Celebrity campaign to save D Day castle fails


A CELEBRITY campaign to save for the nation a historic country house where D-day was rehearsed has failed.

Stars including Downton Abbey actress Joanne Froggatt, theatre legend Brian Cox and radio DJ Edith Bowman all backed the campaign to save Castle Toward from falling into private hands.

The sprawling Argyll stately home – built in 1820 – was owned privately until the second world war when Churchill commandeered it as a base for troops practising the Normandy landings on Scotland’s coast.

After the war the local council bought the 25 bedroom property – turning it into a residential school of the arts for inner-city Glasgow children – before it fell into disrepair in 2009.

The country house was built in the Gothic Revival style
The country house was built in the Gothic Revival style


Earlier this year the council put it on sale for £1.75m – seeking a private bidder for the historic property – but campaigners protested over fears it could be turned into a private residential development.

A host of campaigners – including a slate of big-name celebrities – called on Argyll and Bute council to reinstate the house as a public school for the arts.

But now the council have confirmed that the house has been sold into the hands of private developers.

Castle Toward was built in 1820 on the grounds of a 15th century castle which homed the Clan Lamont.

After being owned privately for 120 years, the 25 bedroom home was commandeered by Winston Churchill in WWII – used to train thousands of British troops for the D-Day landings.

Overlooking the Clyde estuary, and with easy access to the sloping shoreline, the castle was the perfect place to train troops in amphibious warfare.

Soldiers practised beach landings – complete with bombs, smokescreens and strafing fighters – and leapt from landing craft, clambering up the beach in preparation for the events of June 6, 1944 in Normandy.

The training was so tough and realistic that many servicemen died in accidents.

After the war the home was bought by Glasgow City Council, and used as a residential school of the arts and an outdoor activities centre for inner city children.

The house has sat empty since 2009, and was put on the market for a staggering £1.75m earlier this year.

But the sale of the home kickstarted the I Heart Castle Toward campaign – aiming to save the property from private ownership.

Joanne Froggatt showing her support for the failed campaign
Joanne Froggatt showing her support for the failed campaign


Hundreds of arts figures and celebrities joined the campaign – and a petition to save the house currently has over 1,000 signatures.

Joanne Froggatt – who plays lady’s maid Anna Bates period drama Downton Abbey – recently backed the petition, posing in a campaign t shirt and sending a message of support.

It read: “Places like Castle Toward broaden horizons and inspire young minds and they are integral to the fabric of our society.”

She joined theatre veteran Brian Cox, Radio DJ Edith Bowman and 50 Shades of Grey star Jamie Dornan as well as a host of other big names in the fight to save the stately home.

But last night the campaign confirmed that their bid had failed.

A tweet from their account read: “It is with a heavy heart that we let you know that the sale of Castle Toward has progressed despite our efforts. Thank you for your support.”

Although the council valued the property at £1.75m, it is understood that it was eventually sold for significantly less.

The property has been sold to local husband-and-wife development team Keith and Denice Punler – who plan to transform it into a luxury wedding venue with a shop and cafe.

Mrs Punler said yesterday (Thursday): “We are thrilled that Castle Toward has been secured, as I have always been passionate about it as a venue.

“We have already appointed a management team whom we are confident will deliver a first-class destination.”