Auction in Manchester on Thursday (June 7), but the listing was withdrawn on the eve of the sale.

Gwrych Castle Preservation Trust bought the site after the UK government-funded National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF) stepped in with a grant of £600,000. A major grant was also received from the Richard Broyd Charitable Trust.

Mark Baker, chair of Gwrych Castle Preservation Trust, said: “As a child, I would pass the castle everyday to and from school, and at the age of 11 founded the castle trust. Now 21 years later, we are in a position to purchase and realise that vision.

“A huge vote of thanks must go to the NHMF and the Richard Broyd Charitable Trust for believing in our vision.”

The castle has a rich history.

It was built by Lloyd Hesketh Bamford-Hesketh between 1810 and 1822. It passed to Lloyd’s granddaughter, Winifred, countess of Dundonald in 1894. When she died in 1924, she left the castle in her will to King George V and the then Prince of Wales (who later became King Edward VIII).

It was the intention that Gwrych would become the family’s royal residence in Wales, however the gift was refused on the grounds of the economic downturn of the 1920s.

The castle passed to the newly disestablished Church in Wales before being purchased in 1928 by the countess’s estranged husband, Douglas, 12th Earl of Dundonald.

The doors of the castle closed to the public in 1985 and the build started to decline.

It was bought in 1989 by an American businessman but plans to renovate the building failed to progress. The castle was extensively looted and vandalised, reduced to a derelict shell.

Marcus Binney, executive president at SAVE Britain’s Heritage, said: “Gwrych Castle has been in serious danger for 40 years and has appeared in numerous SAVE reports on threatened historic buildings in need of new owners and new uses. We have supported and encouraged Mark Baker since he first took an interest in the castle aged 12.

“The acquisition of the castle by his preservation trust shows that determination, patience and resourceful thinking can save and revive great houses that have been in desperate straits for decades.”

Sir Peter Luff, chair of NHMF, said: “Gwrych Castle is enchanting, even in its sadly reduced state.

“The vision of Gwyrch Castle Preservation Trust to restore this spectacular building with a rich history and to open it again is inspiring.

“All of us at the National Heritage Memorial Fund felt compelled to support their ambition.”