Statement on Redundancy Consultation at Hillsborough Castle

Wednesday 16 September

Wednesday 16 September

With deep regret, we announce today that Hillsborough Castle has entered a period of consultation over proposed redundancies.

Hillsborough Castle is managed by a self-funded charity, Historic Royal Palaces (HRP).  Like so many organisations dependent on tourism, our finances have been hit badly by the pandemic.  The prolonged closure of the castle, Covid restrictions and the major downturn in international visits to Northern Ireland have left us facing a significant shortfall in our planned income this year and for the foreseeable future. We need to act now to reduce our costs and ensure that the castle can thrive again as a sustainable visitor attraction.

We would not be proposing redundancies if we had not exhausted other all other avenues.  Since the pandemic hit, we have stopped all but essential expenditure, and have made full use of the Government’s Job Retention Scheme.  At present, the castle is being supported by HRP’s charitable reserves, which we expect to be exhausted at the beginning of next year.  We continue to pursue all remaining avenues for additional funding and are enormously grateful for the continuing support of our members, donors and visitors.  

Historic Royal Palaces remains fully committed to Hillsborough Castle and determined to establish it as a major visitor attraction in Northern Ireland.  To make it viable, we are making changes to the way we manage the site.  The beautiful 100-acre gardens and café will remain open throughout the year but, this Autumn, the castle will close to the public for the Winter, reopening in the Spring. The Castle will be available for private hire all-year round. Our outreach and learning programmes, and our Community Access Scheme will resume next year.

Laura McCorry, Head of Hillsborough Castle, said,

‘After a glorious opening year in 2019, 2020 could not be more different for Hillsborough Castle.

As a self-funded visitor attraction, our finances have been hit badly by the pandemic.  Like so many other organisations across Northern Ireland, the downturn in visitors and international tourism has had a devastating impact on us.

This is a difficult time for the tourism industry and we are determined to play our part in its recovery.  It is a matter of enormous regret that we can only do so if we act now to reduce our payroll costs and make the castle financially sustainable.

Our staff care passionately about the castle and their work. We are deeply sad that it has come to this.’

The proposal being considered in the collective consultation includes a reduction of 33 full time equivalent posts.  The staff affected have been made aware, and final decisions will be made once the consultation is complete at the end of October.

Notes to editors

For further information, please contact Laura Hutchinson via [email protected] / 07990726229.

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 and Gardens. 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 and Gardens, 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 and Gardens under a separate contract with the Northern Ireland Office. Registered charity number 1068852. For more information visit www.hrp.org.uk