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08th December 2015
The Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism, Ken Skates, officially opened Hensol Castle following a multi-million pound refurbishment programme to restore the historic castle to its former glory.
Unveiling a commemorative plaque to mark the official opening of Hensol Castle, Mr Skates was given a tour of the 400-year-old Grade I listed building, which is reopening to the public as a conference and wedding venue after the completion of the first phase of its £10 million refurbishment.
Located within the grounds of the Vale Resort, Hensol Castle offers conference facilities in the new purpose-built Courtyard Hall, capable of hosting 320 delegates theatre-style and 200 delegates banquet-style.
The facilities at Courtyard Hall are complemented by five smaller meeting rooms in the castle itself, which have been completely upgraded and can host between 10-100 delegates per room theatre-style. Phase two of the £10 million investment will include adding up to 30 bedrooms and a top-end restaurant with 120 covers, and is expected to be open by late 2016.
The official opening of Hensol Castle coincides with figures from the International Passenger Survey, undertaken by the Office for National Statistics and issued today (20 May), which shows that international visitors to Wales increased by more than 7% in 2014.
Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism, Ken Skates, said: “Hensol Castle gives the Vale Resort something very unique to offer their business and wedding clients. It is a high quality development which makes the most of the site’s heritage and culture giving its clients a top end experience and giving a piece of the area’s heritage a new lease of life. I wish the team every success with this new development. ”
During his visit, the minister also saw the Welsh Rugby Union’s on-site facilities at the Vale Resort, including its five rugby training pitches.
The Vale Resort is gearing up to host some of the world’s most famous rugby teams this autumn, including Wales and France, plus a quarter-final knock-out team which could be any combination of France, Ireland, New Zealand and Italy, as it has been selected as an official team base for the 2015 Ruby World Cup.
As part of its preparation, the Vale Resort has invested £1 million in upgrading its 143-bedrooms, including installing new bathrooms together with upgrading soft furnishings, taking the total investment at the resort within the last year to £11 million.
Stephen Leeke, managing director of the Vale Resort, said: “We were delighted that Deputy Minister, Ken Skates, could take time out of his busy schedule to officially open Hensol Castle and be one of the first to see the refurbishment.
“The redevelopment of the castle has been one of the most important investments the Vale Resort has made to further strengthen its facilities. The historic castle adds another string to our bow by providing an alternative option from our current contemporary offering at the Vale Resort. Event organisers can now choose from two very different venues that offer a combined total of 18 conference and meeting suites.
“With the conference and event market an important revenue stream for the Vale Resort, currently representing 25% of our business, we anticipate significant growth in this sector on the back of reopening such a unique facility in south Wales. Since announcing the new refurbishment, we’ve already had interest from world-recognised businesses such as British Gas, Princes Gate, the Royal Mint and a number of medical and pharmaceutical companies.”
Dating back to the 17th century, Hensol Castle is steeped in history. Its previous owners include Samuel Richardson, who is credited with introducing the threshing machine to the world of agriculture and “Big Ben”, Sir Benjamin Hall, who was overseer of works for the installation of the clock tower at the Houses of Parliament, which is apparently named after him. The estate was purchased by the Leekes family, who own the Vale Resort, in 2003.
Hensol Castle had been closed to the public for almost a decade until 2014, when it was opened for weddings for the first time. Until then, it had only been used as a stage set for the television series Doctor Who, Sherlock Holmes and Torchwood.
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