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Crunch decision over Norwich Castle’s £13m historic keep revamp

PUBLISHED: 13:25 31 October 2018 | UPDATED: 13:29 31 October 2018

Norwich Castle Museum
Photo: ©Simon Finlay Photography

Norwich Castle Museum Photo: ©Simon Finlay Photography

Copyright Simon Finlay 2017

The green light for ambitious plans to revamp Norwich Castle’s historic keep through a £13m lottery-funded transformation could be given next week.

Norwich Castle: Gateway to Medieval England project.
Pictured is the visualisation of the recreated Great Hall on the principal floor of the Keep.
Image: Haley Sharpe DesignNorwich Castle: Gateway to Medieval England project. Pictured is the visualisation of the recreated Great Hall on the principal floor of the Keep. Image: Haley Sharpe Design

The National Lottery Fund announced last month that it would contribute a further £9.2m towards the Gateway to Medieval England project.

The project will see the 900-year-old castle’s keep re-imagined as it was in its heyday as a palace for Norman kings, ensuring the castle is seen as a world class attraction.

Combined with an earlier grant and more than £3.5m raised through public and private sources, it will mean work on the scheme could start early next summer - so long as planning permission is granted.

And members of Norwich City Council’s planning committee will next week make a decision.

Norwich Castle: Gateway to Medieval England project.
Pictured is the visualisation of the ground floor of the Keep.
Image: Haley Sharpe DesignNorwich Castle: Gateway to Medieval England project. Pictured is the visualisation of the ground floor of the Keep. Image: Haley Sharpe Design

The building is Grade I listed and of “international significance”,

The Victorian Society has “strongly” objected to the proposal.

They are concerned about the removal of the keep’s 19th century balcony, which is the work of Victorian architect Edward Boardman.

They say: “The keep balcony is a magnificent and functional asset and affords a view up into the roof which visitors are impressed by.

Norwich Castle: Gateway to Medieval England project.
Pictured is the visualisation of the British Museum Partnership Gallery of the Medieval Period on the first floor of the Keep. 
Image: Haley Sharpe DesignNorwich Castle: Gateway to Medieval England project. Pictured is the visualisation of the British Museum Partnership Gallery of the Medieval Period on the first floor of the Keep. Image: Haley Sharpe Design

“Why should this genuine 19th century balcony be removed to make way for a scheme of medievalism which is conjectural?”

Historic England said it would “result in harm to historic significance of the Victorian museum phase of Norwich Castle’s development and some aspects of the medieval keep and castle complex.” But they have not formally objected.

The Norwich Society is “very supportive” of the work and council officers, while accepting there will be harm to the building, are recommending approval.

They say: “Although some of the physical changes proposed by this application are regrettable, it is concluded that the public benefits outweigh the harm to the heritage asset.

“The proposal will alter the fabric of the building and will change the experience for visitors; however it should be acknowledged that the building has evolved significantly over its past 1000 year history with major interior and exterior alterations and changes to its use.”

A decision will be made on Thursday, November 8.

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