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EDITIONS
 Tuesday, 31 December, 2002, 15:21 GMT
Castle closes gates to visitors
Penhow Castle (from official website)
The castle was built around the year 1129
An 11th Century castle in south Wales has been closed to the public, 25 years after it first opened to visitors.

Penhow Castle, near Chepstow, has been sold to a London businessman who plans to return it its original use as a private residence.

It is a wrench to leave because it represents a large slab of my life

Stephen Weeks

Current owner Stephen Weeks, 54, bought the Norman stronghold 30 years ago and rebuilt the ruins into an award-winning attraction.

But he is now moving to the Czech Republic where he plans to transform a chain of derelict castles into hotels and tourist attractions.

The castle shut its gates on 29 December, although group visits will still be accommodated to visit during the next few weeks.

"It is a wrench to leave because it represents a large slab of my life," said Mr Weeks.

"But many people said the best thing to do was to quit while I am ahead."

Mr Weeks said Penhow was the oldest lived-in castle in Wales and had been continuously inhabited since it was built around 1129.

"I found it in 1973 when only part of it was habitable and started restoring it.

"We opened it to the public since 1978, after five years of hard work," he added.

'Humble origins'

Mr Weeks said the castle was at the forefront of technical innovations when it came to visitor attractions.

The important thing about the house is that it was home to the famous Seymour family

Stephen Weeks

"Because all the money had gone on sand and cement and stone, there was very little in it, so I introduced stereo audio tours to conduct people round," he said.

Over the years, one of the most popular attractions at Penhow has been a naturally mummified rat which was found behind the Tudor panelling.

However, it also has a highly impressive list of previous owners.

"The important thing about the house is that it was home to the famous Seymour family," said Mr Weeks.

"From these humble origins came this extraordinary family which eventually produced a King and Queen of England in Jane Seymour and Edward VI."


More from south east Wales
See also:

22 Nov 02 | Wales
14 Sep 02 | Wales
10 Jun 02 | Wales
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