RUTLAND County Council is launching a £2m bid to improve Oakham Castle – and is asking for your help.
The council hopes to get the cash from the Heritage Lottery Fund, which will pave the way for extensive restoration work throughout the castle, including restoring the castle walls and preserving the historic horseshoe collection.
Some of the money would also be used for an annual community archaeological dig and a regular programme of re-enactments and living history.
People across the county are being invited to find out more about the project and have their say during an open day at the castle on Sunday, which starts at 10am.
Later that day, at 3pm, there will also be a special open-air theatre production of Richard III.
Council leader Roger Begy (Con) said: “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work with the Heritage Lottery Fund and potentially carry out substantial restoration and repair work to Oakham Castle.
“This will ensure that one of the leading attractions in Rutland will be retained and preserved for generations to come.”
The council revealed in March that was in discussions with the Heritage Lottery Fund and initially hoped to bid for £1m.
The castle building is at the top of Market Street and the grounds stretch from the Market Place to Cutts Close and from Burley Road to All Saints’ Church.
Part of the grounds are surrounded by a wall, which English Heritage placed on the “at risk” register.
But Coun Begy said the council had thought “long and hard about the bid” and decided to try for more money.
He said: “This would enable us to tackle the project as a whole, rather than focussing on just certain elements.
“It’s not just about protecting the past, this project is very much about looking to the future. We’re working hard to develop an activity plan as part of the bid which will include lots of new things for people to see and do.”
The council is hoping to use the money to repair the castle walls, improve the toilet facilities, provide better information and signs and improve the facilities for events such as weddings.
It is also hoping to build on the excitement of a visit from Channel 4’s Time Team last month, which uncovered a horseshoe, by introducing activities for families and school groups.
The castle has a long history and is the oldest English court building that has remained in continuous use with trials taking place there as early as 1229. There is still a crown court held there every two years.
The inside of the castle walls are distinctive because they are decorated with horseshoes, which are presented by members of the Royal Family on their visits to the county.
The council has to bid for the money by December and will be consulting on the plans until then.
It is asking people to get in touch, saying what they use the castle for, what they would like to use the castle for and suggest any improvements that would make their experience at the castle better.
You can do this by visiting Oakham Castle during opening hours or by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information visit www.rutland.gov.uk/castle.