Like how Gwrych Castle was used by English Middleweight Champion Randolph Turpin as a training ground in the 1950s…
We’ve all heard of the hit-show I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here! and are familiar with the concepts of the series (think of maggot milkshakes, vaults of doom, and plenty of drama among the hunger-struck and sleep-deprived celebrities.) But had you honestly heard of Gwrych Castle before this year?
With 2020’s swapping of the Australian outback for the majestic hills of North Wales, we’re wondering how much you know about the set of the 20th series on a hillfort in Abergele.
ITV’s decision to throw ten celebrities together with basic sleeping facilities, a rustic ‘privy’ bathroom, and a heating system that leaves a lot to the imagination, has certainly put North Wales on the map.
So we’ve brought to you some fun facts about the 19th-century country-house that’s situated just two miles from the nearest Lyons Holiday Park site (Lyons Kingsley, in Towyn.) Here’s what you never knew you never know about this year’s I’m a Celeb! location…
1) ‘What’s In a Name…?’ No, but seriously, what does Gwrych mean, and am I saying it right?
Perhaps one of the most Welsh-sounding locations broadcasted on national television, ‘Gwrych’ itself means ‘hedge.’ In the native language, Castell Gwrych literally means ‘hedged castle.’ In Welsh, similarly to French, sometimes the adjective comes before the noun.
The way to say it is to really pronounce every syllable – and don’t forget, in Welsh it’s all phonetic. Start by trying to say ‘Greeck.’ Then replace the final syllable with the ever unattainable Welsh ‘ch’ sound. You know the one, that makes you think someone with a cold. Think Harlech, Abersoch, or llongyfarchiadau (OK, we were joking with that last one.)
2) The local council had a say on this year’s decor
The new lightings on the Western turret of the castle were not installed under ITV’s direction. They were approved by Abergele Town Council after a special meeting in October. Cllr Andrew Wood pushed for the town council to consider funding of up to £3,500 to light up the turrets at Gwrych. The council agreed this was a good idea. Not just for the popular reality show, but as a ‘permanent’ fixture at the Grade I listed building.
3) You know it’s old – but it’s even older than you think
Gwrych Castle was constructed between 1810 and 1825 by Lloyd Hesketh Bamford-Hesketh. But its early history is impressively older than the 19th century. The Lloyds family (also known as the ‘Llwyds’) were the ancestral owners of the land around Gwrych Castle. This was known as ‘Plas yn y Gwrych’ (translating to ‘the large house in the hedge.’) Their ancestry dates back to the medieval period and the family shares a bloodline with Llywelyn the Great. He was the King of Gwynedd in the 12th century and eventually ruler of all Wales. The 250-acre estate has two iron age hillforts, lead and silver mines, a Roman shrine, and a medieval battle site.
4) They thought it was haunted by a headless monster back in the day (which turned out to be a sheep)
The main road leading to Colwyn Bay from Gwrych Castle was thought to be haunted by a scary ‘headless’ monster. Recordings near the time in 1913 of the fearsome shape were accompanied by reports of loud screeching noises. This led to the road being unused, with many taking a much longer detour. Men even took up revolvers to fend for themselves around what was believed to be the haunted joint. It was revealed years later that the creature was a white sheep with a black-head, unseen against the pitch of the night sky. The screeching sound was a broken branch of a tree.
5) ITV are putting their hands in their pockets to preserve the run-down castle
The castle eventually began to decline after it closed to the public in 1987. An attempt to restore the castle by a wealthy American businessman two years later failed. The former ‘Showpiece of Wales’ soon became the site of looting, vandalism, and was a ‘derelict shell.’ It was again purchased in 2007 by a hotel company as part of a £6m restoration project. But the company went into administration before work started.
The castle and estate were sold to the registered charity, Gwrych Castle Preservation Trust in 2018. Restoration work relied on donations and volunteer work – until ITV confirmed it as the location for this year’s I’m A Celeb. ITV is to support the ongoing restoration project of the site and cover certain costs. This in return for allowing the reality show to be filmed there. It’s rumoured that ITV has forked out for roofing, fixing of the walls, floors and stairs which comes to around £300,000.
Watch I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here! on ITV at 9pm.