Children sitting pretty with castle £1m revamp

Pupils at Ivanhoe Primary Academy in Conisborough, Doncaster
Pupils at Ivanhoe Primary Academy in Conisborough, Doncaster

The countdown is on to the reopening of historic Conisbrough Castle following a £1.1 million overhaul.

The 12th century visitor attraction will open its gates to the public once more on May 10 following a winter refurbishment by owners English Heritage.

A new visitor centre has been built and visitors will enjoy an improved fresh and interactive experience with a number of other works aimed at drawing in the community.

As part of the countdown, English Heritage has been working with Ivanhoe Primary Academy to bring history to life through the creation of cushions that will be used along benches in the new 
education and activity centre.

Pupils from all the year groups have been involved in creating the eight cushion covers, each a metre by 35 centimetres, which will depict a timeline of the castle’s history. They have been inspired by weekly performance sessions in school, covering the Anglo Saxons through to the Romantic period and Walter Scott’s novel.

Teacher Claire Patterson said: “This has been a great activity for us to be involved in, as we have historically had strong ties with Conisbrough Castle, the very inspiration for Scott’s novel, Ivanhoe.

“We have hosted English Heritage’s dynamic sessions with re-enactors in school and they have really brought history to life for the pupils. From nursery through to Year 6 we have seen such enthusiasm from the classes, which has been brilliant. We regularly visit the castle as a school and are extremely excited about it reopening.”

The children’s black and white drawings have been worked on and developed by local castle volunteer and printmaker Lisa Jackson.

She said: “I am a textile designer by trade and living locally I was keen to be involved in the volunteering opportunities.

“This has been a fascinating project in school and it has been great to further involve the community, specifically the future visitors to the castle. I have loved seeing these children using their imaginations and creativity and seeing what they have created for the new cushions.”

The project began in school in March and will take place over three months, with the cushions in place by the end of May.

Other projects that have been ongoing during the castle’s closure include the social history gathering, the planning of the archaeology festival and the Faces campaign, which used the faces of local volunteers as the base for the creation of the new interpretation in the castle.

Peter Dale, Doncaster Council’s Director of Regeneration, said: “This is a great project and it is fantastic to see schoolchildren getting involved in celebrating local heritage.”