Vice-Chancellor talks of shock following discovery of problems at historic castle
Queen’s University, owners of Herstmonceux Castle, are facing a substantial financial burden following the discovery in early November of structural defects in the South facing gatehouse while roofing work was being carried out.
Roofing contractors alerted the management of Herstmonceux Castle Estate to possible problems they spotted while carrying out repairs. A specialist structural survey was then carried out of the area which determined that it was unsafe. It was then recommended that the rest of the building should be surveyed in case there were other areas needing attention.
With so much uncertainty and the safety of students, staff and visitors potentially at risk, Queen’s University decided to take swift action. This has included students from Canada not being able to come and study in the castle for the foreseeable future and around 20 events during the next year being cancelled. Lectures normally take place in the building, so these have now gone on line. Other staff have been able to continue to work as normal.
Matthew Evans, Provost, and Vice-Chancellor Queen’s University, explains: “The situation has been a real shock to everyone. It’s not something we anticipated. Queen’s has owned the castle since 1993 – it’s a very old building which means things happen that you can’t always anticipate. We are sorry for any disappointment caused to students, visitors and those who had events planned with us.
”We realise lots of people want to visit the estate but we can only open when it is safe to do so.”
The repair work to the listed monument could run into millions of pounds with the initial work costing around £1.2 million. The full extent of any work needed and how long it will take won’t be known until a specialist survey takes place in the New Year. Any repair work will then need to be approved by Heritage England because the castle is a listed monument.
The estate was donated to Queen’s University in 1993 by Queen’s alumnus Dr. Alfred Bader and his wife, Dr. Isabel Bader. After extensive renovations to the moated 15th century castle, Bader College opened as Queen’s International Study Centre in 1994. It was renamed as the Bader International Study Centre in 2009, and then Bader College in 2022.
The Bader College campus includes Herstmonceux Castle (housing classroom, conference, computing, library, study, office and dining facilities), Bader Hall (a modern three-story residence for students, faculty and guests), the David Smith Hall (for additional faculty accommodation), formal Elizabethan gardens, and an extensive wooded medieval park.