Become part of history - Norfolk public urged to help raise £50,000 to boost Norwich Castle Keep transformation
- Credit: Archant
People are today urged to make themselves part of history - by helping to raise thousands for an ambitious project which will transform Norwich Castle's iconic keep.
Museum bosses say a multi-million revamp to take the keep back to its Norman heydey will breathe new life into the castle and attract 100,000 extra visitors to the city every year.
The Gateway to Medieval England project, which was first unveiled in 2015, will transform the 12th century keep from its battlements to its basement, making it fully accessible for the first time in its 900-year history.
The keep is one of the greatest Romanesque keeps in the whole of Europe, having been built as a palace for the Norman kings.
But museum bosses have long been frustrated they have been unable to fulfil its full potential, with the current floor level a Victorian addition.
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The aim is to present the keep as it would have appeared during the 12th century - the time of Henry I - when it was a royal castle.
More than 90pc of the £13.5m cost of the project has been raised through local and national grant-giving organisations.
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Support of £9.2m has been pledged from the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund, while other funding is being pursued.
But part of the lottery deal is that museum bosses need to show that the project has strong backing from local people.
So, with the project entering a crucial phase, a campaign is launched today urging the public to help raise £50,000 towards the project.
The Keep Giving campaign invites people to help hit the castle to hit that magic figure through a variety of ways.
As well as donations, people are being given the opportunity to pay to adopt medieval objects from among the castle's treasures.
People will also be able to buy specially branded 'Keep Sakes' products from the castle's shops.
Even rolling a coin and making a wish in the castle's well - a favourite among young visitors - will boost the fundraising drive.
The campaign already has its first patron. Stephen Fry, who grew up in Norfolk and went to City College in Norwich, has endorsed the Keep Giving initiative.
Dr John Davies, chief curator at Norfolk Museums Service and the project's director, said the latest designs for the scheme would be unveiled in the months ahead, but stressed the proposals were all based on feedback from the public.
The last couple of years have seen the museum service discussing its proposals and asking for views.
He said: 'This is bigger than just a museum display, we want this to be a venue for the whole community.
'We have an internationally important historic building, but at the moment, it is not appreciated just how important it is.
'This is an opportunity to properly interpret it for the people of Norwich and of Norfolk and beyond.
'We should be up there with York and Lincoln as a heritage destination and that's what this would help us to do. It would put us in our proper place.
'What we have is utterly exceptional. It's right at the top of medieval buildings in Europe.'
Once the project is complete, visitors will be able to walk on the reinstated principal Norman floor and explore the re-created royal palace, including its great hall.
There will also be a British Museum Gallery of the medieval period. Internationally important medieval objects will be displayed next to finds excavated from Norfolk's soil in a beautiful new gallery.
Cutting edge technology will be used to bring history to life for visitors.
Museum bosses, who stress the castle would remain open during construction, say the project will bring to life one of Europe's most important 12th century buildings at the heart of one of its most complete medieval cities.
The plans for the revamp would need to get permission from Norwich City Council.
• Norwich Castle will be throwing open its doors for free to visitors tomorrow, as part of the Heritage Open Days programme.
As part of the special opening, which runs from 10am until 4.30pm, people will be able to discover what life was like in the castle when King Henry I visited in 1121.
There will be drop-in talks and demonstrations on arms and armour, and life in a castle, as well as opportunities for selfie photographs with medieval characters.
'I used to spend hours there' - Stephen Fry endorses Castle campaign
'Norwich Castle looms over my memory much as it looms over the city of Norwich – grand, imposing, amazingly pristine, but a friendly landmark too – something that brings a smile and a sense of assurance and welcome familiarity.
'There is nothing wrong with citizens feeling a little pride in how important a city Norwich has been over the years.
'But the Castle and its stupendous keep, while great to explore as heritage are so much more than that. Many local people seem to be unaware that Norwich Castle houses one of the great museums in the land.
'I used to spend hours there – goggling with wonder at not only the ancient and medieval artefacts, but at paintings, costume, and a most scintillating array of precious and decorative objects that made me positively drool over the glass cases. It's just one more reason to be proud of Norwich...'
How you can donate to Keep Giving:
Donate in person: Via donation boxes in the castle
Donate by text: Text Keep17 and your donation amount to 70070.
Donate online: Click here.
Donate by post: Send a cheque payable to Norfolk Museums Development Foundation to Keep Giving, Shirehall, Market Avenue, Norwich NR1 3JQ.