Featured image for Bodelwyddan Castle

The Beautiful Bodelwyddan Castle

Sitting just outside of the village of Bodelwyddan is the ever so romantic Bodelwyddan Castle. While as beautiful as can be, it plays home to a large history and is now said to be one of the most haunted buildings in Wales. It was first built as a unique and quaint manor house before it was turned into the lovely castle that we see today.

Bodelwyddan Castle history

The original manor house based at the site looked far different from the castle we see today. That is because of a huge reconstruction that took place that completed the current building. The impressive castle is made even better because of its perfect position in a large area of lush parkland. With a history this long, it comes as no surprise that the castle is said to be extremely haunted.

Entrance of Bodelwyddan castle
The castle is said to be one of the most haunted buildings in Wales. Source: Flickr.

The early history

It all began around the year 1460 when the Humphreys family built a fortified manor house at Bodelwyddan, near Rhyl. They went on to own the castle for over 220 years before they decided to sell it to Sir William Williams in 1680 who, at the time, was Speaker of the House of Commons. Fast forward to the year 1830 and the mansion was completely rebuilt in a Victorian Gothic style by Sir John Hay Williams.

Sir John Hay Williams

Sir John certainly did a lot at the castle including laying out a stunning formal garden that completely surrounded the house. This means that it enclosed the estate within a huge curtain wall. One of the architects used by Sir John was Joseph Hansom, inventor of the Hansom cab. However, Sir John chose a bad time to start improvements as it was at the same time that a slump in the lead mining industry began which provided a large majority of his family fortune.

By the time the late Victorian period came around, the family could no longer keep up with their standard of living. By the early 20th century, large parts of the estate had to be sold off.

Moving on

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Within the castle walls. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Bodelwyddan Castle was used exclusively as a hospital during WWI while the grounds were used by the military and a training centre for trench warfare. After hostilities ceased, the Williams family then sold the entire estate to Lowther College who went forth and established a girl’s school within it. It then played home to the college until the year 1982.

It was then that the college was forced to close due to financial constraints. Then, the Clwyd County Council purchased the estate to concert the beautiful castle into a stunning museum and art gallery. The art gallery was developed in partnership with the National Portrait Gallery. It was then that all of the staterooms were restored to their former glory to act as a lovely Victorian backdrop to the gallery collections.

A luxury hotel

In the year 1994, the castle was split off into a luxury hotel while Williams Hall was kept to house the National Portrait Gallery art collections. To keep in touch with the history of the house, the collection focuses on the Victorian art and artists. The Bodelwyddan Castle hotel is loved by everyone who visits and was a great addition to the castle.

The current day

Nowadays, Bodelwyddan Castle is the perfect blend of a 19th-century country house and an exquisite art gallery. It is completely surrounded by fragrant formal gardens as well as 16 acres of beautiful woodland. The galleries within the castle are perfectly designed to provide somewhat of a window into the Victorian world with a hands-on experience of 19th-century pastimes, inventions, and popular science.

One of the most popular pieces of art that is within the castle is the Bodelwyddan Centrepiece. It is the oldest surviving silver centrepiece in Britain. The beautiful centrepiece was made by Edward Feline in the year 1730 for the Williams family. The perfectly crafted centrepiece is of a style that was brought to Britain from the court of Louis XIV at Versailles. It is said to have played a central part in all of the formal dinners.

Unfortunately, due to financial pressures, the castle and its grounds were put up for sale in the year 2019. To this day, it remains closed. However, the hotel which is separate to the castle remains open.

You may enjoy reading about other welsh castles such as Powis Castle.

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The entrance to the castle. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Bodelwyddan Castle Timeline

  • 1460- The Humphreys family build a fortified manor house at Bodelwyddan, near Rhyl
  • 1680- The Humphreys family decide to sell the castle to Sir William Williams
  • 1730- A beautiful centrepiece is made by Edward Feline for the Williams family
  • 1830- The mansion is completely rebuilt in a Victorian Gothic style by Sir John Hay Williams
  • 20th century- Large parts of the estate are sold off
  • 1982- Lowther College, which established a girl’s school within the castle, closed its doors due to financial constraints
  • 1994- The castle is split off into a luxury hotel while Williams Hall was kept to house the National Portrait Gallery art collections

Claim to fame

The thing that Bodelwyddan Castle is most famous for is the fact that it is named as one of the most haunted buildings in Wales. The property has had many uses throughout the years which means that it has seen many people walk through its doors. Here are a few of the ghosts you can find within the castle.

  • Ghost children- Many visitors have claimed that they have heard the giggles of children as well as the sound of them playing when there are no children in sight. There have also been reports of people entering the Toy Room and feeling small tugs on their hair and clothes.
  • The Blue Lady- There have been many sightings of a lady who is referred to as the Blue Lady. She is always seen wearing a blue dress and wandering around the castle’s sculpture gallery. She has also been seen walking through a wall that was once a doorway.
  • The Disembodied legs- While many people think that all of the ghosts are fully formed figures, but that is not the case. A security guard doing his rounds one night claims that he saw a pair of disembodied legs as he opened a door.
  • The Solider- Once seen in the castle galleries was the ghost of a soldier. Based on the look of his uniform, it is reported that he was part of the armed forces in the First World War.
  • The Victorian Lady- All of the female ghosts seem to love the galleries as it is said that another Victorian lady exists there. She is said to wear a long dark dress and disappears in the same area as the Blue Lady.
  • The Cellar Man- There is a very mischievous ghost at the castle known as the Cellar Man. He is said to lurk in the basement of the property and apparently, he likes to pinch and pull the hair of unsuspecting women.

Bodelwyddan Castle facts

  • The mansion was completely rebuilt in Victorian Gothic style by Sir John Hay Williams in 1830
  • The house was used as a hospital during WWI, and the grounds were used by the military as a training centre for trench warfare
  • One of the most popular pieces of art on show is The Bodelwyddan Centrepiece
  • The original manor house looked very different from the castle that stands today
  • The design both inside and out, features many Gothic elements, including a fireplace and ceiling

Featured in TV and Film

  • Most Haunted: Bodelwyddan Castle (2004)

Books on Bodelwyddan Castle

  • Bodelwyddan Castle: A Brief History by Alwyn S. Evans and Raymond F. Sandham (1994)

Who owns Bodelwyddan Castle?

When the castle was closed and put up for sale in 2019, all hope was thought to be lost. However, in a promising new development, the Denbighshire County Council has decided to repurchase the lease of Bodelwyddan Castle. This means that the castle’s future is now assured in the long term.

Tourism

These days, you can no longer visit Bodelwyddan Castle, however, there are still many historic attractions nearby such as Brynbella Garden, St Asaph Cathedral, and Gwrych Castle.

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