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Two arrested for Welsh hall blaze

Two men have been arrested on suspicion of burning down Hafodunos Hall, one of the most important historic buildings in Wales.

Designed by George Gilbert Scott, the Grade I-listed hall in Llangernyw, north Wales, was almost completely gutted by the blaze that ripped through the building earlier this month.

The country house was built from 1861-66 and is the only example of Gilbert Scott's domestic work anywhere in Wales.

Once used as a boarding school, the Venetian-inspired Gothic masterpiece had been derelict for many years and vandals had already destroyed parts of the interior.

However, developer SFJ had recently unveiled controversial plans to restore the hall and convert it into a hotel. To help fund the work, there were also proposals to build 90 holiday lodges within the hall's grounds.

The future of the scheme remains unclear following the fire, and the man behind the project, SFJ managing director John Rochelle, is said to be devastated.

The blaze could be the final straw for a building that had already been badly neglected.

Planning consultant John Lambe, who had been asked to draw up a masterplan for the site, had nothing but praise for the hall. 'It is very sad to see the demise of a building of that quality and by such an internationally famous architect, ' he said.

'Hafodunos Hall was a very fine building with some superb detailing, including the windows, plasterwork and architraves. There was even a very fine iron conservatory by Thomas Messenger, one of the greatest Victorian greenhouse designers.' With an octagonal billiard room, parapets and arches, the building was considered one of the finest in the region.

'I was very disappointed to see what had become of the hall when I first saw the structure.

Here was an opportunity to achieve real restoration of the building, ' Lambe added.

On Tuesday, North Wales Police confirmed they were questioning two local men, aged 20 and 21, on suspicion of arson.

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