'Unique' 16th Century table back at Gwydir castle

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TableImage source, Gwydir Castle
Image caption,
The "finely carved table" is about 6ft 2ins long and 3ft 5ins wide

A 16th Century table described as "one of Wales' most significant pieces of historic furniture" has been returned to a castle after 100 years.

The table, which dates back to 1590, was returned to Gwydir Castle in Llanrwst, Conwy, on Thursday after being bought by an American benefactor.

The piece left the castle in 1921 after being sold for £1,000 at an auction to cover upkeep of the estate.

Now it has been bought back for a five-figure sum and will be put on display.

The anonymous donor has family links with the Wynn family that used to live at the 15th Century Grade I-listed Tudor castle, which has also housed kings and queens.

The "incredibly rare piece of Welsh history" has carvings that highlight the heraldry of the Wynn family - such as the eagle of Owain Gwynedd, the lion of Gruffydd ap Cynan and the fleur-de-lis of Colwyn ap Tangno - and was made for Sir John Wynn in about 1590.

Image source, Gwydir Castle
Image caption,
Lot 55 of the 1921 auction described a "magnificent and rare Elizabethan oak centre table"

Some believe table was sold to US newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst in 1921 - the man believed to have been the inspiration for the main character in the Oscar-winning film Citizen Kane.

Gwydir Castle's current owners said it might have been made to "commemorate an important wedding which took place in 1596, which united two leading north Wales families - the Wynns and Mostyns".

Now it has returned as part of efforts to bring back all of the items sold in the 1921 auction.

"It's such exciting news, we're so chuffed and overwhelmed," said owner Judy Corbett, who has run the castle with husband Peter Welford since 1994.

"It's such an up after the huge financial downs we've suffered over the last few years - being shut through the coronavirus lockdown and the castle flooding.

"That has cost us thousands and thousands of pounds and it has a significant impact on the upkeep of the castle because all the money we make goes back into maintaining this historic estate, which isn't cheap.

"So this table being returned is absolutely massive for us, especially at this time. And we owe it all to the generosity and desire of one lady who has made this happen - it's such a boost."

Image source, Gwydir Castle
Image caption,
The table was described as magnificently carved in acanthus design and "perfectly preserved" in 1921

It was bought from Kidwelly-based antiques dealer Richard Bebb by an American lady "proud of her Welsh background and who has a great love for Wales and Welsh history".

"She tells us she has 'loved doing this for Gwydir and for Wales'," said Ms Corbett.

"The heraldry is fascinating. It's one of the most important pieces of Welsh furniture that there is. We will make absolutely sure it never leaves Gwydir again. History endures and this is a touchstone, something solid and unwavering."

Image source, Gwydir Castle
Image caption,
Gwydir Castle's owners are now trying to find the oak parlour from the room where the table originally sat