Wray Castle

Wray castle may look like a magnificent gothic fortress with all its towers and turrets but the castle is actually a Victorian neo-gothic house constructed in 1840 for Dr James Dawson, a retired Liverpudlian surgeon.  The house was built using his wife Margaret’s inheritance from a gin fortune.  James also built the nearby Wray church.

TypeVictorian Neo-Gothic House
OwnershipNational Trust
AccessPublic – Fee

Click here to watch our video tour of Wray Castle

It is thought that Wray castle was designed by John Jackson Lightfoot but he sadly did not see the castle’s completion as he died from alcoholism.  The more experienced architect H.P.Horner completed the design.

wray castle

Upon visiting the completed castle, William Wordsworth stated that the castle “added a dignified feature to the interesting scenery in the midst of which it stands”.  Wordsworth also left his mark on the grounds by planting a mulberry tree in 1845 which remains to this day.

James and Margaret did not have any children and after James’ death in 1875, his nephew Edward Preston Rawnsley inherited the castle.  In 1877, Edward’s cousin, Hardwicke Rawnsley took the post as vicar at Wray church and Hardwicke is one of the three founders of the National Trust.  

Wray castle is also linked to another prominent figure in the creation of the National Trust and a world famous writer and illustrator, Beatrix Potter.  Beatrix spent a summer holiday at Wray castle in 1882 and during her visit she encountered Hardwicke Rawnsley, who encouraged her interest in preserving the natural beauty of the Lake District.

In 1929, Wray castle was gifted to the National Trust and has been utilised for a number of purposes since.  It was a youth hostel for a short time, an office for the Freshwater Biological Association between 1931 to 1951, a training college for Merchant Navy radio officers between 1958 to 1998.  In 2011 it opened as a hotel but after a successful trial opening up the castle to the public, the National Trust decided to permanently turn Wray Castle into a visitor attraction for all to enjoy.

Click below to watch our video on the history and exploring Wray Castle

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