Mark Baker, a PhD student at Cardiff University and the author of 10 books, recalls his passion for Welsh historic architecture.
The first book I published was at the age of 13 called The Rise and Fall of Gwrych Castle. Each day on my way to school, I would pass this amazing Gothick castle and see that it was falling further and further into dereliction. I became heavily involved in a campaign to save Gwrych, appearing on numerous television programmes and meeting with Prince Charles and Tony Blair. This was to be the start of a passion for Welsh historical architecture which has led to the publication of 10 books including Forgotten Welsh Houses, written in tandem with Michael Tree, chairman of the Welsh Historic Gardens Trust and a Georgian Group Trustee, and my latest book A Royal Home in Wales: Llwynywermod.
After completing my Undergraduate Degree at Bangor University, I first came to Cardiff University to study an MA in Medieval British Studies. I chose Cardiff University because of the eminent Welsh School of Architecture which boasts a great library and archive collection. After completing my MA, I started my PhD which focuses on the development of the Welsh Country House. This specialisation is an unusual mix between three disciplines; History, Archaeology and Architecture.
There is so much great architecture in Wales which is undocumented and on our doorsteps that we donít really appreciate what is out there. One such case is Ruperra Castle. Itís in an oasis of green belt land between Cardiff, Newport and Caerphilly. When I came to Cardiff I was approached by the Ruperra Castle Preservation Trust to become a trustee because of my involvement with Gwrych Castle. I am now, with the University Archaeology society, organising an academic conference in conjunction with the Ruperra Trust which will hopefully attract distinguished speakers in the field of architectural history to Cardiff.
From the moment I first arrived at the University, it was both welcoming and interactive. The emphasis of Freshersí Week is to encourage students to be involved in the many different societies created by students and itís a great way for networking. The Graduate Centre also hosts some fun events and trips for postgraduates. The student nightclub on a Monday night is also great night out when you want to chill out from work!
On its 125th Anniversary I would like to congratulate Cardiff University on this important milestone. It is excellent that Wales has an institution as prestigious as Cardiff University and there is a lot of scope for new opportunities here, especially within my research discipline of architectural history.