All three staff at the Cowdray Ruins in Midhurst have been made redundant after the Cowdray Heritage Trust announced today (January 31) that the tourist attraction had been making ‘unsustainable losses’.
The main problem said the trust was that visitor numbers at the ruins, which opened in 2007, had been less than a third of the level predicted in the original business plan and the trust did not have an endowment or other source of income to plug the gap.
The trust will not be taking any more bookings while a feasibility study is carried out on the future opening of the ruins to the public.
Future arrangements for public access will be notified on the Cowdray Estate website at www.cowdray.co.uk.
Outgoing chairman of the trust David Baker said: “This is a sad day for the people of Midhurst, Chichester district and the whole of the South Downs National Park.
“We remember the joyous procession down the Causeway to the Ruins for the re-opening ceremony in 2007. This magical place has inspired visitors, school groups, heritage re-enactors and theatre companies. Dedicated staff and loyal local volunteers have invested huge amounts of expertise and energy into the Cowdray project.”
Robert Windle, Lord Cowdray’s agent and one of the trustees nominated for the Cowdray Estate, said the ruins had been sustaining losses of some £50,000 a year for the last three years and the very wet summer last year had brought matters to a head.
Talks are now taking place with the Heritage Lottery Fund and English Heritage to discuss the future arrangements for maintenance of the ruins and public access to the historic site.
“The message I want to get across is that this is not as dire as people might think it is,” said Mr Windle, “It is a crossroads and we have got to be very positive about the future and make the ruins work for the benefit of the local community.”