Cadw has today (17 June) provided details of an investment of £5m in development works at Caerphilly Castle ― a project designed to strengthen the site as a world-class heritage attraction by 2023.
All part of a wider £9.5m investment into Wales’ historic sites, the funding boost will see the 13th-century castle benefit from an extensive programme of conservation, site access improvements, and a complete overhaul of site interpretation.
The project will see the installation of a brand new visitor centre to provide ticketing, catering, and toilet facilities for visitors ― including a new space for use by educational groups — and updates to the existing shop.
Also, the works will include a dramatic makeover of Caerphilly’s medieval Great Hall ― a space which has played host to events that shaped history. Originally built in the late 13th century, the Great Hall ― the largest of its kind in the UK ― will be redecorated to invoke the splendour of its medieval heyday.
At the heart of the project is the plan to install new interpretation throughout the castle ― to help visitors explore and understand the complex story of Wales’ largest castle, and the men and women who built and lived within it. Interpretation will span tales from Caerphilly Castle’s medieval origins to its restoration in the 20th century.
Major works such as these require careful preparation: thorough research and archaeological analysis is taking place, to investigate whether any archaeological remains survive before conservation work begins. Wessex Archaeology is currently on site, carrying out ground investigation to archaeologically check the area at the entrance to the castle where Cadw hopes to build its new visitor centre.
Dawn Bowden MS, Deputy Minister for Arts and Sport, said:
“Here in Wales, our proud national heritage plays a hugely significant role in our cultural offer for local communities ― and it’s one of the foundation stones of our tourism economy.
“As we pull together as a country to recover from the impact of the pandemic, it’s vital that we continue to invest in sites like Caerphilly Castle. I’m confident that Cadw’s project will not only help to amplify this majestic monument’s position as a top-class attraction ― but will also help to boost tourism and cement Wales’ ongoing recovery from the pandemic.”
Cadw has appointed MACE architects to design and oversee the exciting developments, and is working closely with Wessex Archaeology and Caerphilly County Borough Council.
Dr Kate Roberts, Chief Inspector of Ancient Monuments at Cadw, said:
“Caerphilly Castle is one of the great castles of medieval Europe. Our project will both conserve the castle and help to bring its fascinating story to life.
“We are working with some truly innovative interpretation companies and drawing on the knowledge of historians and archaeologists to inform our proposals and to draw out new angles on the story of the castle, and the role it has played over the centuries.
“One of our aims is to make the castle more accessible for people. Over the winter we started making improvements to the paths in the inner ward so that more areas can be reached by visitors including people in wheelchairs.
“We’re delighted to announce this funding, and long-term, we look forward to seeing how the vital conservation work and improved visitor experience will help the people of Wales and beyond to understand and celebrate the fascinating story of Caerphilly Castle.”
Cadw is also working in partnership with independent ecological consultancy BSG Ecology on the work to enhance the castle’s natural surroundings. Earlier this year, castle grounds were seeded with wildflowers and boxes for bats and birds to roost in were installed to encourage wildlife to thrive on the site. On the moat, floating rafts for kingfisher nesting have also been installed.
Cllr Philippa Marsden, The Leader of Caerphilly County Borough Council, said:
“Caerphilly Castle is a world famous historic landmark attracting large numbers of people into our county borough every year and these exciting improvements will further enhance the visitor experience.
“The council welcomes this funding as it will also result in a boost to the local economy as visitors enjoy the wider retail, hospitality and accommodation offer within the area. We look forward to working closely with our colleagues at Cadw to keep the local community informed on this brilliant project as it develops.”