Exciting new plans announced for Hillsborough Courthouse and Fort

28 August 2018

28 August 2018

Historic Royal Palaces has today announced that it will be taking over the long-term management of Hillsborough Courthouse and Fort. The move marks the latest development by the independent charity to transform Hillsborough Castle into a major visitor destination, opening up the building and its fascinating history to the widest possible audience in time for a grand re-opening in spring 2019.        

The Fort at Hillsborough was built in the mid-17th century, where it commanded the chief roads from Belfast to Dublin. It was transformed a century later into the distinctive Georgian ‘gothic’ style seen today, by Wills Hill, 1st Marquess of Downshire, who was also responsible for building the Castle and much of Georgian Hillsborough. From the Fort, a tree-lined path with a set of late 18th century wrought iron gates at each end leads to the town square, where the Courthouse is located. Originally built as a covered market, the Courthouse was completed in 1810 and now sits in harmony with Hillsborough Castle’s prominent façade.

Historic Royal Palaces has undertaken a programme of repair and conservation to prevent deterioration to the fabric of both of these buildings. The entrance to the Courthouse has been transformed into a warm and welcoming Visitor Reception. This will act as the temporary welcome space for guests to Hillsborough Castle while extensive work continues to create permanent access, welcome, and visitor facilities at the bottom of the site, next to the A1.  The local council will continue to have a presence within the building to promote tourism throughout Hillsborough Village – a key priority for Historic Royal Palaces is to contribute to the local economy by creating a flourishing visitor attraction.

With work underway on a new learning facility at Hillsborough Castle, ready for 2019, the Market Room in the Courthouse will host a range of learning and engagement activities for schools and families as well as community events. Visitors will be able to discover the history of the people and events in this building over the years, from its establishment as a Market House in the 18th Century to the addition of the Courtroom a hundred years later, which was active into the 20th century.  
Meanwhile, the ten acres of grounds around the Fort will be maintained by the Gardens and Estates team at Historic Royal Palaces and will remain as a green recreational area for all to enjoy. The ambition is to work with the Hillsborough Old Guard local history group to tell the stories of the Fort Warders as part of the wider visitor experience, including guided tours of the Fort and town.

Patricia Corbett, Head of Hillsborough Castle, said: “We are delighted to take on the long term management of Hillsborough Courthouse and Fort. Both buildings are intrinsically linked with the history of Hillsborough Castle and its original residents the Downshire family and will continue to play an important role for the village of Hillsborough. As a charity, our aim to open up these spaces for everyone to enjoy, whilst preserving them for future generations.”

Whilst the Hillsborough Castle project is ongoing, the Castle will continue to stage daily tours of the spectacular State Rooms and majestic grounds. For more information, please visit https://www.hrp.org.uk/hillsborough-castle/explore      

For further information and images, please contact the Historic Royal Palaces press office: [email protected] T: 0203 166 6166

Notes to editors

Historic Royal Palaces is investing £20m into an ambitious programme of capital projects and associated activities that will open the site to the widest possible audience; conserve and re-present the heritage; explore its stories and engage communities and learners. The Hillsborough Castle project has received a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and significant support from Mark Pigott KBE, Garfield Weston Foundation, The Clore Duffield Foundation, The Foyle Foundation, The Wolfson Foundation and other generous benefactors. The project is due to complete in spring 2019.

Historic Royal Palaces is the independent charity that looks after the Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace, the Banqueting House, Kensington Palace, Kew Palace and Hillsborough Castle.  We help everyone explore the story of how monarchs and people have shaped society, in some of the greatest palaces ever built. We raise all our own funds and depend on the support of our visitors, members, donors, sponsors and volunteers. With the exception of Hillsborough Castle, these palaces are owned by The Queen on behalf of the nation, and we manage them for the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. Historic Royal Palaces cares for Hillsborough Castle under a separate contract with the Northern Ireland Office. Registered charity number 1068852. For more information visit www.hrp.org.uk