19 June 2013

If Walls Could Talk: Stories from Conisbrough Castle

Plans for new visitor centre and exhibition revealed

Conisbrough Castle

Conisbrough Castle where the new visitor centre and exhibition will be unveiled in April 2014
© English Heritage

English Heritage has revealed its plans for “If Walls Could Talk: Stories from Conisbrough Castle”, the new exhibition and visitor centre due to open in April 2014. The project, which is being carried out in partnership with Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council, will tell stories from the castle’s past and focus in particular on the castle at the end of the 12th century, when the wealthy and powerful Hamelin and Isabel built the unique castle keep. Thanks to a £900,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and £100,000 from Doncaster Council and English Heritage each, work is due to start in September when the castle will close to the public until it is reopened next year.

Larger Than Life

Visitors to the new exhibition will be able to learn about Conisbrough Castle’s history, its unique architectural style and how the castle’s residents lived, worked and played within its walls. On each of the three floors of the keep, visitors will be able to encounter the larger than life characters that inhabited the building as animations will be projected on to the walls of the ancient building. The exhibition will also include a model and film, while visitors to the keep will also see some furnishings similar to that Hamelin and Isabel would have enjoyed. The inner ward of the castle will have a series of brand new panels in the style of a graphic novel, telling the story of the castle’s major events. The keep is the only one of its kind in Britain, featuring robust semi-hexagonal buttresses, whose tops may have served as shelter for the guards and contained a pigeon-loft, an oven, and cisterns for water at the battlements level. One of the buttresses houses the tiny chapel off the lord's chamber on the third floor. The origins of this ingenious design are unknown and it remains a mystery to this day.

Bringing the Castle's Story to Life

Clea Warner, Area Manager for Yorkshire at English Heritage, said: “Conisbrough is a fascinating place full of history and vivid characters. We want the new exhibition and visitor centre to bring the castle’s story to life, where the walls literally talk to you, and show the connection to the town and its people. We’re encouraging local people to be as involved as possible in the project and we’ll have lots of opportunities for volunteering and community based projects over the next year.”

Councillor Bob Johnson, portfolio holder for Regeneration and Growth, Tourism, Veteran’s Champion and Culture/Leisure said: “Conisbrough Castle is one of our key attractions; this fantastic development will breathe new life into a unique historic building and enhance the experience of the 30,000 annual visitors to the castle. The new exhibition and visitor centre are set to bring the castle’s story to life and I hope local people will take this opportunity to be involved in this exciting chapter in the castle’s history.”

Learning at Conisbrough

The education team at English Heritage will work with local teachers to come up with a series of workshops for key stages 1-3. There will be new kits for teachers to use on school trips and lots of chances for families to learn together when they visit the castle. A newly recruited team of volunteers will be on hand to help with the programmes.

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