Town councillor Dave Topgood becomes voluntary caretaker/night watchman at Wisbech Castle - other volunteers stay overnight too says council

Newly appointed volunteer caretaker and nightwatchman at Wisbech Castle, Dave Topgood at the Gneera

Newly appointed volunteer caretaker and nightwatchman at Wisbech Castle, Dave Topgood at the Gneeral Election Count with MP Steve Barclay. Cllr Topgood is a Wisbech town and Fenland district councillor and chairman of the conduct committee. Picture; ARCHANT - Credit: Archant

A voluntary caretaker and night watchman has been appointed at Wisbech Castle – local councillor Dave Topgood.

A statement from the town council today said that Cllr Topgood's role had been "agreed unanimously" by the castle committee and "must, by its nature, involve spending time looking after the castle. Other volunteers have also stayed overnight at the castle where it has been required."

The statement was in response to questions put by Cllr Dave Patrick who said he had been concerned by reports of lights being on in the castle overnight and had always been assured no one was staying there.

"As had been discussed and agreed by the Wisbech Castle working party, volunteers may stay occasional nights," said town clerk Terry Jordan. "This can be useful if a volunteer is working late or starting early or both.

"This might be for maintenance, cleaning or preparation for an event but is most commonly to provide on-site cover for a night-time event that the castle is hosting.

"Recently when an individual was trespassing, a couple of volunteers stayed overnight in the hopes of catching them."

Mr Jordan said that following discussions with the council's insurers "I can confirm that the building is fully covered for people to be there 24/7. The insurance company is aware that there will be occasional overnight stays by volunteers and guests as required. Not only is it covered but the company ha stated that it is preferred as it provides additional security."

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He added that allowing someone to stay overnight at the castle did not cost the council any money.

"The heating is on throughout the winter as part of protecting the historic building from weather/damp," said the town clerk. "Selected lights are also on to give the appearance of occupancy in order to deter break ins."

And he added that when volunteers did stay overnight "dealing with a visit or appointment early, working on maintenance or cleaning, the council does not expect them to do so in the pitch black". The council was grateful "for the thousands of pounds worth of free work that the volunteers deliver".

Mr Jordan, in a separate response, also offered more detailed explanations of income for the castle which showed it grossed £4,345 for a mix of hirings from May to December.

The sums range from £750 for 'castle of the dead' event in October to several sums ranging from £60 to £140 for 'ghost hunt' weekends.

It was also booked in July by castle committee chairman Steve Tierney for a 'gaming event' during the weekend of July 20 and 21 through his company Madhouse UK for which he paid £300.

A hog roast in September for a company grossed a hire fee of £250 whilst air cadets paid £20 for an event there in August. A summer play scheme in July for St Peter's CofE junior school grossed £200.

Mr Jordan said hire fees can be viewed on Facebook, by contacting his office or by talking to committee members and volunteers.

He said the council did not produce a separate set of accounts for Wisbech Castle.

The council "records all items of council expenditure and council income," he said.

"From the published accounts the 'global' income and expenditure for the castle can be seen.

"As no point has Wisbech Town Council said that Wisbech Castle would be viable financially within the first two or three years." However he said from the figures from the past, current and future budgets it shows the level of income increasing and the level of expenditure reducing,

"It is anticipated that operation of Wisbech Castle would be cost-neutral within the next two or three years."

Income of £470 in July for a "castle room hire and food" did not, he said, mean the building needed to be registered with Fenland Council for health and safety although the café is separately rated.

"My understanding is that such registration is only required where food is prepared on the premises but not when purchase-in and then served," said Mr Jordan. "If it is necessary to prepare food on the premises, the castle café, which is registered, is used."

Cllr Tierney said the castle remained closed until February "for necessary maintenance, a mega clean and preparations for another year of fun, knowledge and heritage".