Colchester: Castle museum’s �4.2m bid to be one of the best

A �4.2MILLION revamp will make Colchester Castle one of the “best museums in the country” and attract thousands more visitors to the town.

That was the ambitious claim made on Friday as the town’s biggest attraction closes its doors to make way for a multi-million pound redevelopment.

It is hoped the �4.2million project will catapult the castle museum into the 21st century.

The building, which is the largest Norman keep in Europe, dates back to 1075 and sits on Roman foundations.

The work will see the the inside of the building stripped of its contents and opened up to include interactive displays, a full-scale burial model and replica objects which visitors can handle.

Essential maintenance work will be carried out on the castle roof and a more energy efficient heating system installed. The renovation will also make the building more accessible for disabled visitors.

Tim Young, portfolio holder for planning, said: “We want to make this one of the best museums, bar none, in the country.

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“When people come here and compare it to other museums people will think that’s what 21st century experience should be like with lots of innovative features that capture the imagination especially for children.

“We want to create a jaw-dropping experience that will have the wow factor when people enter the castle.”

It is hoped the redevelopment will attract around 30,000 more visitors every year.

At the moment visitor numbers sit around 88,000 and are gradually declining each year.

The bulk of the funding has come from the Heritage Lottery Fund who has awarded the project �3.2million. The remainder has come from a number of sources including Colchester Borough Council and Essex Heritage trust, among others.

Project manager Tom Hodgson said the redevelopment would also link up the town’s other heritage sites.

In the Spring, information panels will be installed at Balkerne Gate, Duncan’s Gate and The Roman Theatre, followed by more sites in 2014.

Mr Hodgson said: “We have a unique building on Roman foundations but we also have an international archeological collection so we need to do justice to all of these things.

“The main change will be opening up the inside of the castle so you can see the building more clearly.

“I think we won the funding because ours is a project that incorporates the whole town and a focus beyond the walls of the castle - a catalyst for the whole town’s heritage. It’s about making the sum greater than our parts.”

A number of public events are due to be held after the castle is emptied and before renovation work begins in April.

The castle is due to re-open in Spring 2014.

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