Nottingham Castle has closed to visitors as the trust which runs the site has announced it is preparing to enter liquidation.
It follows a three-year £33million renovation, which saw the Castle reopen in June 2021.
However, despite the goal for it to become a "world-class" heritage site, rivalling Warwick and York - visitor numbers have been well below what the trust expected.
It said visitor numbers have "remained highly unpredictable and significantly below forecasts' and that the Castle experienced a particularly tough summer that has negatively impacted expected funding streams".
Councillor Pavlos Kotsonis, Nottingham City Council’s portfolio holder for leisure, culture & planning, said they will reopen the castle "as soon as possible".
He said the castle's closure is a "significant blow" for the city and its visitor economy.
He said: “We will re-open the castle as soon as possible. Once we have a clearer picture from the liquidators, we will explore all available options together with our key partners The National Lottery Heritage Fund, Arts Council England and others to develop a fresh business model.
“There is a real commitment from all parties to see this important cultural asset fulfil its full potential for the city and the wider region as a successful visitor attraction, playing a key part in our wider plans to bring investment, jobs, visitors and growth to Nottingham and its residents.”
Full statement from Nottingham Castle Trust:
“We are saddened and hugely disappointed to announce that today, Nottingham Castle Trust (‘the Trust’) has begun the process of appointing liquidators. This is a heartbreaking day for trustees, our staff, visitors, and the city. Despite the immense dedication of staff and volunteers, the Castle is now closed to visitors.
“Tim Bateson and Chris Pole of Interpath Advisory have been nominated by the board to be appointed as liquidators to formally wind up the affairs of the Trust. Their appointment will take place during the course of the next ten days.
“While visitor numbers have been improving, they have unfortunately remained highly unpredictable and significantly below forecasts, mirroring the difficulties seen across the whole cultural sector. In line with heritage organisations and attractions across the UK, Nottingham Castle experienced a particularly tough summer that has negatively impacted expected funding streams.
“As the charity that operated Nottingham Castle on behalf of Nottingham City Council, the Trust’s business model and financing was agreed in 2017 and we are now in a fundamentally different social and economic environment. The immense challenges posed by the pandemic, the financial crisis and the three-fold rise in energy costs meant that this charitable trust model was no longer workable, and the Trust was simply not able to evolve quickly enough to survive the ongoing economic crisis as it enters its quietest trading period of the year.
“We stand by the vibrant vision that was set for Nottingham Castle in 2017 and are hopeful that a new operator will realise and take this forward in the near future for the benefit of our fantastic city.
“We would like to thank all of Nottingham Castle Trust’s supporters, including the thousands of visitors that have been through our gates. Finally, a huge thank you to staff and volunteers who made Nottingham Castle such an amazing place to visit.”
A quick look at the history of Nottingham Castle:
The first Norman castle was built on the site of the Nottingham Castle we see today - 'Castle Rock' - in 1068 and it was made of wood! Construction started two years after the Battle of Hastings, on the orders of William the Conqueror.
It was added to extensively through the Medieval period and it became an important royal fortress and occasional royal residence for Kings including Edward III and Henry VII.
Nottingham Castle was occupied by supporters of Prince John while King Richard I ("the Lionheart") was away - including the Sheriff of Nottingham. In the legends of Robin Hood, Nottingham Castle is the scene of the final showdown between the Sheriff and the heroic outlaw.
The 'Ducal Mansion' was built on the site on the castle in 1660 but was burned down during riots in 1831. The mansion was restored in 1835 and became a museum and art gallery - featuring a top-lit picture gallery modelled after the Grand Gallery of the Louvre in Paris.
In 2018, Nottingham Castle and its grounds closed to the public to undergo a £33million renovation. A new visitor centre was created together with exhibition galleries, interactive displays, a children's adventure area in the old castle moat and a showcase of local industries.