Ed Sheeran factor helps Framlingham Castle to ‘spectacular’ season

Framlingham superstar Ed Sheeran. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Framlingham superstar Ed Sheeran. Picture: GREGG BROWN - Credit: Gregg Brown

The Ed Sheeran factor is expected to have helped Framlingham Castle to a “spectacular” season, as tourism businesses across the eastern region celebrated a rise in turnover last year, a survey has found.

Framlingham Castle. Picture: ENGLISH HERITAGE

Framlingham Castle. Picture: ENGLISH HERITAGE - Credit: Archant

Publicity generated by the Framlingham singer/songwriter gave a lift to the English Heritage property, which saw visitor numbers rise by about 15% on budget.

It was also helped by a new café at the castle – part of a £1.2m conservation and improvement investment, and a chute installed to enable visitors to slide back down to the inner court from the wall while conservation work was ongoing, according to the region’s 2018 Tourism and Leisure Business Survey.

But from the moment Ed Sheeran released his single, Castle on the Hill, named after the castle in Framlingham, on January 6, 2017, there was a change, according to Kirstie Horne, property manager at the attraction.

That evening, The Tailormade, crowned London’s best buskers, drove down to Framlingham from London to recce the castle and at 8.30am the next morning filmed a cover version of the song there.

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“As well as our usual families with kids, and grandparents with grandchildren, we started to get lots of people in their late teens to mid-20s,” said Kirstie.

“One couple drove all the way from Blackpool for a look, and then drove home again. The whole demographic of our visitors changed.”

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The castle invested in a couple of cardboard cut-out Eds to give him a presence.

“We’re still getting people coming because of the single,” Kirstie said.

Overall, English Heritage said total number of visitors to Framlingham Castle in 2017/18 stood at just over 100,000, a 30% rise, or 24,000 up on the previous year.

Lucy Hutchings, historic properties director in the east, said: “It’s been a fantastic year for Framlingham Castle, and our visitor numbers have risen by 30%. At English Heritage we invested £1.2m last year in new visitor facilities which have made all the difference, including a new exhibition and café, and the temporary 6m slide last spring proved very popular.

“Our summer events, particularly the Joust and Knights and Princesses, also had an impact, and of course we were thrilled that Ed Sheeran drew inspiration from the castle for his song Castle on the Hill.

“We’re very much hoping to build on this success through 2018, and will be offering some fantastic events in the coming months, from the brand new Medieval Festival over the early May Bank Holiday, and the Siege in August, plus the return of our popular Joust in July.”

The tourism study is the largest independent survey of its kind in East Anglia.

It found that 62% of tourism businesses grew turnover last year, and 67% are anticipating turnover increases in 2018.

But there were pressure points, with half of businesses saying lack of certainty about Brexit is having a negative effect.

Businesses from across Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex took part in the annual survey during January and February.

The full tourism survey results, compiled by chartered accountants and business advisers Larking Gowen and supported by Visit East Anglia, Visit Norfolk, Visit Suffolk and Visit Essex, will be revealed in the EADT Business supplement on Wednesday, April 18.

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