AN AMBITIOUS project to conserve and improve Pontefract Castle has cleared its first hurdle with the award of a National Lottery grant.
The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has awarded an initial £65,157 toward Wakefield Council’s Key to the North scheme, which will be used to develop a full bid for £3m, to be submitted next year.
The Key to the North project – named after the title King Edward I gave Pontefract – aims to conserve the castle’s stonework, develop new visitor facilities, improve paths and create viewing platforms.
It will also fund demonstrations and activities to teach visitors about the castle’s key role in the 15th century Wars of the Roses and 17th century English Civil War.
Coun Peter Box, Wakefield Council leader, said: “Pontefract Castle is an important part of the district’s rich cultural heritage and this support from the Heritage Lottery Fund is a positive step towards the conservation and improvement to the area.
“The Key to the North project will improve the visitor experience to the historic site, boost tourism to the castle and the district, raise the profile of Pontefract and create local jobs.
“The preservation of Pontefract Castle is a key priority and I am in full support of this well-deserved project gaining success in the next stage.”
Fiona Spiers, head of HLF Yorkshire and the Humber, added: “Pontefract Castle is a fantastic heritage asset and is much-loved and widely used by the local community.
“This initial support means ambitious and exciting plans to restore the castle and share its history with everyone can now take a step forward.”
If the next funding bid is successful, a combination of English Heritage and Wakefield Council money will be used on the five-year programme, which it is hoped to start in 2014.