The King of Hay

The 20th century has been just as exciting in the life of Hay Castle as the era of battles and attacks in medieval times. After the death of Lady Glanusk in 1938 the property was rented out and it was in the hands of the Guinness family in 1939 when a major fire broke out, destroying the eastern section. Luckily no one was hurt, but half of the building was left in ruins and remained without a roof. The Second World War meant that it was left empty until it was purchased by Edward Vernon Tuson, who 'collected' castles and had married into the Studt fairground family.

In the 1960s the castle was purchased by Richard Booth who was instrumental in coming up with the idea of making Hay the world's first Book Town. He saw an opportunity to establish second hand bookshops in this quiet border market town and purchased books in bulk from the United States, shipping them over in lorries to be delivered to the castle which acted as a hub for the growing number of bookshops he had encouraged people to open.

In 1977 Richard Booth came up with the idea of declaring Hay an Independent Kingdom and himself King. His quirky sense of humour saw him also declare his horse Goldie prime minister and a new Hay Sausage created. He was extremely good at publicity and these stories made the national press. 

You can see a film about the declaration of independence here

At the end of 1977 disaster struck the castle as a fire broke out, destroying many of the original features and resulting in the roof coming down and the building spending much of the 1980s as a building site. By 2000 the roof had been replaced and Richard had a bookshop open on the ground floor which sold an eclectic mix of antique and second hand books.