AN historic castle near Craven Arms is being turned from an inaccessible ruin into a tourist attraction.

Hopton Castle, the site of a bloody siege during the English Civil War, is on the verge of a new lease of life, almost five centuries after falling into disrepair.

Hopton Castle Preservation Trust has just signed a contract with Conser vation Building Ser vices Ltd for repair work which will turn it from a dangerous and inaccessible ruin into a safe and interesting destination for visitors.

Work, which will start this month, will take about a year and will include repairing stonework, supporting crumbling arches and making a level floor for visitors.

There will also be a new entrance and some information about the history of the castle, its owners and its place in history.

The work, which attracted a £880,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, also had funding from English Heritage, Shropshire Council, the Shropshire Hills AONB and many other organisations and trusts. It will cost a total of just over £1.1million.

A recent visit from Channel 4’s Time Team has made the future work all the more exciting as the excavations undertaken at the beginning of June uncovered the remains of cellars and a kitchen which have been buried for centuries.

Among the finds from deep underground were an early 17th centur y gold coin in pristine condition and many mortar and cannon balls, as well as fragments of pottery.

The excavations have now been backfilled and the programme will be shown early next year.

The trust’s secretary Tom Baker said: “The recent excavations were very exciting and fully justify our plans to restore this fascinating piece of Shropshire’s history, as it would have been a tragedy to allow it fall further into disrepair.”

Anne Jenkins, head of the Heritage Lottery Fund in the West Midlands, said: “Providing public accessibility to this wonderful Shropshire site is key to this project, in addition to the conservation and repair works.

“We are delighted to see it start and we look forward to the time when the castle will be opened by the trust for all to enjoy.”