Former sheep farmer with a background in sales and business, Jude Edgell decided to take on the challenge of restoring a Grade II listed Welsh castle. Now, two years on, the first-time renovator shares the challenges and historical discoveries she came across during the process.
When I first saw the castle in my twenties, I was completely blown away by it. It was definitely love at first sight. I would never have dreamt that one day I would own such an incredible building. Being Welsh and owning a Welsh castle is so special. We have ruins dating back to 1135, walled gardens, cottages, a tower, and the main castle, all set within a magnificent and commanding setting. Despite an austere exterior, the interior was decorated in the Louis XV style around 1860. Think floor to ceiling mirrors, marble fireplaces, gold leaf, hand-painted wallpaper, and huge chandeliers. We’ve just started to restore the interior, which I’m so excited about.
We started the work in 2019 and hope to move in next year. It hasn’t been smooth sailing; we’ve had constant hurdles along the way. When we renewed all the roofs, we found that the parapet walls needed to be rebuilt. The dry rot has been far more invasive and destructive than we ever imagined. Not one thing has been straightforward. You name the problem, we’ve encountered it.
As we’ve peeled back the layers of history, we’ve taken the view that we need to conserve and restore where we can and aggressively tackle destructive elements like the dry rot fungus. It’s a fine balancing act, and we will always have a huge maintenance schedule to deal with. Restoring a building of this scale is certainly challenging. However, it’s given me a new purpose in life. I’ve learnt so much about traditional building methods, damp, dry rot, bats, running a building site and having an Instagram account (@mywelshcastle) too.
I’m changing the castle, but it’s changed me for the better too. I’m very grateful and humble to have had this opportunity and realise I am only a custodian here for a short time in its lengthy history. The current castle was built by Emilia Gwinnett in 1790. I hope she’d approve of me restoring it now.
For anyone choosing a large project, make sure you love it enough to take the rough with the smooth, as it will be tough going at times. We fell in love with a building that happened to be a huge castle, yet we’ve faced the same renovation problems as everyone else, just on a different scale. Did we realise what we were taking on? In all honesty, we didn’t have a clue. Would we do it again? Yes, in a heartbeat.