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Ensuring town's heritage remains set in stone
2:00pm Sun Jan 20, 2013
 
Laid end to end the scaffold planks around Newark Castle would stretch for five miles, or to Kelham Hall and back.
Newark Castle covered in scaffolding. (070113JT3-8)
Newark Castle covered in scaffolding. (070113JT3-8)
The 521 21ft poles would stretch 10,941ft into the air, more than 23 times higher than the London Eye’s 443ft.

So mammoth is the task of repairing the castle for future generations that seven scaffolders took weeks to shroud it in poles, planks and net so that to many, it currently resembles a multi-storey carpark.

The scaffolding allows a team of stonemasons to work safely carrying out repairs.

They use a three-mix lime mortar made up of sharp sand, soft sand and lime. By the time they are finished they are likely to have used three tonnes of each sand and 100 bags of lime.

Most of the work is repointing, coping, fixing loose masonry, cleaning the stonework and replacing it where needed.

The gatehouse has already been completed and the scaffolding is coming down. Lorry after lorry can be seen being filled with poles and planks.

Phase two is under way and involves the central section of wall with 90% of work to the top completed.

Work on the south-west tower is yet to start but there is less to do there.

There are six specialist stonemasons on site, with more coming in at peak times.

The race is on to have the work completed by March 16 when Newark Castle is part of a £1/2m arts project aimed at developing cultural tourism.

Elemental Force, paid for by the Arts Council, will use four historic locations in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire for film projections and pyrotechnic displays bringing the region’s past, present and future to life through film, light and fire.

The company carrying out the castle work is Woodlands Heritage, which is also restoring the walls of Lincoln Castle and building an extension to St Nicholas’ Church in the city.

The site manager, Mr Mervyn Bollard, 63, said: “I don’t come from the Newark area so to see this fantastic site for the first time was something special.

“There aren’t many people who have the opportunity to work on a Scheduled Ancient Monument in such fantastic gardens.”

The work is costing £272,000.

Wren, an organisation that redistributes landfill tax credits, has a heritage fund that contributed £50,000, Nottinghamshire County Council gave £20,000 from its Local Improvement Scheme, and £38,000 came from planning gains associated with Riverside regeneration. Newark and Sherwood District Council contributed the rest.

The district’s business manager for parks and amenities, Mr Phil Beard, said the last time similar work was done to the castle was 20 to 30 years ago.

The council was guided by a condition survey it commissioned in 2011 that revealed some dangerous stonework.

Since then stone has fallen into the castle grounds, meaning areas had to be roped off from the public, and railings installed.

“We have a responsibility to protect this Scheduled Ancient Monument for not just this generation but the next and this work will do that. Future councils will need to repeat it, but not for many years,” Mr Beard said.

He said the scaffolding in the gatehouse gave a feel of how it would have been when the gatehouse had floors.

The gatehouse included, it is believed, the Royal apartments and the room where King John died.

Mr Beard said it had leant weight to the idea of re-introducing the floors ripped out after Newark surrendered following its third Civil War siege, and the castle was ransacked by Cromwell’s Parliamentarians.

At the very top of the castle wall, where ramparts are still partially in place, stonemasons Mr Richard Marshall and Mr Shaun Scattergood enjoy the best views of Newark.

It is said on a clear day — and they haven’t had one clear enough yet — that Lincoln Cathedral and Southwell Minster are visible.

“I enjoy working on old castles. It’s a chance to put your name on something that’s existed for hundreds of years and is steeped in history,” Mr Marshall said.

Mr Scattergood said: “You get to learn how things were built in olden days which I like, and the views are amazing.

“You can see why this place was chosen as the site for a castle. You would be able to see who was coming towards you for miles.”

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