The origins of Bodelwyddan Castle lay with the Humphreys family of Anglesey, who bought the land and built a mansion in around 1460. It is fair to say that Bodelwyddan as a settlement is rather down to the influence of the Humphreys family. The House was sold to Sir William Williams in 1690. Erstwhile Speaker in the House of Commons and a colourful character to say the least, his grandson was Sir Watkins Williams-Wynn, whose influence is felt, even to this day, throughout North Wales. The House at that time was a late 16th early 17th century affair. There is evidence of alterations being made to the fabric of the building in the early 18th century.
The House that is visible today is largely the work of Sir John Hay-Williams, a descendent of Sir William Williams and son of Sir John Williams. He was born at Bodelwyddan Castle and took ownership in 1830. Work on the Castle was extensive, overseen by Joseph Hansom, inventor of the Hansom cab and Edward Welch, and was a drawn-out affair. There is a possibility that the architect, John Gibson was also involved, who at the time was busy building St Margaret’s Church, otherwise known as the famous Marble Church. Work continued almost to the end of the 19th century.
However, the family fortunes depended on the extensive lead mining in the area, and as the industry began to slow, the funds to maintain such an elaborate family estate began to dry up. The Castle was occupied by the Army during the First World War, who used it a sanatorium for wounded soldiers, while the grounds were turned over to training for trench warfare by personnel from nearby Kinmel Park Camp. The remains of the trenches are still visible today.
In 1920, the House was finally leased to Lowther College, a girl’s school (until 1977) moving from Lytham St Annes in Lancashire to the quiet pastoral setting of Bodelwyddan. The property was bought outright in 1925, and the School remained in place until 1982 when it to succumbed to debt problems.
The estate was bought by Clwyd County Council, who developed partnerships with the National Portrait Gallery and the Royal Academy of Arts, in order to display works from both organisations in the refurbished rooms. Part of the Castle was leased to the Rank Organisation, which in turn became Warner’s Leisure which now manages a luxury hotel on site. Unfortunately, the arrangement with the National Portrait Gallery, which had led to the display of some notable works from their collection, came to an end in 2017 after Denbighshire County Council declined to renew the agreement.