Historic Royal Palaces takes on Hillsborough Castle

Historic Royal Palaces takes on Hillsborough Castle

Hillsborough Castle

1 April 2014

This week, independent charity, Historic Royal Palaces, officially takes over the running of Hillsborough Castle from the Northern Ireland Office (NIO).


Historic Royal Palaces has been working with the NIO over the last year to develop a long term plan for Hillsborough Castle and its beautiful gardens and parkland. The aim is to increase public access, improve the visitor experience and open up the estate for the benefit of the whole community, while securing a sustainable financial future.

This project will also bring significant benefits to the Northern Ireland economy, bringing investment and creating new jobs as well as more opportunities for educational and community programmes at the Castle.

Importantly, Hillsborough Castle will also continue its role as the official royal residence for HM The Queen in Northern Ireland and residence for the Secretary of State.

Michael Day, Chief Executive of Historic Royal Palaces said:
'This is a wonderful new opportunity for Historic Royal Palaces to take on such a beautiful and fascinating historic property, so that it can be opened up for the benefit of the wider community. “We look forward to working with new partners locally and across Northern Ireland and bringing our experience to conserving and telling the stories of this unique heritage site.'

There will be little visible change at the site for the next year at least while long term development plans are put into action. However Historic Royal Palaces believes that when complete, Hillsborough Castle could attract upwards of 200,000 visitors a year by 2020.

Hillsborough Castle is a Georgian mansion house located 12 miles south west of Belfast in the small village of Hillsborough and holds a unique place in the history of Northern Ireland having served as a venue for both the formal and informal stages of the Peace Process, including the signing of the Anglo-Irish Agreement in 1985; decommissioning talks in 1999; and the negotiation of the devolution of policing and justice powers in 2010 (The Hillsborough Agreement). Elements of the informal negotiations leading up to the ‘Good Friday’ agreement were also held at Hillsborough.

After Partition in 1920, Hillsborough Castle became the official royal residence in Northern Ireland and members of the Royal Family have visited regularly since 1922, using Hillsborough as a ceremonial and personal base. Significantly, the first meeting between HM The Queen and Mary McAleese, then President of Ireland, occurred at Hillsborough in 2009. In 2011 the Queen led the first state visit to the Republic of Ireland.


Notes to Editors

For further information please contact Cat Steventon: catherine.steventon@hrp.org.uk or 0203 166 6302

The Northern Ireland Office (NIO) and Historic Royal Palaces have been working very closely on this initiative with the Royal households.

Hillsborough Castle is a late 18th Century mansion house and a Grade B+ listed building. It was the principal seat in Ireland of the Marquesses of Downshire for over 200 years and passed into public ownership in the 1920s. The estate consists of approximately 100 acres of parkland. Since 1972 the NIO has been responsible for the day to day running of the Hillsborough Castle estate.

Historic Royal Palaces is the independent charity that looks after the Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace, the Banqueting House, Kensington Palace and Kew Palace. It aims to help everyone explore the story of how monarchs and people have shaped society, in some of the greatest palaces ever built.

Historic Royal Palaces raises all its own funds and depends on the support of its visitors, members, donors, sponsors and volunteers. hrp.org.uk 

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