Commonwealth Flag Flies Over Lancaster Castle

The Constable of Lancaster Castle Mrs Pam Barker DL raised the Commonwealth flag over the historic John of Gaunt gate this week to commemorate Commonwealth Day.

On 12th March 2018 the Commonwealth flag flew over the Castle for the first time in history as part of a nationwide demonstration of support for this international family of 53 nations, headed by Her Majesty The Queen. Similar flag-raising events took place across the country and in London senior members of the Royal Family joined The Queen in a multi-cultural, multi-faith service at Westminster Abbey.

This year, Commonwealth Day preceded the 2018 meeting of the Commonwealth Heads of Government which also took place in Britain for the first time since 1997. Adopting the theme ‘Towards A Common Future’ the meeting brought together the leaders of 53 independent member countries representing some 2.4 billion citizens. Building upon the 2017 theme of ‘A Peace-Building Commonwealth’, this year’s meeting explored how the Commonwealth should address global challenges and work to create a better future for all citizens in common areas of concern such as sustainability, safety, prosperity and fairness.

The Commonwealth flag features a golden globe surrounded by 34 gold spears on a blue field. This design was adopted in 2013 as a modification of an earlier design adopted in 1976.

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Encouraging The Brightest And The Best

Last year, the Duchy of Lancaster introduced a second bursary for students at Harper Adams University – this time focusing specifically on students of Rural Estate and Land Management (REALM). The new award runs alongside the existing Duchy scholarship awarded to students of agricultural courses since 2014.

This year’s recipients have been named as Agri-Food Marketing with Business Studies student Eleanor Brook and REALM student Abigail Hicklin. Both are second year students at Harper Adams and will start their mandatory year out in industry placements this summer. Eleanor will be working with the Waitrose Farming Partnership while Abigail has secured a placement with Fisher German.

Commenting on her award, Eleanor said: “The scholarship will help me considerably during my second year of study, alleviating the pressure to find paid work for extended periods both in and out of term time. This will allow me to focus on my studies, including my assignments and exams. I am very grateful to the Duchy for their generous support.”

Abigail added: “The fact that the Duchy has chosen me as the recipient of this year’s scholarship has given me a real confidence boost and made me feel like I’m working for a purpose. I will not let you down!”

The Duchy of Lancaster invests around £30,000 each year in financial awards to students of agriculture, land management and traditional construction skills.

Students at Harper Adams University, Myerscough College, Lancaster University and Moulton College have all received financial support, study placements, work experience and post-graduate advice over the past year as part of the Duchy’s commitment to encouraging the farmers, landowners, agri-businesses and craftsmen of the future.

Commenting on the new Harper Adams bursary for REALM students, Duchy Head of Rural Christopher Sparrow said: “It is so important that we encourage the brightest and the best of this new generation into agriculture, estate management and the development of traditional crafts and skills. Their energy, enthusiasm and fresh approach is essential to rural communities and the development of new and innovative approaches to the industry as a whole.”

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Lancaster Castle – unlocked, online and on the mobile!

Working in partnership with the IT development team at Lancaster University, the Duchy of Lancaster has today launched a brand new web-based digital and virtual reality tour of Lancaster Castle.

 Designed to provide an insight into parts of the Castle that are normally closed to the public, the new applications are available via links on the Lancaster Castle website and will also form part of the University’s iLancaster and City, Coast and Countryside apps.

 The web-based digital tour, which can be accessed on any computer or mobile phone, incorporates floor plans, image galleries and a 360-degree ‘look-around’ facility with audio commentary, written descriptions and zoom-in. It explains the original purpose of each of the main buildings, together with their history and heritage and has been created to provide ‘online visitors’ with a more in-depth knowledge of what the Castle has to offer.  

 For those who prefer a more immersive experience, the new VR ‘walkabout’ is simple and straightforward to use. By simply placing a mobile phone inside any VR headset or cardboard lens, ‘virtual visitors’ can take a tour of the Castle from wherever they are in the world. They can venture down into the dungeons of the medieval Well Tower where the Lancashire Witches were held in 1612  or experience the Pentonville-style male penitentiary in A-Wing almost first-hand.

 The new online resource was deliberately commissioned by the Duchy while some of the Castle’s buildings are closed to the public as part of the extensive conservation works currently underway.  

 Commenting on the initiative, Duchy CFO and lead for Lancaster Castle Chris Adcock said: “We have always maintained that we want to open up as many of the Castle buildings as possible to the general public. These web- and phone-based tours allow us to do exactly that and to give users a rare glimpse of areas of the Castle – and the prison – which have remained ‘hidden’. It is particularly important to us to be able to showcase all that the Castle has to offer while these major conservation works are underway. It also responds to the increasing number of overseas visitors and tourists visiting historic Lancaster from further afield.”

 Head of IT Partnering and Innovation at Lancaster University Chris Dixon added: “The app and web-browser are packed with historical facts and figures which bring the Castle to life for the user.  We also felt that a VR tour would make an individual’s interaction with the Castle buildings more immersive and more personal as it’s a self-guided tour which the user controls. We are confident that people will really enjoy using these tools and that it will brings the Castle history to life even more.”

 To access the digital and VR tours, simply visit ‘The Castle Today’ page on the Lancaster Castle website or download the free iLancaster or City, Coast and Countryside apps on your mobile phone.


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Lettings Agents Appointed In Lancashire and Yorkshire

The Duchy of Lancaster has appointed two firms of independent local estate agents to let and review applications for tenancies at its residential properties in Lancashire and Yorkshire.

Armistead Barnett in Lancashire and Harris Shields in Yorkshire will assist the Duchy’s in-house rural team with the marketing of available properties and will assist in the pre-selection of applicants put forward to the Duchy for consideration as tenants.

Commenting on the new appointments, the Duchy’s Rural Surveyor of Lands for the North Andrew Johnson said: “The Duchy is very keen to ensure that we get the right tenant in the right property and to do that we need to look at as many interested applicants as possible. By appointing a local estate agency on each of the Surveys we gain access to up-to-date market knowledge and additional resources on the ground. This will help us to get through the pre-selection process and find the best match for our properties more quickly and will hopefully provide the would-be tenants with greater flexibility around viewing dates and times.”

The Duchy has been investing significantly in its residential portfolio in recent years and has established its own design guide and quality specification which is being rolled out across the estates as properties become vacant. In the last 24 months, the Duchy has completed around a dozen refurbishment projects in the North and a total of almost 60 nationwide.

Duchy Head of Rural Christopher Sparrow added: “The market has responded really warmly to the Duchy design guide and wherever we have a property under refurbishment we receive enquiries and expressions of interest very early on. These properties offer people a rare chance to live in a period property within a rural location – but one that has all the style, comfort and convenience of a modern family home.”

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Foxholes Refurbishment Showcases Duchy Standard

The Duchy of Lancaster has brought a Staffordshire cottage back to life transforming it into a modern family home which was let prior to completion.

Foxholes Cottage on the Needwood Estate became vacant in December 2016 when a long-standing tenancy came to an end. After taking the property back, the Duchy team came up with a scheme that would update the property in line with the Duchy design guide and quality specification. The net result is a superbly appointed family home standing in 2.64 acres and with stabling for 3 horses.

The refurbishment project, which included an upgrade of the outbuildings adjacent to the house itself took 6 months to complete and included the installation of a new kitchen and bathroom. A purpose-built glass portico was designed to maximise natural light and French doors were installed to the front of the property to allow tenants to take full advantage of the view of both the garden and the surrounding open countryside.

Such was the level of interest in this project that several would-be tenants came forward while the refurbishment works were underway. As soon as the project was completed, a 3-year lease was agreed with local residents Mr and Mrs Skipper who became aware of the property while keeping their horses at a neighbouring Duchy livery yard.

Commenting on the move, Mrs Skipper said: “The cottage is in a lovely location and the quality of the renovation works is superb. We fell in love with the property while the refurbishment works were underway as my horse was previously stabled at the neighbouring Foxholes Farm. We are delighted to have secured the tenancy and are looking forward to being part of the Duchy’s Needwood estate.”

Duchy Head of Rural Christopher Sparrow added: “The Duchy has been systematically bringing its residential properties up to a common quality standard across the estates. Whenever these historic properties return to us, we give careful consideration as to how best to improve the quality of accommodation on offer to new and existing tenants. Foxholes Cottage is a clear example of a historic property that has been creatively refurbished and improved to reflect contemporary family living.”

Foxholes Cottage is one of 60 residential properties on the Duchy’s 3,000-hectare Needwood estate, which also includes ancient woodland, 50 farm tenancies and a similar number of commercial and miscellaneous lettings. The commercial interests across the estate range from specialist equestrian centres and liveries to a biomass wood chip producer, live/work units, a private airfield and shooting and fishing licenses.

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