Approach and Philosophy
We bought Gwydir Castle in 1994 when it was deemed a ‘problem house’ by Cadw and the local authority. Nobody wanted houses like Gwydir then. It was a white elephant – ancient, damp, and partially roofless: too big and draughty for comfortable living, too historically important to be altered.
Like many old Welsh houses, its past had been troubled by disintegration and dereliction. By 1994 Gwydir had quietly sunk to its knees, while the authorities looked on and bemoaned its fate. We were both in our twenties then, and armed with little more than a deep love of history and a romantic sensibility, we managed to raise a bank loan to buy Gwydir and have spent the last twenty-two years restoring this fascinating house. Those long days of hard work – and the many bizarre adventures we had along the way – were set down by Judy in her book ‘Castles In The Air’ (Judy Corbett, Ebury Press, 2004).
During the past twenty years of restoring the house and gardens, we have become accustomed to the sights and sounds of restoration work: endless scaffolding, lead and mortar, lime-wash and oak; stonework renewed, stonework repaired – the eye-watering cost of every small detail, from leaded lights to handmade nails. This wonderful old house still provides us with an inexhaustible supply of problems; but also of delights.
Ancient houses like Gwydir are the sum of their parts, historical as well as architectural. But in addition they evolve a particular frequency, over the centuries, which is specific to nowhere else. Gwydir has its own time, its own smell, its dense and layered atmosphere, which amounts to the metaphysical equivalent of its archaeology; this represents, in short, the soul of the house. It is this soul, this ‘spirit of place’ that we have tried hard to safeguard and nurture. It is a vulnerable quality all too easily destroyed. We have tried to keep Gwydir’s ancient humours and harmonies in balance; and if that means there are a few cobwebs here and there, or that the wisteria finds its way occasionally through an upstairs window, then so be it.
As a friend once wryly observed, we live in a house that keeps us both fit and poor! The many messages of support and encouragement we have received from visitors continues to move and inspire us in our work here at Gwydir. The restoration of Gwydir has been an enormous challenge. Other than a small grant from Cadw, we have funded the project ourselves. This has meant the work has progressed slowly but carefully. In coming to visit or stay at Gwydir, you are making a direct contribution towards its upkeep and restoration. Thank you!
Peter Welford & Judy Corbett