In March 2017, Newark and Sherwood District Council was successfully awarded Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) Stage 1 development funding for the Castle Gatehouse project. The Gatehouse is, according to Historic England, ‘the most complete example of a Romanesque gatehouse in England’. However, following the slighting of the Castle after the end of the Civil War, it is open to the elements and suffers from erosion and degradation due to the weather and the effects of pigeon roosting.
In order to prevent further deterioration of the Gatehouse Tower and to open up further areas of the tower to public access, plans to reinstate a roof, floors and windows have been drawn up. Displays and exhibitions would tell the rich history of the structure, where King John died 800 years ago.
The masterplan fully supports the Newark Destination Management Plan (DMP), approved earlier this year, which has targeted a significant increase in tourist numbers with major new benefits to the district’s and county’s economy.
The plans include:
- New moat bridge: This would be the ‘showcase’ Castle entrance, linking the gatehouse with Beast Market Hill and capturing visitor flow from the nearby rail and road links. Historically authentic and visually attractive, it would serve to draw in visitors and create passing interest. There would also be a new entrance gate, ramped pathway and new landscaping.
- Restoration of the gatehouse: Described by Historic England as the ‘most complete example of a Romanesque gatehouse in England’ and scene of the death of King John 800 years ago, the structure has degraded over the centuries but would have a new roof, floors and windows as set out in the original plans to restore the structure. The first floor timber floor would be reinstated and there would be a structure for a second floor. There would be a balcony gallery to experience the audience chamber below and an extended viewing area on top of the gatehouse, where visitors can enjoy impressive aerial views of the Castle, wider town, the ‘pepper pot’ towers of Southwell Minster and other district landmarks.
- Learning and event space: Cut into the bank beneath the new moat bridge, this modern underground facility would host activities and attractions in conjunction with the National Civil War Centre.
- New pay pavilion: Located between the North West tower and the gatehouse, this would house the ticket office and shop and provide the access point to the gatehouse interior and improve access to the dungeons. As part of the castle gatehouse project, the castle gardens will remain free public open access.
- New rooms in the North West tower: The ground floor room, which would not be connected to the upper floors in line with its original structural design, would tell the story of the history of the Castle in precis and explain what visitors can experience within the attraction. Meanwhile, an additional room would be created in the North West tower by putting in new floors in line with how the Castle was originally constructed.
- New exhibitions and interpretation displays: To be included within the two rooms and dungeon in the South West tower and under croft and these would be available for visitors on a guided tour basis to link the gatehouse with the wider experience that is available at the Castle.
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