Category Archives: Wisbech Castle

Wisbech Castle Working Party Visit

Wisbech Castle Working Party Visit

Volunteers from the Wisbech Castle Working Party joined Councillors and a few special guests for a thorough exploration of Wisbech Castle, its grounds and its vault, today.

I had previously predicted that they would all fall in love with the place once they got a good look around it, and from the smiles and incredible flow of ideas, I believe most of them did!

It was nice to be able to show that, despite rumours to the contrary, the place is broadly in good nick – of course some work needs to be done but the vast majority of it is superficial, involving some elbow grease and some tender loving care.

I’ve also begun work on the Castle website, although that has a ways to go since I don’t presently have much content.  It will grow though, for sure.

The team are really a wonderful bunch, with all different skills and expertise.  People were suggesting things left, right and centre, and most of us are really keen to pitch in and get started.

We cannot do this until 4th May, for legal reasons, but we are really looking forward to getting on with the job and turning the Castle back into the powerful, vital and exciting asset that it should always have been.

Thank you to the various folks who took these photos, including Alan Wheeldon, Tony Bennett and Roger Rawson.  The photos are (c) those guys.

Wisbech Castle Project – From the Fenland Citizen

Wisbech Castle Project – From the Fenland Citizen

https://www.fenlandcitizen.co.uk/news/21-are-for-turning-wisbech-castle-into-a-must-see-attraction-and-a-great-community-asset-1-8448805

Two years of ‘hard graft’, a lot of imagination and a dedicated band of supporters will see Wisbech Castle transformed into a community asset the whole town can enjoy. That was the promise made at the first meeting of the Wisbech Castle Working Party Group on Tuesday night.

Twenty-one volunteers keen to get stuck into the project to breathe new life into the Georgian building took on an assortment of tasks with the aim of getting at least part of the Castle ready for use over the Rose Fair weekend in July. Mayor Steve Tierney chaired the meeting and outlined the task ahead which includes clearing rooms of clutter and debris, redecorating as well as building work to repair water damage.

He said Cambridgeshire County Council, who have given the Castle to the town council to manage for the next 34 years, have already been out to carry out urgent repair work to guttering and in particular to a down-pipe which was causing water damage to one wall. Coun Tierney also promised the team would become even more excited with the project once they have an opportunity to go round the building later this month and start seeing potential uses for the various rooms – from the vaults to the second floor office areas. “It really excites me to see the potential every time I go round the building – this is a real opportunity to create something special for the town and for the area as a whole. I want the Castle to be a reason for people to visit Wisbech – a must see attraction,” he said.

Working groups were set up to tackle individual schemes from tidying the extensive gardens to clearing rooms and redecorating. Local planning consultant Peter Humphrey was among the 21 to attend the meeting in Wisbech Town Council Chamber. Other volunteers included a professional gardener, an architect and people with business and social media skills as well as councillors. A tour of the building is being organised for the working party to enable them to see the task ahead for themselves and to allow an opportunity to start brainstorming ideas for the various rooms.

Suggestions already include making it an ideal wedding venue, introducing an escape room experience, opening up to local schools with rooms set out telling not only the building’s history but also that of the town. It was agreed to try to involve the College of West Anglia in the various aspects of the project such as potentially creating displays, possibly even helping with building work utilising construction students giving them hands-on experience, and also encouraging the college to use it as a venue for exhibitions. Another suggestion involves turning the Old Pump House into an old fashioned tea rooms, and using the gardens for corporate events.

Coun Tierney said: “This is an exciting project, it is going to take two years of hard graft and a lot of imagination, but it will be worth it. I just can’t wait to get properly started.” He added the working party will be the engine room for the project, doing the actual physical work, and for those keen to support but do not want to commit to working on the scheme a ‘friends of’ group is being set up, which will enable people to help in more flexible ways.

Read more at: https://www.fenlandcitizen.co.uk/news/21-are-for-turning-wisbech-castle-into-a-must-see-attraction-and-a-great-community-asset-1-8448805

Twenty-one people volunteer for the Wisbech Castle Working Party group taking on tasks from gardening to decorating and general maintenance.

Further Thoughts Wisbech Castle 

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.

Wisbech Castle Project

Wisbech Castle Project

I have been asked by the Leader of Wisbech Town Council if I will Chair the new Castle Committee, whose job will be to handle the oversight of Wisbech Castle once the Town Council has it under its control.  Since my time as Mayor comes to an end in May, freeing up a lot of time, I have accepted the role.  Being the Chairman does not mean I am “in charge” of Wisbech Castle, it simply means I will be Chairman of the Committee and Working Party.  Running the Castle will be very much a team effort.  I’d like to talk a little about my initial ideas for the running structure of Wisbech Castle.  These are just ideas, subject to discussion and agreement of everybody else involved.

I think it appropriate for there to be three platforms to running the Castle.  The Castle Committee, the Castle Working Party and the Friends Of Wisbech Castle group.  The way the Committee and the Working Party will interact will run on a similar basis to the Town Council’s Festivals’ Committee and Working Party, which has proved to be a successful model over recent years.

The Castle Committee will be a constituted Committee of Wisbech Town Council, made up of seven Town Councillors, whose primary role will be to maintain the Council’s control of the project and scrutinise the spending on it and to oversee the work done by the Working Party.   I would guess the Castle Committee will meet three or four times a year.

The Castle Working Party – who will do most of the work and organisation of the day-to-day running of the Castle – will be a group made up of Councillors, representatives of interested local groups, and knowledgeable volunteers who bring skills to the table.  I hope that this Working Party will be a dynamic and imaginative bunch, with a mixture of skills and backgrounds, able to press on with multiple projects, income streams and public offers.  I would welcome communication from anybody who might like to be on the Castle Working Party.  But please bear in mind that members of the Working Party will be expected to put time and effort into the project on a voluntary basis, and so should be sure they are able to handle the commitment that something as important as this will take.  I would expect the Castle Working Party to have monthly meetings, and for members to touch base with each other and the Chairman and Vice-Chairman, often.

The Friends Of Wisbech Castle  will be a completely free voluntary organisation made up of anybody who values Wisbech Castle and want to join.  People who become “friends” will receive regular direct updates, early notifications of plans and events and possibly special opportunities and offers to enjoy all that I hope Wisbech Castle will come to offer.  Once this launches, I hope we will get hundreds, or even thousands, of people join in and become a part of the future of Wisbech Castle.

Aims
I see the aims of the project to be threefold.  First, to maintain Wisbech Castle as a public resource and asset, regularly accessible to the people of Wisbech and its guests to enjoy and make use of.  Second, to maintain and preserve the historic building in good order for current and future generations.  Third, to work towards making sure the building is not an undue burden on taxpayers of the Town and to aim towards cost neutrality, or profitability as early as feasibly possible.  I should add that cooperation and partnership with other Wisbech features like Wisbech Museum and Peckover House will not only be desirable, but crucial.

First Things First
What we can do in the very short term is limited by the work needing to be done in the building.  First priority will be to get urgent repairs done so that the building is in a fit state to be used.  To clean up the gardens and get the whole site ready for further use.  If this is planned well and the work goes without too many issues, then the Castle should be usable for at least some activities in the next few months.  After that we can pick and choose what to renovate and work on as the Committees decide on what the various uses will be, so that we can roll out activities and ideas in phases.

Ideas
There are so many ideas for what the Castle could be used for and how its access and usefulness could grow.  Both for things that have gone before like school visits and weddings, heritage open days, fetes, art fairs and garden tours – to many brand new ideas for the future.  While I am Chairman I will encourage creativity, imagination and fresh thinking.  The door will be open to anybody with a great suggestion or proposal.  If everything goes according to plan, Wisbech Castle will take its rightful place as a centre-piece and an incredible community asset for now and for the future.

Communication
All Committee Meetings will be open to the public.  Discussions, ideas and decisions will be published transparently.  I hope that Wisbech Castle will have a Facebook Page and a Twitter Feed.  I hope to have a website for Wisbech Castle set up.  These things will all be free and operated by volunteers.  It will be my aim to encourage engagement, support and volunteering throughout the Wisbech Castle Project – to welcome anybody who loves the Castle and the Town to be a part of it and to contribute to it.  I would welcome participation, even from critics of the project, as long as those critics come to the table with an open mind and a desire to help.  I would hope that people who have something to say will come and be a part of the project and say it on record so that it can be thought about and addressed, rather than just snipe from afar on social media or elsewhere.

And Finally…
Once again, these are just my initial ideas.  They are all subject to discussion, to debate and to challenge by those people who are part of the Project.  I wanted to put my ideas down so that people could see where I’m coming from, but that should not be taken to mean the whole thing isn’t open to the great ideas and suggestions of everybody else.  In fact I know that several of my Town Council colleagues are overflowing with ideas, as are members of local organisations and also many individuals.  There is nothing easy about this project and I will not claim there is.  It’s a real challenge and also carries some risk.  No doubt about it.  But is it worth trying?  Is it worth doing?  I believe so.  Wisbech Castle is part of the fibre of the Town, built into its DNA, a long-standing historic monument both in its current form and for what has gone before.

A Committee of Councillors can’t do this alone.  Wisbech Town Council can’t do this alone.  But together, I really believe we have a great opportunity here to deliver something absolutely incredible for Wisbech and everybody who lives here.  If you are excited about Wisbech Castle, if you think you have something to offer or can help – please get in touch. 

Wisbech Castle vs Mrs Bucknor?

Wisbech Castle vs Mrs Bucknor?

Mrs Bucknor and the usual crowd seem to have been suggesting that Wisbech Town Council should not now save Wisbech Castle because the proposed Council Tax Rise (80p a month for Band A, just over a pound a month for Band D) is too great a price to pay. She is encouraging people to visit Town Council and protest it, it appears.

Putting aside for a moment the fact that she was still a Councillor at WTC when this was proposed:

Putting aside for a moment the spin that “34%” represents a huge sum of money for people, by suggesting its the whole Council Tax bill rather than the tiny Town Council portion of it.

Putting aside that she certainly enjoyed stoking the outrage back when Wisbech Castle first risked being sold off:

Putting aside that she has endlessly demanded that Town Council should have prevented the sale of the old Court House by stepping in and buying it, and whether that’s a little hypocritical given her recent complete about face:

Putting aside that Wisbech Town Council would have tens of thousands of pounds MORE money if it hadn’t had to pay for a series of by-elections caused by Mrs Bucknor and her friends:

Wisbech Castle is a centre-piece of our Town. It is a vital part of our history and heritage. If we do not take it over we will lose it. We cannot take it over, repair it and run it without some additional funds because money does not grow on trees.

I have never been a supporter of big Council Tax rises but I am and always have been a realist. Of course, as with every issue, some people will not agree. I genuinely believe that a majority of our Town support Wisbech Town Council stepping in to save Wisbech Castle. I believe that the majority of our town support the rise (once again 80p a month for Band A and a bit over a pound a month for a Band D) is a price worth paying to save Wisbech Castle.

Mrs Bucknor clearly believes that she and her friends can gain some political advantage by taking a firm line against our saving Wisbech Castle. I think she has misjudged the people of Wisbech, most of whom value our heritage, and understand the reality that things do cost money. I don’t believe her stance – no matter how she and her friends heckle – will gain traction. Because the people of Wisbech are not stupid and will not fall for this opportunistic and cynical attempt to manipulate them and cast a shadow on this important work.

In the same way that she is now struggling to claim she had something significant to do with the forthcoming Skate Park (she raised £30 in six years, the four new Town Councillors secured £70,000 in a few weeks) people will see through it, I feel confident.

If you agree that Wisbech Castle is worth saving and that scaremongering about Council Tax is not appropriate, please respond to the people making these claims when and if you see them. Tell them its not acceptable.

The Future Of Wisbech Castle

This post has been submitted by a guest contributor.   This particular Guest Post is written by Cllr Sam Hoy, Leader of Wisbech Town Council.

The Future Of Wisbech Castle

This morning I attended the assets committee at Cambridgeshire County Council with my colleague Steve Tierney to present the business case I had written for Wisbech Town Council. We both gave presentations, aware that the outcome of this committee would be vital to the future of this valuable community asset.

I am so pleased to say that the committee supported our bid in its entirety. Now we can go forward to protect and maintain the Castle as a community asset and as a vital part of the towns heritage for residents for many years to come.