Work on Wisbech Castle is nearing completion as cafe opens and a scary night is planned for Halloween
Work to breathe new life into Wisbech Castle is nearly finished and it is hoped that from next year it could be breaking financially even.
The latest stage in the project led by Wisbech Town Council under its Castle Working Group saw a cafe open in the former Pump House on Thursday morning.
Cakes, teas and coffee were all on offer in the newly refurbished building which has direct access off The Crescent and it is hoped it will be used by shoppers on the four days a week it will be open.
Meanwhile plans for a major Halloween event - Castle of the Dead - are coming along well with 22 volunteers, including 19 actors, set to role play for what is promised will be three nights of scary inter-active fun.
Visitors will tour the Castle and its grounds in groups of between five and nine people and already 200 of the 350 places have been booked. But Coun Steve Tierney, chairman of the working group, is hoping to sell at least 100 more.
"With the cafe open, and events being organised and held we are almost done. There will be further work to keep improving and maintaining the facility but the bulk of it is finished," said Steve, adding: "We have to say a huge thank-you to all the volunteers who have worked so hard to get us to this point. They have done a fantastic job, and they need to be acknowledged for all their dedication."
He said there has been a lot of positivity around what has been achieved so far and with the bookings and events, such as the Victorian afternoon tea held on Rose Fair weekend, the Castle has already taken over £2,000 this year. - "And we're not even properly open yet!
"I originally said that I would like to see the Castle breaking even or making a small profit within three years,I'm now quietly hopeful that we can actually achieve that next year.
"We will be sorting out a calendar for weddings early in the New Year and will be taking bookings once that is ready. We have had a number of groups interested in using the rooms we have to hire out.
And from this week the aim is to open the Castle for tours three days a week 11am to 3pm, and volunteers are needed to help with this.
"The gardens are looking fantastic and hopefully in the spring the hard work will have paid off even more when spring comes because the volunteers have planted over 1,000 bulbs."
In the meantime, the final piece of the project - the Vaults- are being worked on and Steve said this is one of the more exciting aspects of the scheme.
"The aim is to create a series of interactive experiences in various corridors and vaults. Each one will be dedicated to a part of the Castle's history, for instance the Vaults were used as an air raid shelter during the war, so one area will be turned into a shelter with sound effects so people can experience what that would have been like.
"A lot of time and thought has been put into this area of the Castle and we are really excited about the whole thing," said Steve.
Places for the Castle of the Dead - which is running on Tuesday October 23, Thursday October 25 and Friday October 26 from 6pm to 9pm are £5 and tickets must be booked in advance at: http://wisbechcastle.org/castle-of-the-dead/
The tour, which has a lower age limit of 11, takes around 20 minutes and will conclude with a cup of hot chocolate and a cupcake in the Castle.
Steve added: "The event will be quite scary and so people of a nervous disposition are recommended not to attend."