One of Britain’s most high-profile aristocrats has claimed that negligence by staff at a North Wales care home was partly responsible for the death of her 102-year-old uncle.

Retired jeweller Norbert Marshall died in hospital after fracturing his hip in a fall at the Plas Isaf Home in Llannerch Road West, Rhos-on-Sea.

In a statement read at an inquest in Ruthin his niece, Lady Bristol, said she was shocked when she visited him in hospital and saw the condition of his feet.

“His toes were blue, his nails were three inches long and he was very unkempt,” she said. “I had a shock when I saw him: he was in a terrible state.”

Lady Bristol, the mother of socialites Victoria and Isabella Hervey, said she believed that the length of his nails caused him to be unsteady on his feet, leading to his fall.

“I believe it to be negligence on the part of the care home,” she added.

Yvonne Hervey, the Marchioness of Bristol, is the widow of the 6th Marquess, and spends her time between her apartment in London’s Eaton Square and Monaco.

The inquest heard that Mr Marshall, a widower, who retired to live in Llandudno after falling in love with the place as a child, took pride in his appearance.

He was diagnosed with dementia and moved into the home two and a half years ago. He was able to get up and walk about with assistance but had fallen about six times.

On Octobert 29, 2003, he was taken to Glan Clwyd Hospital with a urinary tract infection but returned to Plas Isaf where he announced jokingly: “I’m back, I’m back.”

On November 2, however, he was found lying on the floor of the lounge and taken back to hospital.

His condition deteriorated and he died on November 13, the cause of death being given as pneumonia, with the fall, frailty and dementia as contributory factors.

Photographs of Mr Marshall’s toes were shown at the inquest and John Gittins, senior coroner for North Wales East and Central, said he was concerned when he saw them.

Asked for her reaction, Gwyneth Conway, the current manager of the home, who was not in post at the time of his death, said : “We were shocked.”

She said the person who was manager at the time had left after failing to pass their probationary period.

Mrs Conway said that various improvements had been implemented including more training, risk assessments for falls and visits by a chiropodist.

Recording a conclusion of accidental death, the Coroner said he was reassured to hear of the steps taken and so did not see the need to issue a Prevention of Future Deaths report.

“I appreciate that changes have been made for the better,” he said.

Referring to Lady Bristol’s comments, he said that despite her belief “the reality was different”.

“In reality he was up and about and had been walking with the assistance of one of the carers.

“I certainly do not attribute the fall to his feet,” he said.