Fire at historic Welsh ex-hotel Bontddu Hall kills one

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Saturday, June 6, 2020

A fire broke out yesterday at Bontddu Hall near Dolgellau in Gwynedd, Wales. The historic mansion is a former hotel with high-profile guests. A rescued woman died at the scene.

Bontddu Hall, pictured in 2007.
Image: Alan Fryer.

North Wales Fire and Rescue Service were called to the building, located off the A496 overlooking the Mawddach Estuary in Snowdonia National Park, at 09:09am local time. Resources sent included appliances from Dolgellau, Harlech, Barmouth, Bala, and Blaenau Ffestiniog according to a fire service statement, as well as an aerial ladder platform, high volume pump, and the service's incident command unit.

Police, the ambulance service, and an air ambulance also attended. Photos and video from the blaze showed thick smoke with flames visible at windows. The fire service indicated an investigation working alongside North Wales Police was underway. Bontddu Hall recently underwent building work and scaffolding was still erected at the time of the fire.

File photo of Bontddu with the Mawddach Estuary in the background.
Image: Anonymous.

Bontddu Hall dates to 1873, originally a 20-room mansion, and was a country retreat for the Mayor of Birmingham called Bryn Tirion before becoming a hotel. Guests include regular visitor ex-UK Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and actor Richard Burton who stayed at Bontddu Hall while filming his 1949 movie debut The Last Days of Dolwyn.

The hotel closed around fifteen years ago, with local press reporting in 2004 then-new owner Tong Yung-soo, who had purchased Bontddu Hall in 2001, and his wife applied to make it a residence once more. The move was met with what WalesOnline called "fury" from local tourism chiefs. The then-manager of Barmouth Publicity and Director of Mid Wales Tourism Partnership, David Clay, called it "a retrograde step" and said "[a]n area like this cannot afford to lose such a quality hotel."

The Tongs indicated issues staffing the hotel, something Clay recognised, and Mr Tong had said they intended to "restore the hall to its former glory." Following the hotel's closure it has remained a private home.

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