22 July 2017
15:53

New lease of life for Chester Castle following campaign to re-open historic landmark

Published on 17 July 2017 by David Triggs

 

One of Chester's most under-used ancient landmarks is being given a welcome new lease of life.

From Thursday, Chester Castle will reopen to visitors and be the focal point for a series of cultural events which will run through the summer.

The castle – founded by William the Conqueror in 1070 – has been closed to the public for many years and was only ever opened for occasional group tours.

But it is reopening thanks to a campaign spearheaded by City of Chester MP Chris Matheson.

He said he had to “knock a few heads together” to make it happen, as parts of the castle site are owned by many different organisations – including the local council, The Crown Estate and English Heritage.

But in the end, everyone was able to come together and reopen the historic building.

“The castle’s been closed for more than 20 years and been allowed to get into disrepair,” said Mr Matheson.

“We want to get it back up to its former glories. That's going to take time but this is a start.

“I'm really pleased I played a role in bringing all the different owners together.”

The Chester Castle Revealed project runs until September 3 and visitors will be able to enter for free, wander around the site and experience views across the city.

The 12th century Agricola Tower will house a pop-up exhibition telling the fascinating story of the castle, funded by the Earl of Chester Fund.

Access will also be available to the first floor chapel of St Mary de Castro, now the Regimental Chapel, thanks to the permission of the Mercian Regiment.

Entry will be from the castle car park and also a new pathway from the City Walls that will enter the castle via the Sally Port steps.

Cllr Louise Gittins, cabinet member for communities and wellbeing at Cheshire West and Chester Council, said the Chester Castle Revealed project fitted in with the authority’s “The City is a stage” strategy.

“We want to encourage and inspire people to connect with local heritage and to use the fabric of the city as a backdrop for interesting and engaging activities and events,” added Cllr Gittins.

An events programme will run there every weekend.

This weekend will see the castle handed over to Norman re-enactors who will set up a fully working medieval field kitchen, as well as putting on arms and archery demos and other hands-on activities.

There will also be special PokéStops that players can interact with as part of a citywide Pokémon GO event.

Through the summer there will be music performances by the Italian Youth Orchestra, City of Chester Brass Band and an acoustic area during the Chester Pride festival.

Resident Niall Macfadyen approached Mr Matheson with the idea of reopening the castle after so long and it was the MP who brought together a task group to drive the project forward.

“This is a real opportunity for Chester, a real opportunity for people to come along and see some history,” added Mr Matheson.

“This is a great start but that’s all it is – only a start.”

  • See full story in the Chester Leader