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UPDATE: New lease of life for castle
HISTORIC Sandsfoot Castle in Weymouth has risen from the ruins to escape the national heritage danger list.
The grade I listed fort has been taken off English Heritage's latest Heritage at Risk Register of buildings, scheduled monuments, places of worship, parks, gardens, battlefields and conservation areas.
Sandsfoot, which is a Scheduled Monument, was removed from the risk list after a major restoration project thanks to a £194,700 Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) grant.
Friends chairman David Carter said: “The work that has enabled Sandsfoot to come off the register is something that we are very pleased and proud about.
“The friends and Weymouth and Portland Borough Council have been working on this since it started in 2009.
“Specifically it has involved the parks and gardens department at the council, particularly Tara Gooding and Carl Dallinson.
“It has only been made possible by funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund.”
He added: “The friends have managed to hold a series of events to raise the profile and promote the castle.”
The castle is one of a pair completed by Henry VIII in 1539 to protect the Portland harbour anchorage - the other is Portland Castle.
The 16th century ruin was on English Heritage’s at risk register as it was built on soft clay and suffering erosion and instability.
It was out of bounds and fenced off for many years because it was unsafe The HLF grant was used to fund consolidation and repair works. The scheme included stabilising the walls, removing railings and building an internal viewing walkway.
Lighting and interpretation panels were also added. The gardens were also revamped and now have benches as well the cafe and ponds.
The icing on cake after the renovation was a Weymouth Civic Society award and the gardens also hold a green flag award.
The friends group is to make a new, free audio guide available on its website at sandsfootcastle.org.uk within a fortnight.
Mr Carter said that he believed it was the first free audio guide in Weymouth and Portland.
He added: “The castle and gardens are becoming increasingly popular.
“We are very pleased.”
He urged people to attend the friends’ annual meeting on Monday November 18 at St Nicholas Church in Buxton Road at 7pm.
Sites at Risk
OTHER landmark sites in Dorset remain on the risk list. They include former Methodist church in Maiden Street, Weymouth, which was devastated by fire in January 2002.
Rufus Castle at Church Ope on Portland is also still on the register although some repairs and urgent work was carried out in 2010 with an English Heritage grant.
The Church of St Peter in Grove Road, Portland, is listed. It is no longer used for worship.
The Literary and Scientific Institute in Bridport stands out on the roll call although major moves are underway to revamp it with a lottery bid.
English Heritage says that Gillingham in north Dorset – which is a Conservation Area at Risk – is making good progress.
The town has been identified for urban growth within the emerging North Dorset Local Plan and English Heritage is helping with the preparation of a Neighbourhood Plan to look at the town’s historic character and buildings.
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