Page last updated at 08:11 GMT, Friday, 13 November 2009

'Tower of bling' boosts tourism

Great Tower interior
Rooms were furnished to evoke their original appearance

An exhibition recreating King Henry II's interiors at Dover Castle has seen visitors to the Kent tourist attraction soar by 20,000 over three months.

English Heritage brought the castle's Great Tower back to life in a £2.45m project lasting two years.

It followed extensive research by a team of historians who worked closely with artists and craftspeople.

English Heritage said the castle in the 12th Century had been a palace of "Versace-esque bling".

Steve Lang, head of visitor operations at the castle, said the tower had captured the imagination of the public, encouraging them to come to Kent and stay longer.

He said English Heritage aimed to continue visitor growth well into the 2010 season.

Sandra Matthews-Marsh, chief executive of Visit Kent, said the transformation of the Great Tower had become "a jewel in Kent's tourism crown".

Embroidered textiles

English Heritage said visitor figures were up by 20,000 compared with the same period in 2008, and almost 117,000 people had viewed the Great Tower since the beginning of August.

It is thought that King Henry II built the Great Tower to assert his power at a time when the shrine to Thomas Becket at Canterbury was becoming increasingly popular, and Dover had become an important focus for pilgrimage.

During the two-year project, 140 artists and craftsmen have made 80 pieces of furniture, 21 oak doors, 459 feet (140m) of wall hangings, dozens of embroidered textiles, 47 cushions and more than 1,000 objects.

Researchers were aiming to give visitors a sense of how it would have looked in the 12th Century.

English Heritage said people who thought the Middle Ages were drab and grey would be astonished by the tower's opulence, and richly-furnished and shockingly-coloured chambers.



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