Cosmeston Medieval Village is set to become a ghost town, with cost cutting measures set to force the centre to lose their acting staff and animals
The tourist attraction, near Penarth, is a working site set in the year 1350. Until recently paying visitors could take a tour from actors in period costume, who took on historic personas.The village has always had a selection of animals. But all this looks set to change after the proposed cuts.
Penarth Town Mayor and Vale of Glamorgan cabinet member for leisure and tourism, Anthony Ernest, said cuts to the village, which costs £150,000 to run each year, were necessary in order to meet saving targets of £50,000 a year.
“Everybody assumes we make a profit when in fact it has been run at a deficit,” Cllr Anthony said. “Its been a service we were happy to subsidise but now we have to cut back.”
In Easter the Vale of Glamorgan Council will open the village to the public for free. As part of this it is believed the site will no longer have living actors.The animals have already been rehomed. Instead visitors will be offered audio guides and the site will lose two full-time members of staff.
The good news is the village is staying open and it will be open for free,” said Cllr Anthony. “Opening up to the public without charge often raises the attendance dramatically.”
More than two hundred residents living next to the village have signed a petition against the cuts. Local campaigner 72-year-old Valerie Poole, who is organising the petition, has fond memories of the village and said they would mean the loss of a local treasure.
It’s something people have always been fond of,” she said. “On bank holidays they had booths with different craftsmen in. You could actually eat the bread of the baker, it was beautiful. I have taken visitors from Canada and Australia there and they think it’s a gem.”
Valerie, who has lived in Penarth for 50 years, has never run a campaign before. Last week she started collecting signatures by walking around Cosmeston. “I should have started this ages ago but I kept hoping someone else would,” she said. “I’m surprised by people who don’t know what is going on, we need to raise the profile of things.”
The changes will also affect John Hines, professor of archaeology at Cardiff University, who was consulted as part of the new plans early last year. His students often work at the village, which contains important evidence of the Norman conquest of Wales in the early 12th century.
John, who first started work on the site in 2005, said he would miss the expertise of staff who could assist with archaeological finds. “There was a great deal of practical knowledge about living in a medieval village,” he said. “Often there was somebody who could tell us what we had found and explain it to members of the public.”
Instead John is looking to for funding to carry on working at the site. One idea is to secure a heritage grant to establish a Welsh archaeological summer school. “I can say that I am disappointed that we haven’t managed to get a much more constructive plan than was on the table initially,” he said. “But I don’t think that campaigning to turn the clock back will get us anywhere.”