A CRUMBLING castle built by Henry VIII as a sea defence almost 500 years old is to undergo a 21st century restoration.

Sandsfoot Castle in Weymouth is to be restored and opened up to the public for the first time in decades thanks to a Heritage Lottery Fund grant worth more than £190,000.

The historic monument which overlooks Portland Harbour is one of the area’s heritage treasures but it has been out of bounds to visitors for years because it is structurally unsafe.

The money will help to stabilise the castle and make it safe for public access by next year.

The lottery bid was submitted in a project involving the Friends of the Rodwell Trail and Sandsfoot Gardens working with Weymouth and Portland Borough Council’s Parks department.

Friends’ chairman David Carter said the funding would give the castle a new lease of life.

He said: “We’re absolutely delighted with the Heritage Lottery Fund’s decision to support the Sandsfoot Castle restoration project.

“Our aim is to save the country’s only example of this style of Tudor fortification from premature destruction and to think that we’re actually going to achieve this is the best start to 2011 we could ask for.”

Mr Carter added: “The Friends will continue to work in partnership with the council throughout the duration of the project and look forward to seeing the castle opened in 2012.”

A successful First Round Heritage Lottery bid of £23,100 in 2009 enabled a specialist survey to be carried out which established the extent of works and costs necessary to stabilise and make the castle safe for visitors.

The survey, including a laser scan of the castle and cliff face along with a conservation and management plan, was submitted last August to secure the Second Round bid of £194,700.

The main grant will not only preserve the castle but also provide a new walkway around the interior walls as well as introducing new floodlighting to the perimeter and provide interpretation panels. These works will enable residents and visitors to go inside the castle.

Borough council spokesman for Culture, Tourism and Community Facilities Roger Allen said the funding would provide a ‘long lasting legacy’ for the area.

He said: “The success of this funding bid proves just how rewarding working in partnership with the community can be.”

Head of Heritage Lottery Fund South West Nerys Watts said the importance of Sandsfoot Castle to the community had been demonstrated by the commitment of locals working together to make the restoration plans a reality.

She said the lottery fund was proud to offer support to this project which will ensure that the castle can be explored and enjoyed by all for generations to come.