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Dr Mark Baker welcomes Michael Portillo to Gwrych Castle as part of BBC Two series

Dr Mark Baker welcomes Michael Portillo to Gwrych Castle as part of BBC Two series

A former Rydal Penrhos pupil welcomed a former cabinet minister to the castle he is restoring as part of a BBC Two production.

Dr Mark Baker, an architectural historian and chairman/founder of Gwrych Castle Preservation Trust who left the school in 2003, gave Michael Portillo a tour of the grounds for his Great British Railway Journeys series, which aired on Friday, January 19.

During his visit the presenter found out about the story of Gwrych Castle’s Welsh countess, Winifred Bamford Hesketh, the sole heiress of the estate.

Speaking to the Rhyl Journal, Dr Baker said: “He [Portillo] looked back to 1910, just over 110 years ago when the castle was all up and running as the home of the countess. I gave him a tour. He seemed like really nice guy. I spent about three or four hours with him.

“We talked about the history of the site and I showed him around.

“He was really interested in how the trust came about and that I was only 12 when I took it on. He said this had been his favourite location.

“He got off in Abergele and Pensarn and then as soon as they [the crew] arrived at Gwrych Castle, they turned on the camera and started filming straight away. It was great as Michael Portillo’s reaction was so real and natural.”

The Grade I listed site was left to rot for decades, but the Trust, which comprises of 65 volunteers and was formed in 1997, has restored the impressive Gardener’s Tower and they lit the stove and main fireplace for the first time in 100 years at a special Open Day.

 “Twenty years ago, when I was 12, I was passing the castle to and from school and I would see the building get more deteriorated and derelict, and so I decided to set up the castle trust,” added Dr Baker.

“Since then I have been campaigning for the restoration.”

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