Colchester: Public urged to take chance to see castle

Colchester Castle has been emptied of its exhibits ahead of renovation work.

Colchester Castle has been emptied of its exhibits ahead of renovation work. - Credit: Archant

COLCHESTER CASTLE as it has never been seen in 80 years was opened to the public at the weekend.

The landmark building has been emptied of all its contents and display equipment in preparation for a major £4.2million revamp, and Saturday was the first time people were able to see it stripped bare.

A craft fair was held in the empty main interior on Saturday and the castle was open yesterday for people to look around.

The vacant building will remain open until April 9 before construction work begins – and people are being urged to take the chance to see the castle as they have never seen it before.

Colchester development manager for Colchester and Ipswich Museums, Tom Hodgson, said: “It’s a chance to see the castle stripped bare of all its displays back to how it would have looked 80 years ago when the current first floor and castle roof were added.

“It’s a once in a two generations chance to see it like this.”

Borough councillor Tim Young, who holds the portfolio for planning, community safety and culture, added: “The castle stripped bare is jaw-dropping. I wasn’t prepared for how high the construction is.

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“We’ve got some great events lined up for the castle over the next month and I urge people to take the opportunity to come and have a look.”

Over the coming month, the empty castle will play host to a range of events from history talks and poetry readings to a beer festival and performances of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. In addition, on Easter Monday, April 1, a family medieval day is being held.

The events will provide a good send-off for the castle before it is closed for a year until spring 2014 for the multi-million pound renovation work to take place.

Of the project’s total £4.2m cost, more than £3m has been awarded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The remainder has come from a number of bodies including Colchester Borough Council, European Regional Development Fund Renaissance museum hub funding, Friends of Colchester Museums, Essex Heritage Trust and Friends of Colchester Roman Wall.

Mr Hodgson added: “We have an internationally important collection and a unique building and the work is aimed at creating an accessible and exciting environment for visitors to come and see the building and artefacts.”