Wisbech Town Council says it has saved hundreds of thousands of pounds by attracting volunteers to carry out work at Wisbech Castle.
The savings were claimed by Cllr Steve Tierney, chairman of the town council town centre committee which oversees the castle project.
At Sunday’s open day – which the town council says attracted up to 800 visitors – Cllr Tierney was one of those offering guided tours.
And having explained how the town council took over the castle from Cambridgeshire County Council, he offered visitors an insight into how its managed.
“The town council did a deal with county and took it on and now its run by the town council on a 30-year peppercorn rent and almost entirely by volunteers,” he told a tour party.
“The reason that we do that is because we wanted to limit the effect on the tax payer.
“We didn’t we didn’t want to put the council tax up a lot and have to pay for it that way.
“With volunteers, and mostly we have, I think we’ve done something like three four hundred thousand pounds worth of work here on something like twenty or thousand thirty thousand pounds
“So, we’ve done good work; I hope you’ll like it as you go around.”
Cllr Tierney also had some good news about the castle’s bee project.
At the last town centre meeting the clerk Terry Jordan said that bee hives (containing bees) had been in the grounds of Wisbech Castle since October 2019 with the intention of delivering a British Black Bee Conservation Project.
“For various reasons, including the Covid-19 pandemic, this project had failed to ‘get off the ground’; however, the bees/hives had remained at Wisbech Castle,” he said.
Mr Jordan said he had taken advantage of the offer of a free-of-charge bee survey, and he shared the results of that survey.
The committee decided that given that the British Black Bee Conservation Project is not being delivered but ongoing action is necessary to “safeguard the bees’ welfare, it may be appropriate for the council to not retain the hives/bees”.
On Monday, however, Cllr Tierney told visitors that the decision to “get rid of the bees” had been halted.
“Someone has now volunteered to take them on and so the bees will be staying,” he said.
Cllr Tierney told guests that when King John reputedly stayed at the castle, he said that it was the coldest place he’d ever stayed, and he’d preferred to sleep outside.
“It does get quite cold to be fair the boiler’s not been working for a while we’ve got a new one coming,” said Cllr Tierney.
“One of our business tenants has said it gets so cold that she might as well be outside, and I said that’s what king John is supposed to have said.”
Later in the tour, Cllr Tierney explained more of the history of the castle, recalling that the castle was bequeathed to the county council by the widow of Gordon Fendick.
When he died in the 1960s, she transferred ownership to old Isle of Ely County then later Cambridgeshire County Council
Cllr Tierney said: “When Mr Fendick passed away, he had instructed his wife please give this to the people of Wisbech and then she eventually did give it to the people of Wisbech in perpetuity.
“But there was a condition it must always be used at least in part for the free education of local people and that’s why we don’t charge for tours.”
In March, town councillors were told that the central heating boiler at Wisbech Castle is no longer working and quotations for its replacement are being sought.
“Members are of this opinion that, because of the impact that the absence of heating could have upon the fabric of the building, this work should take precedence over the proposed re-paving works,” clerk Terry Jordan recorded in the minutes.
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