(Above) Farnham Castle
A Grade I-listed 12th century castle built by a Grandson of William the Conquerer and used as a political powerhouse for the past 900 years will be opened for free year-round public access after winning more than £700,000 in Lottery funding for the final part of a major restoration programme.
The Bishop's Palace and Keep at Farnham Castle will be united in the completion of building works at the designated Scheduled Ancient Monument, with visiting periods increased from 80 to 300 days per year.
(Left to right) James Twiss, Chief Executive of Farnham Castle, Jeremy Hunt, MP for South West Surrey, Jane Weeks, Committee Chair of HLF South East England and Karen Richardson of English Heritage at Farnham Castle Keep
Former residents include King John, Queen Victoria and successive Bishops of Winchester, who used the site as a home and administrative centre until the 1920s.
James Twiss, Chief Executive of Farnham Castle, which will take over the running of the site from English Heritage, said the announcement was "fantastic news for everyone".
"We have received an amazing amount of support from many local organisations," he added. "We are almost there and with further help, which I am sure will be forthcoming now, the project will be fully funded."
The campaign to improve the site has proved a success
South West Surrey MP Jeremy Hunt saluted the long-running campaign to secure the funding.
"It has been a long fight, but this is a brilliant conclusion," he said. "A newly-refurbished castle will attract more people to the town, and other traders can look forward to benefitting."
A learning and activities programme, aimed at increasing the 18,500 visitors to the Castle each year, will accompany the development.
"We are delighted to see this many-faceted project come to fruition," said Jane Weeks, Chair of the South East England Heritage Lottery Fund Committee.
"It will repair and conserve one of the few remaining Medieval houses of England and introduce new audiences to a long and fascinating history."
More than 18,000 people visit the Castle each year
The walls, stable block, gatehouse block and south range of the Palace will be rebuilt, and key new features in The Keep will include a new stairway and viewing platform, interpretation boards, grass areas to replace existing concrete slabs and safety improvements.
A Heritage in Action room, camouflage and illusion project, one-day courses in stonework repair and weekend events are among education plans.
"This is an amazing opportunity for the town and its residents, and I am particularly pleased to learn that many of the planned activities will involve so many members of our local community," declared Farnham Mayor Lucinda Fleming, urging new investors to come forward.
Karen Richardson, Estates Surveyor for English Heritage, also applauded the conservation scheme. "We gave this grant application our full backing," she said.
"We look forward to working with Chief Executive James Twiss on plans to secure the future management of the site."