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Doubts raised over whether Hurst Castle will ever be fully repaired after collapse

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QUESTIONS have been raised over whether Hurst Castle will ever be fully restored following the collapse of part of the eastern wing almost a year ago.

Large sections of the historic building, at the end of the spit stretching from Milford, have remained closed to the public since February last year when the eastern wall toppled into the sea.

English Heritage has been engaged in a major project to strengthen the coastal defences surrounding the historic fort, but it is warning that long-term plans for the castle will only become clear once a feasibility study has been completed.

Hurst Castle has been damaged by coastal erosion
Hurst Castle has been damaged by coastal erosion

English Heritage’s estates director, Rob Woodside, said: “The immense forces at work along Hurst Spit continue to present very real challenges to Hurst Castle despite all our efforts to protect it over recent years.

“As a result, we cannot take the long-term future of the castle for granted and it will only be when we have completed in-depth and technical feasibility work that we will be able to consider the most appropriate course of action regarding the repair of the breach.

"English Heritage remains committed to working extremely hard to protect Hurst Castle.”

In November 2021, English Heritage contractors injected a special resin to stabilise the foundations either side of the breach in the east wing and began to clear the fallen stonework, cataloguing the archeologically significant material.

This was successfully completed before Christmas and contractors are now repairing the groynes to the west of the revetment and recharging around 2,000 tonnes of shingle.

Speaking at a Milford Parish Council meeting, Jason Crane, of Hurst Marine which manages the site, said: “Work is progressing and I know there are frustrations about the speed of the work but it is a massive project now. English Heritage are addressing the issues one by one.

Part of Hurst Castle collapsed in February last year (photo: Zack Maynard)
Part of Hurst Castle collapsed in February last year (photo: Zack Maynard)

“The awareness in the organisation [English Heritage] is now quite intense. We have visits from the board of trustees, Tim Lawrence the chairman of English Heritage – it’s getting quite serious for them as an organisation."

He added: "But on the down side there will come a point when it becomes financially unviable.

“I don’t think English Heritage have an ability to look very far ahead as a charity. We have been warned, at some point, the plug will be pulled but we don’t know when that point will come.”

The next phase of work will start to enhance the temporary revetment constructed last year to form a permanent sea defence. This will include a further significant amount of shingle, and work will continue well into the spring.

A spokesperson for English Heritage said: “The next major phase will be a series of in-depth and technical feasibility work to understand, as best is possible, the forces at work on the spit and the castle.”

The monument, which is managed by Hurst Marine on behalf of English Heritage, is set to partially reopen on 1st April when visitors will be able to tour the Tudor keep while the east and west wings will remain closed.

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