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Historic Shropshire castle could be permanently closed due to impact of coronavirus crisis

By Dominic Robertson | Oswestry | Attractions | Published:

One of Shropshire's historic tourist attractions could close for good according to trustees who warn lockdown has reduced its income to zero.

At the start of the year trustees were organising historic tours of Whittington Castle but now they are warning the site could close for good.

Whittington Castle, owned and run by the community, is currently closed to the public as a result of restrictions brought about by the coronavirus pandemic.

Jonjo Evans, chairman of the trustees of the castle, said the situation has become so grave that plans are being put in place to seal the 11th Century building and its grounds to the public – warning it may never reopen.

He said: "I have a sinking feeling we are going down for good this time, after years of financial problems, and this is tragic given that we started this year with light at the end of a long tunnel.

“For years now the castle has been treading a financial tightrope, with no external funding whatsoever, relying on our tea room and car park for a regular modest income to pay wages. With free admission, we are heavily dependant on events such as weddings, re-enactments of landmarks in history and other popular activities to help cover the huge annual cost of keeping the place going."

Mr Evans said that the grant of £10,000 received to cope with the impact of the pandemic would be used up before autumn.

He said: "Our public liability insurance, for instance, costs £1,000 a month, so the maximum £10,000 grant we received from the Exchequer as a result of Coronavirus will be gone on that and running costs such as utility bills and other recurring and unavoidable overheads by the end of the summer.

"Long before that happens, leaving us in effect uninsured and with nothing left in the bank, we will need to take steps to seal the site off to stop people sneaking in. The law requires this, and it’s a bleak prospect.

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Heartbreaking

"The Gatehouse will still be visible from the road, but the moat bridge, along with the road approach to the rest of the castle it and its grounds will have to be barricaded and in the absence of an injection of funds I can’t see any of it reopening when the crisis is over.

"We need capital now to keep going and at the very least make the small improvements we had planned to do from income."

Mr Evans said there had been plans to upgrade the kitchen at the site's cafe, as well as repairing the steps on the barbican bridge, and dredging the moat as a community archaeology project.

He said: "It’s heartbreaking that all this now stands abandoned as a direct – and inevitable – result of the virus lockdown. The fact is, we cannot continue keeping this important site open for public enjoyment without some money in the bank for us to do so.”

Mr Evans has urged anyone interested in becoming an unpaid volunteers at the castle to contact the trustees by emailing info@whittingtoncastle.co.uk.

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