Monday, 28 March 2011

Berkeley Castle re-opens after re-wiring

Since November last year, Berkeley Castle has been closed to the public, whilst some major refurbishment works have been carried out. But the Castle is now preparing to re-open for the Summer Season on Sunday 3rd April 2011.

The aim of the project was to re-wire and re-plumb the entire Castle. The Castle was first fitted with electricity and plumbing by the 8th Earl of Berkeley in the 1920’s.

The work started on the private side of the Castle in June 2010, and continued until November, when the contractors then moved into the public rooms of the Castle.

The project has taken over ten months to complete, with an average of twenty contractors on site every day – which equates to a total of nearly 32,000 man-hours.

The plumbers (Keyplan Engineering Ltd from Bristol) have laid two miles of pipework, five new boilers, 100 metres of new gas main, and over 300 metres of support steel work. The electricians (Alpha [Bristol] Ltd) have fitted approximately 8 miles of mineral insulated cabling, 3.5 miles of data cabling and have installed over 400 power sockets, nearly 200 light switches, and have refurbished over 100 light fittings.

Castle staff moved and re-hung in excess of 100 paintings, 15 tapestries; and cleared and re-instated 20 rooms of furniture. Staff offices were combined and re-located into the Gift Shop during the winter, which ended-up being one of the coldest on record!

Due to the complexity of the project, the overall cost was uncertain. However due to savings in some areas, some additional works were able to be included. These included the introduction of lighting along the grove walkway from the car park to the Tea Room, updates to our CCTV system, decorating throughout the private apartments and in some of the public rooms, new toilet facilities for private functions and enhanced lighting in some of the public rooms. Some of the paths and driveways have also been re-laid, as they were disturbed to lay pipes and cables in trenches under the roads.

The first wedding to be held following the works, takes place on Saturday 2nd April, and then the Castle re-opens to visitors on Mothering Sunday, 3rd April 2011 at 11.00am, with a special gift for every Mum that visits the Castle that day, subject to availability.

For more information about the Castle, contact the Castle office on 01453 810332, e-mail or visit

More Information about the works:

During the 1920’s, the 8th Earl of Berkeley and his second wife, The Countess, wanted to make the Castle their main residence, which required extensive renovations to update the Castle and its amenities.

The Countess was from America, and encouraged the Earl to create en-suites for all of the bedrooms, now on the private side. This meant that the contractors had over thirteen bathrooms to plumb-in. During the project eight of those baths required re-enamelling and several 1920’s heated towel rails, had to be connected to the heating system.

The Earl’s renovations also included the purchase of a marble bathroom from the Waldorf Astoria in New York, which he had installed into one of the private en-suites. Having to lift the marble to access existing pipework, caused a few challenges for the plumbing contractors!

Much of the original pipework and cabling remained, and in some areas, where pipe-work ran through concrete, the pipework still remains in use with the new system.

The Castle now operates two plant rooms. One from the original boiler house under the Great Hall, and the other in the out buildings in the Back Courtyard.

The Great Hall now contains a total of three gas-fired boilers, where-as before there was only one. The pressurised system now ensures that even the radiators situated furthest from the boilers still heat-up properly.

New gas pipes had to be laid from the gas meter to the plant rooms, as the gauge of the original pipework was too narrow.

Wherever possible the radiators have been retained, and so very little evidence of the plumbing work is visible to the visitor, although surface-run pipework is visible in some rooms.

The electrical wiring has been largely carried-out using a mineral insulated cable. This is effectively a small copper tube containing the wiring. Whilst expensive, the advantages are that it is rodent proof, has a longer life expectancy and looks more in keeping when being surface mounted than other products. The copper is rather shiny to start with but as it oxidises it dulls and the eventual darker brown colour will be difficult to spot against the roof timbers.

The switching of lights throughout the Castle, had been a curious science, and many switches over-time had ceased to work altogether. Some of the original switches, plug sockets and cabling conduit has been left in situ, and in a few areas has been re-used. The switching of the lights has now been re-designed so that staff have better control of the lighting, and don’t plunge themselves into darkness whilst locking up at night!

The table lamps had been plugged into a separate 5amp circuit, which has now been replaced with a standard 13amp circuit. All of the antique light fittings have also been re-wired and several have been sent away to specialist contractors to be completely renovated.

These include the three Great Hall chandeliers, made of bronze which took four strong men to lift; the silver chandelier in the Small Drawing Room and the chandeliers in the Grand Staircase and Clock Tower Porch.

It was decided not to re-wire the chandelier in the Long Drawing Room, as this had already been extensively damaged following an earlier attempt, and as the chandelier is so valuable it was decided to re-instate it as a candelabra, and to install new, modern lighting instead.

New or enhanced lighting has been installed in other public rooms in the Castle such as the King’s Gallery, Picture Gallery, Buttery, Kitchen, China Room and Housekeeper’s Room. Look out for the state of the art LED strip lighting in the Morning Room and Great Hall!

Friday, 18 March 2011

What's On at Berkeley Castle in 2011

Berkeley Castle re-opens to the public on Mothering Sunday (3rd April) and remains open, on selected days, until the end of October. During that time there are many events and activities to enjoy. Below is the full list of events throughout the season with a short description:

Mother’s Day
Sunday 3rd April 2011 - 11.00am - 5.30pm
After the re-wiring works that have been undertaken during the Winter, Berkeley Castle re-opens on Sunday 3rd April 2011, Mothering Sunday. To celebrate, every Mum visiting the Castle will be given a free gift (subject to availability). Why not treat Mum or Grandma to a gift voucher presentation pack to the Castle, which includes admission, a guide book, a guided tour and as an optional extra, a cream tea in our Tea Room?

Easter School Holidays at the Castle Sun 10th - Mon 25th April 2011 (on selected days)
Visit Berkeley Castle during the Easter School Holidays and enjoy a range of activities for the kids. In addition to the guided tour around the Castle with one of the fabulous guides, why not take part in one of our quizzes (suitable for most age ranges) - with a prize for correct entries? In addition, follow the Easter Egg Garden trail through the 8 acres of Castle Gardens and win a prize if all are found. Alternatively you can track down the Easter Bunnies in the Easter Bunny Castle Trail, win again if you can name them all. All activities are included within the normal admission charge.

Family Fun Easter Activities
Easter Weekend Fri 22nd - Mon 25th April 2011
Join in the family fun in the Great Hall. Raising funds for the Sue Ryder Hospice at Leckhampton, there will be a home-made cake stall (subject to availability), tombola, second-hand book stall, arts and crafts, garden games and much more.
Visit the Butterfly House in the walled garden as it opens for the year. See pupae hatching in the nursery as the life-cycle of up to 25 tropical species of butterflies starts. The Easter Egg Garden Trail, the Easter Bunny Castle Trail and the Children's Quizzes will also be available throughout the weekend.


Butterfly Activities Weekend
Bank Holiday Sunday 1st – Monday 2nd May 2011 11.00am - 5.30pm
Visit the Butterfly House, follow the Butterfly Garden Trail, listen to Butterfly Tales from the Castle Storytellers and make Butterfly inspired Arts & Crafts - all of which is included within the Global Admission Ticket to the Castle. Not to mention the tour of the Castle!

Weds 11thth May (Evg)                                                                     
Archaeology Dig Update Lecture with Dr. Stuart Prior (Friends of Berkeley Castle)
Evening lecture with Dr. Prior from the University of Bristol regarding the annual student archaeology dig at Berkeley; covering the history of the area, the aims of the dig, the finds so far and the hopes for this year.

Sun 22nd May (Evg)
Spring Evening Concert in the Great Hall
This concert features some of the most beautiful music ever written for combinations of flute, harp and strings.  The composers are Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert and Debussy, and the programme includes Derek Smith’s highly acclaimed quintet arrangement (for flute, harp and string trio) of Mozart’s Flute and Harp Concerto K299.  The players, all highly acclaimed and firmly established artists, are:
Sarah Newbold (flute), Katherine Thomas (harp), and three members of the Maggini Quartet:
David Angel (violin), Martin Outram (viola) and Michal Kaznowski (cello).

Tickets are £27 (including wine) from the ESO Box Office (01386 791044). Concert promoted by Espressivo

Mon 30th May (Meadow)                                                      
Classic Car Show
Visit the Castle Meadow to see the annual Classic Car Show.


Half Term 31s May - 2nd June                                                                      
Teddy Bear’s Picnic Events
Visitors to the Castle can enjoy a Teddy Bear Trail through the Gardens & another throughout the Castle, as well as Teddy inspired arts & crafts and storytelling – all included within the admission price. Bring your teddy with you, and enjoy your own picnic in the Castle grounds (weather permitting), or treat yourself to a picnic from the Tea Room.

Sun 5th June (Gardens & Evg)                                                          
A Midsummer Night’s Dream – Lord Chamberlain’s Men
Evening, outside performance of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream by the Lord Chamberlain’s Men. Bring a picnic, a seat and a jumper. This annual event always proves to be very popular – whatever the weather! Performed on the Lower Lawn adjacent to the Lily Pond.

Weds 8th June (Evg)                                                              
Tour of the Archaeological Dig (Friends of Berkeley Castle)
Opportunity to view the dig sites from this year’s University of Bristol Archaeological Digs in Berkeley, with guides Dr. Stuart Prior and Professor Mark Horton.

Sunday 12th June (Evg)
A Summer Night’s Dream – An Unusual Musical Rendezvous of Violin, Baritone & Piano.
Anglo-German Pianist and Conductor Dorian Keilhack presents an evening with friends in the Great Hall at Berkeley Castle.

Fri 17th – Sun 19th June (Meadow)                                       
Lister Tyndale Steam Rally
Visit the Castle Meadow to see the annual Steam Rally.

Sun 17th July (Evg)
‘A Baronial household of the time of Thomas 3rd Lord Berkeley, 1326-61’ – Friends of Berkeley Castle Lecture with Henry Phythian-Adams.
Evening lecture in the Great Hall with retired history school-master, Henry Phythian-Adams.

Sun 24th July (Gardens & Evg)                                                         
Around the World in 80 Days – Jenny Wren Productions
Evening, outside performance of  Around the World in 80 Days by Jenny Wren Productions. Bring a picnic, a seat and a jumper. This annual event always proves to be very popular – whatever the weather! Performed on the Lower Lawn adjacent to the Lily Pond.

Sat 30th – Sun 31st July (Meadow & Castle)                         
The Berkeley Skirmish
Visit the ‘rumbustious medieval romp’ that is the annual Berkeley Skirmish. Experience the mediaeval world of jousting, archery, falconry.  Shop at mediaeval market stalls and modern trade stands. Spectate whilst hundreds of costumed re-enactors take centre stage for battles and skirmishes.

Summer Holidays Throughout August (Tues – Thurs)                    
Children’s Activities
In addition to a guided tour of the Castle, visitors can also enjoy jester skills (Tuesdays), ‘come and try’ archery sessions (Wednesdays) and arts & crafts (Thursdays) throughout August – all included within the Castle admission price.

Sun 7th August (Evg)                                                             
Berkeley and the Civil War with the Sealed Knot
Join the Charles Gerard’s Regiment of the Sealed Knot Society at Berkeley Castle, including a living history camp and display of arms. In addition meet guards from the regiment on garrison duty around the Castle, and understand what happened in Berkeley during the Civil War.

Sun 14th August (Evg)
Friends of Berkeley Castle Treasure Hunt and Garden Party with Charles Berkeley

Mon 29th August (Meadow)                                                  
The Berkeley Show
One of the biggest annual events in the area – a must see for the Bank Holiday weekend.

Sunday 11th September                                                                    
Castle2Castle Cycle Challenge - The Stroke Association
Your chance to raise funds for the Stroke Association by cycling from Berkeley Castle to Chepstow Castle (and back again!)

Wednesday 14th September (Evg)
Wedding Open Evening
If you are about to get married, or have only just got engaged, why not come along to the Berkeley Castle Wedding Open Evening. There are great prizes to be won, and an opportunity to meet other members of the Cotswold Wedding Guild and all the Castle’s regular wedding suppliers.

Sunday 18th September (Meadow)
Volkswagen Car Show
A new show for the Berkeley Castle Meadow, organised by the Classic Car Show event organisers.

Mon 26th September (Evg)                                                     
Lecture with Neil Eddiford (Friends of Berkeley Castle)
Evening lecture by Neil Eddiford on The Long Bow.

Weds 19th Oct (Evg)                                                              
Quiz Night (Friends of Berkeley Castle)
Pit your quiz team against the might of the others, in this fund-raising evening.

Half Term Tues 25th – Thurs 27th October                          
The Story of King Edward II at Berkeley Castle
Visitors to the Castle will be able to enjoy performances telling the story of King Edward II and his untimely end at Berkeley Castle from historians and re-enactors from Past Pleasures. Meet the characters as they stroll through the Castle – all included within the Castle admission price. (Suitable for children.)

Sunday 6th November (Afternoon)                                                    
Lecture with Castle Archivist David Smith (Friends of Berkeley Castle)
David Smith discusses “The Great Dispute”.

Weds 7th December (Evg)
The Castle at Christmas with the University of the West of England Choir
(Friends of Berkley Castle)
Join the Friends for a festive evening concert in the Great Hall.

Sun 11th December (Evg)
English String Orchestra’s Christmas Concert
Join the ESO for their annual Christmas concert in the Great Hall.

Fri 16th – Sun 18th December (Evg)
Castle by Candlelight
Back by popular demand, take this magical opportunity to tour the Castle, decorated for Christmas, by candlelight. Santa will be available in his acclaimed Grotto in the Beer Cellar and festive entertainment is included. A festive treat not to be missed.

T:         01453 810332
F:         01453 512995




Berkeley Castle, Gloucestershire, GL13 9BQ


Tel: 01453 810303

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