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Work under way to restore town castle ahead of heritage bid

The ivy and vegetation on Bungay Castle before the work was carried out. Picture: Olly Barnes.

The ivy and vegetation on Bungay Castle before the work was carried out. Picture: Olly Barnes.

Archant

Work is under way at Bungay Castle to remove ivy and vegetation that has hidden away the detail of the castle for the past decade.

Members of the Castle Trust and sixth form students have been removing ivy and vegetation from Bungay Castle. Picture: Olly Barnes. Members of the Castle Trust and sixth form students have been removing ivy and vegetation from Bungay Castle. Picture: Olly Barnes.

Members of the Castle Trust, along with the help of students from Bungay Sixth Form Centre, have started the process of removing ivy and vegetation from the structure of the 12th century castle and curtain walls.

Due to the fragility of the structure and its importance historically, work has to be carried out with great care.

The project got under way in the autumn with volunteers cutting back the bushy growth to reveal the main stems of ivy. These were then cut at ground level allowing the vegetation to die back and release its grip on the masonry.

The ivy was then removed by hand using secateurs and putty knives to tease away the smaller stems so as not to disturb any of the fabric of the building.

Olly Barnes, chairman of the Castle Trust. Picture: Archant library. Olly Barnes, chairman of the Castle Trust. Picture: Archant library.

Olly Barnes, chairman of the Castle Trust, said: “Although this is a hugely time consuming job to undertake, the benefits are here for all to see. The detail of the castle is now visible for the first time in a good many years.

“The external faces of the gate towers and curtain wall are now ivy free along with the internal area of the keep and much of the keep’s west wall as you approach the castle.

“Since we began the removal of ivy we have removed 48 bulk bags of ivy and vegetation from the castle site, this a huge amount and equates to an impressive 520 standard bin bags.

“I am very grateful to members of the trust and especially the students of the sixth form who gave their time voluntarily to help us begin this mammoth operation.”

A view of Bungay Castle from the top of St Mary's Church. Picture: Archant library. A view of Bungay Castle from the top of St Mary's Church. Picture: Archant library.

The ivy removal is required, and has been spurred on, by the necessity to have the structure exposed for surveys and condition reports to be undertaken. This will form part of the preparation work for the heritage bid also involving the former Kings Head Hotel that is currently ongoing as a joint venture of the Bungay Museum and Castle Trust.

The group’s plans are based around the town’s rich heritage, and will include a visitor centre, museum, and apprenticeship and vocational workshops.

Work will continue removing vegetation at the castle until early spring.

Castle survey

The former Kings Head Hotel in Bungay which will form part of the heritage project. 

Picture: Archant library. The former Kings Head Hotel in Bungay which will form part of the heritage project. Picture: Archant library.

A geophysical survey of the bailey field at the castle has also been carried out after the trust received a grant from Historic England.

The field is the green open space that sits at the front of the two gate towers and was once a hive of activity. It is thought there was once a great hall and domestic buildings relating to the castle, with the area later used for housing and as a sale yard.

The survey, carried out by a team from Suffolk Archaeology, involved a variety of methods including magnetic resistance and radar to look below the surface without any disturbance to the site.

The advance in technology meant that the survey revealed much more than a previous method undertaken 30 years ago, with new evidence pointing to the remains of numerous buildings, a robbed out foundation of a large building, and a well in the south west corner.

The findings of the survey will be made available for all to see in the near future by the Castle Trust.

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