Dorset

Durlston Castle Victorian folly wins lottery award vote

A Victorian folly on the Dorset coast has been voted the nation's favourite heritage project.

Durlston Castle, near Swanage, won a public vote in the annual National Lottery Awards. It was refurbished in a lottery-funded project in 2011.

It had been up against Cardiff's Bute Park Restoration Project and the Curzon Community Cinema in Somerset.

The "castle" was originally built between 1887 and 1891 as a restaurant by local entrepreneur George Burt.

Burt had planned roads, shops, houses, tennis courts and a series of scenic walks to go with the castle, but the development did not come to fruition.

The grade-II listed building reopened to the public in 2011 after a restoration project funded by £3.23m grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and £2m raised through sponsorship and local fundraising.

'Sworn to secrecy'

Actor Larry Lamb - best known for playing Archie Mitchell in BBC soap Eastenders - surprised the team at Durlston with their award, as part of his role an ambassador for the National Lottery Awards.

He said: "It was a lovely to see the surprise on their faces - it was a lovely celebration."

Durlston Castle's head ranger Hamish Murray said he was told they had won before the official announcement but had been "sworn to secrecy."

"It was quite difficult not telling people, he said.

Image caption Actor Larry Lamb surprised the team at Durlston with their award

"It certainly will bring huge prestige to the place, to be Britain's number one heritage project is a great accolade, but hopefully it will generate even more interest in what is a fantastic project and hopefully we'll get more visitors and more people here to enjoy the fantastic place that Durlston is."

A new visitor centre, shop, gallery and cinema room were added to the building which is now the centrepiece of the 280-acre Durlston Country Park, part of the Jurassic Coast.

The four-storey building had been semi-derelict with dry rot, wet rot and subsidence.

The 40-tonne Great Globe which sits in the grounds, showing the countries of the British Empire exaggerated in size, was also restored.

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