Pontefract Castle restoration project begins

5 Aug 2014.......Clr Les Shaw at Pontefract Castle as it was announced that the castle has been awarded a �3m grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Picture Scott Merrylees SM1004/50b
5 Aug 2014.......Clr Les Shaw at Pontefract Castle as it was announced that the castle has been awarded a �3m grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Picture Scott Merrylees SM1004/50b
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A multi-million pound project to restore Pontefract Castle will get underway this weekend.

The first stage of the project will involve Wakefield Council staff cutting down trees around North Baileygate which are damaging the castle’s remains.

North Baileygate will be closed between Mill Dam Lane and The Butts every Sunday from 8.30am to 5pm until March 15.

The £3.5m restoration project will open up parts of the castle not seen by the public since the 17th century.

Coun Les Shaw, cabinet member for culture, leisure and sport, said: “This work has been carefully timed to coincide with the end of the bat hibernation season and before bird nesting begins.

“We are doing all we can to minimise disruption to our neighbours but in order to remove the trees from the site, there will be some road closures. Please bear with us until this work is complete.”

As part of the four-year project a new visitor centre, with a cafe and classroom facilities will also be opened.

The scheme has been funded through a £3.045m grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) along with another £455,000 from the council and English Heritage.

Council bosses expect visitor numbers will almost double once the restoration work is complete.

Ben Cook, the council’s service manager for market, tourism and major events, said: “The castle is the town’s heritage. I don’t think most people realise the history but with the changes that are going to take place more and more people will become aware.

“We currently get around 55,000 visitors to the castle per year but by the end of this project we expect that to increase to 95,000 per year.”

As part of the project, the castle’s Sally Port and Swillington Tower, which have not been accessible since the castle was destroyed in 1649, will be reopened.

A Victorian barn on the site will be transformed into a new shop, visitor centre and cafe.

Once complete, the work will mean the castle will be taken off English Heritage’s At Risk register and a programme of events, activities and educational sessions will be held at the site.