‘Our Castle Can Become Cultural Showpiece’
Pembrokeshire’s Regeneration programme has taken an important step forward with major funding from Pembrokeshire County Council now available to support a new phase of Haverfordwest’s Castle site redevelopment.
Haverfordwest Castle is an important historical and tourism asset to the County with enormous, previously untapped potential. Since 2015, the castle’s owners Pembrokeshire County Council have been working with a wide range of local organisations in the private, public and voluntary sectors to realise ambitious plans to bring the castle back into use to play an important role in the regeneration of the county town.
With first-phase costs of £4 million, Pembrokeshire County Council has shown its intent by pledging £475,000 as match funding towards the vision. Critically, the Authority are also busy putting together a funding application to the National Lottery Heritage Fund and researching other funding opportunities and partners to drive forward what promises to be a stunning piece of regenerative work.
Now over 900 years old, Haverfordwest castle has a rich and fascinating history. In 1289 Queen Eleanor, the wife of Edward I ‘The Longshanks’ – of Braveheart infamy – acquired it. In 1648, Oliver Cromwell ordered the castle to be dismantled but thankfully, that order was not carried out. The ruins of the castle were robbed of dressed stone over successive centuries, leaving what can be seen today. With so many more stories to tell, the completion of these renovations will unveil more of the castle’s fascinating secrets – and its important place in Welsh history – to enthralled visitors from near and far.
Mike Cavanagh, Head of Culture, Leisure and Registration, sees this work as vital to the transformation of Haverfordwest and PCC’s vision of making the town a destination of choice.
“Although the castle is very centrally placed, it does not look or feel close to the town centre. You can see the castle looming above but it soon disappears and it is very hard to know how to get to it from the town centre.
“The first phase of our exciting plans are to make the castle much more accessible to people by improving the different routes from the town centre to the castle. We will also complete a perimeter wall walk so that it is not just possible but positively enjoyable and easy to walk all the way around the outside of the castle.”
Mike is excited about the prospect of the historical sites of the town driving its future success.
“The castle redevelopment can help regenerate the town by bringing both local people and tourists to Haverfordwest. It really can become a cultural showpiece. We know that towns cannot survive on retail alone these days. They need high quality leisure opportunities to draw people back into our destinations. The castle gives us a great opportunity to add an attractive leisure offer to Haverfordwest's arsenal.”
Perhaps the most exciting element of the scheme will be the creation of an outdoor events space in the castle grounds with a capacity of around 500. The events space will have an all-weather cover, hosting everything from comedy, music, theatre through to specialist, local markets. Interaction and technology will play a role in the castle’s makeover with visitors able to interact with the castle via a visitor app, digitally discovering more about the castle's fascinating heritage.
Plans do not stop there: The second phase of the vision for Haverfordwest Castle will see the prison building within the castle grounds transformed into a modern, digitally enabled and family-friendly visitor attraction based around the unique and fascinating heritage of the county.