G F Tomlinson completes Nottingham Castle visitors centre

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Nottingham Castle

G F Tomlinson has handed over the £30m transformation of Nottingham Castle, after completing a brand-new visitors centre

The completion of the construction phase of the overall transformation is a significant landmark and keeps the project on track for the castle to re-open early next year.

The improved destination is expected to attract more than 400,000 visitors a year, celebrating the last 1,000 years of Nottingham’s heritage.

G F Tomlinson was appointed by project lead, Nottingham City Council, due to its established history of delivering heritage sector projects across the region.

Funded by the National Lottery through the National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF), D2N2, Nottingham Castle Trust and Nottingham City Council, the works involved an extension to the Ducal Palace, significant mechanical and electrical works, specialist restoration, improved access to the underground cave network and the construction of the new visitors centre.

Retaining heritage

Preservation of the site was paramount throughout the project, and one of the key and most complex elements of the build was work to the Grade I listed Ducal Palace, which will house the new Robin Hood and Rebellion galleries, telling stories of the city’s legendary outlaw.

Working closely with Historic England, stonework and lime plaster restoration was undertaken to bring the building back to its former glory. A particular focus of the sensitive restoration was ensuring repairs remained in line with the heritage of the original building.

Externally the Ducal Palace, which dates back to the 1660s, with the museum opening in the 1870s, now benefits from extensive roof repairs including the refurbishment of roof tiles and the addition of new slate, roof lights and lead gutters.

The scaffolding and temporary roof required to safely carry out the restoration works were designed to be free-standing, with the structure ballasted with water butts, ensuring the scaffolding didn’t touch the building preventing damage to the masonry.

New to the site is the contemporary visitors centre, which will house the ticketing office and café with an outdoor seating area.

This was constructed using a steel frame and timber core insulated walls, with the external oak cladding chosen due to its association with Robin Hood and Sherwood Forest.

Success despite the Covid-19 pandemic

Chris Flint, director and general manager, G F Tomlinson, said: “After two years, we are incredibly proud and honoured to be handing over this project which has been a big part of our lives.

“It has brought much joy to our hardworking team to provide works for such a pivotal, historic landmark site – promoting and enhancing the rich heritage of Nottingham.

“Despite the challenges that 2020 has presented with the Covid-19 pandemic, the project team has shown ambition and adaptability, quickly adhering to the government health and safety procedures implemented onsite.

“This is a flagship project for any contractor, particularly a regional SME like ourselves, and we are pleased that it will be a part of our legacy for many years to come.”

Nottingham City Council portfolio holder for leisure and culture, Dave Trimble, said: “The completion of this part of the castle works on such a historic site and despite the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic and periods of adverse weather is a big achievement.

“The impact of these works will have a lasting impression on the city, bolstering tourism with the restoration of fascinating buildings which lie on an iconic cave network and the construction of the new visitor centre.

“We are now well on track for completing the final redevelopment work including brand new digital installations featuring Robin Hood and Rebellion as the excitement builds towards the castle reopening early next year.”

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