IT has stood for more than 800 years as a fortress to defend the city of Newcastle – but even the Castle Keep could not withstand the rain of the 2012 summer.
The medieval Keep at Newcastle has been closed since the most recent deluge on August 5, when drainage on its flat roof could not cope with the storm and water poured down the spiral staircases of two of its roof turrets.Related content
Water cascaded into the castle’s Great Hall and then found its way to the ceiling of the Lower Hall.
It is now thought that rainwater which had poured into the castle in the storm of June 28 had become trapped and undetected in the ceiling.
The new deluge was enough to bring down most of the Georgian plaster ceiling of the Lower Hall, which houses items found in archaeological digs around the castle site. The June storm had left four inches of water in the ground floor garrison room.
Castle manager Tony Ball said: “The water coming through the castle on August 5 was spectacular. We just felt powerless.”
The ceiling has now been completely removed, exposing important Georgian wooden joists. “We also found that the ceiling had been patched up many times previously,” said Mr Ball.
It has now been decided that the ceiling will not be replaced, leaving the joists on show and meaning it will now be possible to see from the Lower Hall up to the floor of the Great Hall.
The Keep is owned by Newcastle City Council, and is managed by the Newcastle Society of Antiquaries. It is hoped the castle, which attracts around 25,000 visitors a year, can re-open on Monday.
The castle is a key part of the Old Newcastle: Where the Story Begins project.
In October the Heritage Lottery Fund awarded £1.4m to the Heart of the City Partnership for the project, which seeks to make more of the area where the city’s history began. It includes the Grade I listed 13th Century Black Gate and St Nicholas Cathedral.
Ian Ayris, city council team leader for urban design and conservation, said: “The Keep is very much a part of the Old Newcastle project and we are looking for a permanent solution to the flooding problem to try to ensure that it doesn’t happen again.
“It is a difficult one because we need to find a solution which does not affect public access to the castle roof from which people can enjoy spectacular views.”