IN A hard hitting campaign, spearheaded by Bay Life publisher Dianne Dear and her councillor colleagues, English Heritage has been wrong footed into facing local public wrath about its failure to support services linked to Pevensey Castle.
The tearooms adjoining the castle have been left to rot by English Heritage, the owners, which means anyone coming to visit a castle linked to a key moment in English History, when the Normans arrived in 1066, is left wondering if they have come to the right place.
That such an important part of our shared history could be left so unsupported has been described by one local historian as ‘painfully ludicrous’.
The organisation, with assets valued of £34.8 million at its disposal, proudly describes its mission statement as ‘the protection and promotion of England’s spectacular historic Environment’. Sadly, if primary source evidence is taken into account at Pevensey Castle, the organisation would appear unable to organise a brew-up in a history club.
How any family will view their statement after arriving at the ‘Environment’ of the castle this Easter is best left to the imagination.
They will arrive to find a windswept deserted car park, no staff, no facilities, and without anywhere even to enjoy a cup of tea at the historic site.
Can the community of Pevensey be forgiven for thinking that the village and its iconic place in the history of England has been forgotten?
When popular TV historian Michael Wood came to start his groundbreaking ‘The Great British Story: A People’s History”, watched by 4.1 million people, it was to Pevensey that he turned to begin his story. History does not record his view of English Heritage and the support for the famous castle that he found when he began filming.
What the Bayeux Tapestry did in the 11th Century for the locality by featuring the village of ‘Pevensae’ on the famous tableaux, appears to have been all but unpicked by English Heritage almost a thousand years later.
Pevensey councillors Dianne Dear, Lin Clark, Bill Tooley and Tony Freebody have come together to raise the concerns.
The issue was also featured today by local radio Station Sovereign FM, in an interview in which Dianne Dear made clear the increasing anger being voiced by local people.
In a joint statement the councillors said,
“We have concerns and are objecting most strongly to the way the castle, the very core of the village of Pevensey, and a valuable part of both local and national heritage, is being left to become overgrown and neglected.”
The councillors added,
“The tearooms have been left empty for the past two years. Many local people have asked to run the cottage as a tea room again, but this appears to have been ignored by English Heritage.”
A spokesperson from English Heritage offered the view that;
“We are ‘absolutely committed’ to the castle, we worked with the parish council for the Diamond Jubilee celebration”
The spokesman added that the issue of the tea rooms was being actively considered;
“Several businesses have tried to make a go of the castle’s tearoom over the years, unfortunately none of them successfully. We recently ran a tender process for the tearoom but no-one put forward a genuinely realistic business plan. We don’t want to see another tearoom fail at Pevensey Castle – that’s not good for the castle and that’s not good for the village. Like the rest of the local community, we want to see Castle Cottage brought back into use as soon as possible so we’re now exploring alternatives to a tearoom.
“The maintenance and conservation of Pevensey Castle and the other 400-plus properties in our care lies at the heart of what English Heritage does. In the wake of the 34 per cent cut in our government funding, we need to ensure that those sites with the most significant conservation needs are prioritised. In some respects, these are difficult days for heritage but we remain committed to protecting Pevensey Castle and making it available to everyone to enjoy.”