ZOO and council bosses say they are working together to find solutions to help safeguard Dudley Castle which has today been placed on Historic England’s Heritage at Risk Register.
The medieval castle, which dates back to 1070, is suffering from structural problems in parts, loss of masonry and from the impact of invasive vegetation, the public body’s Heritage at Risk report states.
Bosses at Dudley Council and Dudley Zoo say news of the building being added to the register, which aims to protect historic sites, comes as no surprise and they have been working with Historic England to conserve the castle – a Scheduled Monument and Grade I listed structure – and they believe the move will open up new funding opportunities to help secure the site for future generations.
Councillor Patrick Harley, leader of Dudley Council which owns the castle, said: “We have been working very closely with Historic England and the zoo over the past few years to try and find the best solutions to protect the castle for future generations.
“Following visits from Historic England to the town in October last year, we were advised that for Dudley Castle to receive the most amount of help it would need to be added to the Heritage at Risk register.
“We published a vision for Castle Hill in May last year which contained more than £13m worth of proposals to protect heritage assets including the castle.
“During our ongoing negotiations with Historic England, we also submitted a bid to them in March this year for a repair grant for the castle.
“Our bid to them was successful and it will be used to fund initial surveys to inform of the scope and cost of the work needed, for which we will then target further funding opportunities. This may include a joint bid with the zoo to external funders such as the National Lottery Heritage Fund.”
He said he considers the addition of the castle to the register “a helpful step” – adding: “It will open up new funding opportunities to enable us to secure the future of one of Dudley’s best known landmarks.”
Derek Grove, director of Dudley Zoo and Castle, said the zoo and castle have been linked since 1937 and he said the zoo, Dudley Council, Historic England and the Friends of Dudley Castle have ambitious plans to conserve the 11th century monument as part of the Castle Hill Vision.
He added: “These plans include the restoration of the fabric of the existing structure along with additional engagement features to make the castle’s rich history more appealing to a 21st century audience.
“Being listed on the register means the spotlight will be firmly shining on one of Dudley’s famous landmarks. It will hopefully open up further opportunities to help us safeguard the much-loved romantic ruin.”
Nick Carter, inspector of ancient monuments for Historic England, said: “Whilst the castle’s inclusion on the register recognises some decline in the scheduled monument’s condition, we are greatly encouraged by the rapid response of Dudley Council’s conservation team and the team at Dudley Zoo and Castle to find a solution for this important site.
“We have had extremely productive engagement with the council and zoo, and we recently approved a grant of £50,000 to help inform the necessary programmes of repair and consolidation. We are hopeful this work will help us to remove the site from the register in due course.
“We look forward to working closely with Dudley on these works, as well as the on-going conservation of the wider Castle Hill site set out in their Castle Hill Vision.”