Plans to breathe new life into historic castle site in Sleaford

Castlefield in Sleaford. EMN-180705-174719001
Castlefield in Sleaford. EMN-180705-174719001

A symposium is to be hosted by the Town Council and the Civic Trust to discuss ways to develop Sleaford Castle as an historic visitor attraction.

Councillors at their meeting last Wednesday agreed to hold the half day debate in June involving all organisations and individuals who may have an interest in and concern for the historic castle.

An artist's impression of Sleaford Castle. EMN-180805-151740001

An artist's impression of Sleaford Castle. EMN-180805-151740001

Sleaford Castle was built in 1139 for the Bishop of Lincoln and was visited by King John just after he lost his jewels in The Wash before moving on to Newark where he subsequently died.

Henry VIII and his queen Catherine Howard are also said to have visited.

Although demolished, the outline of the castle is still there, as a scheduled monument and Grade 2 listed building. The site, known as Castlefield, is currently little more than earthworks covered in grass with the odd bit of exposed stone, but it is believed that stone from it may have been robbed over 300 years ago to be used in other older buildings in the town.

The symposium would involve local authorities, neighbours, schools, universities, historians, archaeologists and heritage organisations.

A joint project group would then be formed in the same way as the Sleaford Museum was successfully delivered, bidding for outside funding.

Chairman of Sleaford and District Civic Trust Garry Titmus said in a letter to the town council that the castle was a “valuable, historical site that had the potential to provide a wonderful, atmospheric, recreational open space.”

He said: “It is sadly under used and unappreciated, with its principal role now being but a place for dogs to exercise.

Initial meetings have already been had with NKDC, English Heritage, Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust, historians and archaeologists. Students at Carre’s Grammar School have done a project on it and the Civic Trust is now hoping to press ahead with the plans.

Mr Titmus said it had the potential to bring recreational, heritage and tourism benefits to the town. He added that the project may need to secure better access to the site from the town centre, as it currently only has one entrance off Castle Causeway and no parking, which would involve neighbouring land owners’ agreement. He suggested this may grow into a project greater than something the Town Council can accomplish alone.

Mr Titmus said public awareness of the site needs to be raised, family friendly facilities added and the castle placed in a historical and local context.

He has discovered several attempts dating back 40 years or more to improve Castlefield for residents, in particular the council carried out a lot of work in 2000-2001.

Mr Titmus said: “Interpretation boards were designed and provided but were removed by the council and not replaced when they were vandalised and fell into disrepair. Rustic style children’s play equipment was placed on the field but removed and not replaced ten years ago or more. Ideas to bring in historical re-enactment groups were posted. The paths were reinforced and benches provided.

“A geophysical survey took place by Carre’s Grammar School but the results were not followed up.

“Most of that effort and those ideas have fallen by the wayside and now we have this wonderful, essentially undisturbed historical site lying in our midst but sadly better known by our four legged friends than the people of Sleaford.”