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Crunch decision on lottery cash for Norwich Castle’s multi-million Gateway to Medieval England keep revamp

PUBLISHED: 17:20 11 September 2018 | UPDATED: 07:35 12 September 2018

Dr John Davies, project director for Norwich Castle keep project. Picture : ANTONY KELLY

Dr John Davies, project director for Norwich Castle keep project. Picture : ANTONY KELLY

A decision on whether an ambitious multi-million pound project to revamp Norwich Castle’s historic keep will get lottery cash will be made later this month.

Museum bosses are waiting with “bated breath” to discover if months of work to secure the money needed from the Heritage Lottery Fund for the Gateway to Medieval England scheme has been successful.

The castle was awarded more than £460,000 in 2016 to develop plans for the £13.5m project, but whether it goes ahead hinges on whether the lottery’s national board agrees to go ahead with funding.

The project aims to re-imagine the castle’s keep as it was in its royal palace heyday, providing visitors and ensuring the castle is seen as a world class attraction.

At the heart of the project - which would be completed by 2020 if the money is forthcoming and planning permission, submitted to Norwich City Council, is secured - is the reinstatement of the keep’s main Norman floor and great hall.

There would also be a new medieval gallery in partnership with the British Museum and improved access to all five floor levels, including a new roof viewing platform.

Dr John Davies, project director, said the application for the lottery money had been lodged in June and now it was a case of wait and see.

Speaking at a meeting of the Norwich Area Museums committee today, he said: “Now we are waiting with bated breath for the Heritage Lottery Fund decision later this month on whether they will continue to support us with the funding through to the project delivery phase.

“I am 100pc happy that the submission was of the highest possible standard. I would not be happy if we hadn’t done ourselves justice, but we did. We have an extremely good project.”

Dr Davies, who told the committee he would shortly be stepping down from his role as chief curator for Norfolk Museums Service after 27 years, said: “We have been thrust into an extremely challenging round and it is an incredibly competitive sphere, but we have done ourselves justice. I am enormously proud of my team.”

The Heritage Lottery Fund board will be meeting to make a decision in London on Tuesday, September 25.

Hot weather hits museum visitor numbers

Many across Norfolk enjoyed the long, hot summer, but museum bosses joked they were doing rain dances because the heatwave had such an impact on visitor numbers.

Norwich Castle had a record breaking year in 2017/18, with 222,260 visitors. But members of the Norwich Area Museums committee heard yesterday that there has been a decline in numbers year on year.

Stuart Garner, from Norfolk Museums Service, told councillors that the summer heatwave had contributed to a 7pc fall in visitor numbers at the castle to the end of July.

He said: “We were all doing rain dances, but, unfortunately people are not really thinking about going to museums in 30 degrees heat.

“Having said that, last year was a record breaking year. It was always going to be hard going this year after the Nelson exhibition we had.”

The Museum of Norwich and Strangers Hall saw a 20pc decrease in visitors.

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