Case Studies - Wigmore, Herefordshire

Wigmore Castle was one of the last medieval castles in England that had never been fully excavated and restored for viewing by visitors. It had been left to decay since the 1700s and much of the masonry has collapsed. In the late 1990’s the privately owned castle ruins were becoming very unstable and although quite remote, were considered dangerous to anyone who might venture to explore them. English Heritage intervened on behalf of the Secretary of State and funded a repair project, on the understanding that the castle must be accessible to members of the public. However, the decision was taken to restore it in its romantic ruined state, with none of the usual presentation and access works.

Repairs were limited to essential stabilising of the remaining masonry and only minimal safety provisions where there were exposed sheer drops. These included raising the height of some wall remains to protect sheer drops, or to introduce a few essential barriers. The policy was that undergrowth of brambles, nettles and thorns would be encouraged to grow in areas which would be potentially more hazardous, and access encouraged to safe routes by occasional cutting of the grass.

The only works carried out to provide safe access was a set of timber steps cut into the steep bank of the hillside leading up to the ruined Keep, as it was considered a desire line for visitors. The treads of the steps were formed of old railway sleepers covered with wire netting for grip. A timber hand rail was provided and intermediate barriers to break up the long flight of steps.

Due to its remoteness in the Welsh borders, the site is not manned by custodians and visitors must understand that no assistance is available if they need it.

The basis for safety must be an understanding with our visitors that this is a rugged environment and they must show a substantial degree of responsibility, not-withstanding the extensive safety works which have been carried out to repair unsafe structures and protect unguarded sheer drops. This principle of shared responsibility with visitors is in keeping with the Visitor Safety in the Countryside Group’s guiding principles.

To inform visitors arriving at the footpath gate with regard to safety we include a bold safety message:

FOR YOUR SAFETY: Wigmore Castle has been restored in its romantic ruined state. The structure has been stabilised and access to sheer drops minimised. However, visitors are requested to take extreme caution when exploring the site and to keep to cleared paths and steps. Children must be kept under close control and not allowed to climb on walls or banks. Stout footwear is strongly advised.

This case study was written by and was published in 2004

This website entry was last updated on 22 August, 2012

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