It’s a year on since a £1 million revamp - and bosses at Conisbrough Castle reckon it has gone down a storm with the visitors.
Officials at the 11th century South Yorkshire landmark say the revamp has been a hit with schools, with more than 10,000 pupils from over 300 schools having visited in the 12 months since it re-opened.
The furthest-travelled school group came from Germany
The million pound revamp included a new visitor centre, and runs free educational trips.
It was closed for six months over the winter of 2013-14 while work was carried out.
The 12th Century visitor attraction also includes new disabled parking facilities, a tea room, shop and activity centre, new interpretation boards, wall projected storytellers and a range of artefacts not seen in public at Conisbrough for decades.
A timeline telling the history of the castle from its beginnings right up to the modern day has also been installed, while local people were picked to become the ‘faces’ of animated storytellers through films projected on to castle walls.
The stories tell of the people who used to live and work at the castle, which is reputed to have been the inspiration for Sir Walter Scott’s epic medieval novel Ivanhoe.
Catherine Seymour, a local mum and the historical property steward for the castle, says the information which has been provided through the projected films has given people more understanding of what went on at the castle.
She said: “Previously, the history of the castle wasn’t as apparent to people. Now there is a really strong feeling of who the people are who lived here and what the life was like.
“Conisbrough Castle appeals to lots of families so the re-interpretation has taken that into account and has really focussed on bringing history to life for children and families and as a local parent myself I think it’s been a fantastic improvement.”
Rachel Mort, English Heritage educational visits officer, said: I feel really fascinated about the history of Conisborugh because it is 850 years old and its amazing to think about all the people who have walked through these doors and if the walls could talk to us all the stories this castle could tell us.”
Following the refurbishment, the new visitor centre was built onto the existing Victorian lodge and the surrounding public park was landscaped, connecting a new path created from the lower entry gate opposite the car park.
The visitor centre houses the new specially created activity space, the shop and the initial story of the castle, together with display cabinets of artefacts from the castle.
Particular highlights of the exhibition include the ‘digital dolls house’ – a 1.5m high model of the keep with a cutaway section which reveals an animated interior, with furniture, fixings, roaring fires and people going about their daily activities.
Artefacts on display throughout the seven glass cases are primarily from the area, travelling across time from the medieval age to the 21st century, from the elegant seal of socialite Lady Isabel de Warenne, on loan from the British Library, to a fish and chip box featuring the castle on its packaging.
The display in the keep tells a story of its own, with the walls brought to life by new digital characters as they prepare for a Royal visit from Henry II himself. Maintaining a truly local feel to the castle, members of the South Yorkshire community were used to inspire the faces of seven characters in the information panels around the site and the ‘talking walls’ AV in the keep. They include ladies maid Alice, based on schoolgirl Chloe Hanley to Hamelin himself, Earl of Surrey, with the face of Mitch Norton.