A CAMPAIGNER and heritage champion who has devoted his life to saving and restoring a historic ruin is in the running for a special award. 

Dr Mark Baker, chair of Gwrych Castle Preservation Trust, has been nominated in the ‘outstanding individuals’ section of the 2023 National Lottery Awards.

Dr Baker began his crusade to save Gwrych Castle, near Abergele, when he was just 11-years-old. 

In June 2018, under his leadership, the trust was able to buy the site after the National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF) stepped in with a grant of £600,000. A major grant was also received from the Richard Broyd Charitable Trust.

Dr Baker is one of only five individuals across the UK shortlisted in the Special Achievement category

The 38-year-old said: "I couldn’t believe it when I got the call. It’s lovely to be nominated.

"Breathing life back into the castle is a lifelong labour of love for me but it wouldn’t have been possible without the support of funders such as The National Lottery or the fantastic team and group of dedicated volunteers I’m proud to work with on this wonderful project and journey.”

Dr Baker was shortlisted for the awards in recognition of his his lifelong campaign and passion to save the Grade I listed country house from falling into ruin after it closed in 1987.

As an 11-year-old child in 1996, Mark passed the castle daily and found the destruction so "appalling" that he went on to create the Gwrych Castle Preservation Trust at the age of 12.

Following the purchase, further National Lottery good causes funding followed. 

Dr Baker has led a team of 100 staff and volunteers in restoring and opening the site to the public and he helped the castle and the community during the pandemic by bringing the TV show I'm a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here and its production team to the town in 2020 and 2021.

The castle has been able to reopen to the public as a tourist attraction.

Through extra revenue and publicity through tv filming, work to restore estate buildings into holiday lets has been carried out and a wedding licence has also been secured as well as an alcohol and entertainment licence. 

The castle welcomed more than 100,000 visitors in 2022 and expects more this year.


A panel made up of representatives of The National Lottery and partners from across the UK will decide the winners in each of the individual categories.

Winners will be revealed in the Autumn and will receive a £5,000 cash prize for their organisation and a coveted National Lottery Awards trophy.

Jonathan Tuchner, of The National Lottery, said: “The National Lottery Awards honour those who have stepped up and have gone the extra mile to make a difference in their communities, especially during these challenging times.

"Thanks to National Lottery players and the £30 million raised each week for good causes, thousands of individuals throughout the UK, like Mark, have been making an incredible difference in their areas, and this is our chance to highlight and celebrate the exceptional work of these selfless local heroes.”