While the idea of managing an historical castle on a picturesque island off the English Channel might sound hopelessly romantic, it can come with its fair share of challenges.
For Pennsylvania Castle Estate Director Jo Peters and her team, there’s a constant tug-o-war between ensuring the building and its heritage are preserved at all costs, and allowing the property evolve as a modern, innovative business in the 21st century.
“Balancing that preservation work with building a thriving business is no easy task,”
Jo Peters, Estate Director, Pennsylvania Castle Estate
“Every year the castle goes through a winter maintenance program. Whilst it makes sense to do the big jobs out of season, the UK’s weather around that time also brings its own challenges and additional costs to protect the building while the maintenance work is being carried out.
“The Grade II listed status by Historical England also means that modern installations, for things like glazing, are not permitted. Any repairs and replacements must be ‘like for like’, even if the existing solutions are not as efficient as we would like them to be.”
But the estate team are never deterred from their duty to carry on an important legacy. They forge ahead trying to find solutions that get the balance right, looking for new sustainable solutions.
“Looking ahead, there are certainly more things we can do to future proof the castle. The huge gas boiler is somewhere where a more sustainable option will be very welcome when the time comes to replace the inherited heating system,” Jo said.
“And while we work on replacing and repairing the castle roof in the coming months, we’re also making preparations to install solar panels at the same time. Obviously this will depend on factors like whether Historic England are happy for more environmental solutions to be installed, and whether they can or cannot be seen from the ground.
“In time, hopefully that thinking will evolve and positive sustainable changes to historic buildings will be embraced and encouraged, but for now we will continue to do what we can.”
But it’s not just the building itself that requires protection. There’s also a great deal of work that needs to be done to ensure the island’s unique environment is cared for, much like the way John Penn himself did in the 1800s.
“We have the most densely populated woodland area on the island within our grounds, so every tree has a protection order on it,” Jo said.
“They’re are home to many protected species of fungi and the butterflies that are unique to the island. We also border an area of special scientific interest so we always have to be very mindful of what we do and how we do it.
“We work closely with local arborists to maintain the famous sea view from the castle through our long-term tree strategy. It’s the first time a managed strategy has been put in place to ensure that the woodland and grounds will have healthy variation of trees that are true to the history of the area, and that will last for generations to come.”