Further Thoughts Wisbech Castle
The first meeting of the committees that will run the Castle have been scheduled for 3rd April.
Myself and a handful of Councillors, along with the Town Clerk, did a walkaround of the Castle this week, and we will be arranging the same opportunity for members of the Committee and Working Party very soon.
So having done the walkaround these are my observations:
Yes, it needs a lot of work. There are some areas which will need builders and craftsmen in fairly soon to address structural issues before they spread problems elsewhere in the buiding. But the the majority of the building really just needs what it appears to have lacked for some time – some tender loving care.
There are quite a lot of nooks and crannies that just need a LOT of elbow grease. Rooms and alcoves which are filled with junk, dirt and rubble – which need clearing, cleaning and painting. We can get on with this fairly quickly using volunteers while professionals are working on the more urgent and serious things that need addressing elsewhere in the building.
We were told “the keys aren’t very well labelled.” This was quite funny. There is a huge box of keys with no labels at all and loads of locked doors. It is going to take quite some time to work out which keys fit which locks and probably to replace locks in rooms where the keys are permanently adrift. But many rooms have more than one point of access so it’s not that we can’t get into them, only that routes in and out are presently a bit of a trek.
This is a truly incredible building. Walking around it, despite the fact that it has been allowed to fall into a poor condition, the opportunities and possibilities spring out at you from every side. It is really quite remarkable and I am very very excited about the potential to bring it back into full use.
My expectation is that the Working Party will be running with quite a few different ideas at once, and that different individuals will lead on different projects. Ideas are already flooding in and we’ve not even met yet.
It is absolutely vital that we get the urgent repairs done soon, both to protect the building from further deterioration and to bring parts of it back into use as soon as feasible.
It’s also vital that we don’t sneer at any ideas, no matter how wild, because this place is incredible and it can (and will) incorporate many different functions and services and interesting facets for the people of Wisbech long into the future. The Working Party will need to consider, work through and be creative at every turn. It will also need to be cost-effective, of course, and I make no apology for saying we hope that we will get lots of volunteers for the graft and for the planning and that we will rely on the goodwill of the people of the Town to help the whole project grow and prosper.
I don’t know where all this will lead. But I anticipate that it is going to eat my life for the next couple of years, and probably the lives of other people who are as passionate and excited about the project as I am. Do I think it will be a huge money-spinner? No. My first aim is to try and get it so that it’s able to stand on its own two feet, physically and financially. I know that’s not easy and previous folk who have run it have failed to do so. But that’s not a reason to be utterly negative.
To this day people are sad that we lost the Octagon, and the Canal and any number of other past assets. Without wanting to enter into that debate, the Castle Committee and Wisbech Town Council have acted to prevent the Castle joining that lost list.
Because what this is about, first and foremost, is protecting one of the Town’s most loved and memorable assets for future generations. I don’t think we could just stand by and let it go. I hope you agree.