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Castle no longer at risk

PUBLISHED: 14:00 02 April 2010 | UPDATED: 09:31 01 August 2010

A CASTLE will be removed from a special risk register next year following a major conservation and archaeological project to secure its future.

The ruins of Mettingham Castle, were in a serious state of disrepair when English Heritage stepped in with a grant of nearly £300,000 to undertake vital remedial work.

A CASTLE will be removed from a special risk register next year following a major conservation and archaeological project to secure its future.

The ruins of Mettingham Castle, were in a serious state of disrepair when English Heritage stepped in with a grant of nearly £300,000 to undertake vital remedial work.

The works are now complete and the castle will be removed from English Heritage's Buildings at Risk register next year.

The castle was built by John de Norwich who was given a licence to crenellate in 1342 as a reward for military service. He was the last of the de Norwich's, an eminent East Anglian family of the late Middle Ages.

The castle is now in the private ownership of Rowan and Jenny Gormley. Their house is situated within a large moated area of the walled castle.

The couple bought the property 14 years ago and sought advice from English Heritage and Suffolk County Council on how they might go about undertaking the restoration works needed.

Gary Griffin from English Heritage said: “When English Heritage was first asked for advice on Mettingham Castle in 2005, significant conservation work was needed to secure the towers and the castle walls. The ruins were in rapid decline, exacerbated by years of weather damage and ivy growth.

“We are delighted that our grant and the advice of our experts has helped to make a major difference to repairing and consolidating the castle for current and future generations to enjoy, working in close partnership with Jenny Gormley and her architect and contractors.”

Architect for the project, Tim Buxbaum, said the most challenging task was stabilising the towers.

“We erected enormous quantities of scaffolding and carefully drilled holes in the walls at varying heights for structural purposes,” he said.

“The holes were anything up to 5.5m long, and the drilling was not easy because the walls are made of flint, which is hard to drill.

“Circular brick plugs have been placed at the ends of the holes so that the anchors, although relatively unobtrusive, will be obvious to historians of the future as a record of this particular architectural intervention.”

Alongside the conservation work, archaeologists from the county council have been surveying the castle keep.

David Gill, from the county council's archaeological service field team, said: “We have discovered previously unrecorded architectural details which have added greatly to our understanding of the function and former appearance of this, the focal part of the castle.”

A full archaeological report is in production and there is discussion underway about the possibility of future geophysical surveys to complete the groundplan.

Mrs Gormley said: “When we moved in 14 years ago, the ruins were in a bad state of repair and looked in some places as if they were about to fall on our heads! English Heritage has been very supportive of our efforts to preserve what's here before it disappears. And we are very excited by the work the archaeological team has been doing to uncover the history of such an important building.”

English Heritage's grant of £290,565 was offered in 2006 and the first phase of repair works began in 2007 to stabilise the south curtain wall. The second phase, to stabilise the towers, began last year and is now complete.

The castle ruins will be open to visitors eight times a year.

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