The £22 million project to restore Lincoln Castle is in its final phase and staff are preparing to close the attraction for three months ahead of the big reveal.
Heritage developers are preparing to bow out after their part, as the project comes to a close in December.
From January to March 2015, staff will close the castle gates in order to make final preparations for the 2015 celebrations.
With six months to go before the April launch, Lincoln businesses are also preparing for a tourism boost.
Through the dedication of what developers have described as “a cast of hundreds”, the building is reaching the end of a 4-year makeover, complete with new modern facilities and educational installations.
Independent businesses from B&Bs to restaurants, and prominent project figures were invited to the Epic Centre at the Lincolnshire Showground on Tuesday, September 23, to learn about the project to date.
Approximately 150,000 people visit Lincoln Castle every year. An independent assessment concluded that the wider Lincoln Castle Revealed project could lead to a 29-55% increase in the overall value of Lincoln tourism.
This translates to a £36-68 million boost for the local economy and around 600-1,100 new jobs.
The renovations to the historic site include completion of the complete circuit castle walls (£4.9m), refurbishment of Lincoln Castle Prison and the new Magna Carta vault (£5.4m) and the The Heritage Skills Centre, which sustains traditional crafts (£1.5m).
The conference marked a poignant moment for construction company Woodhead Heritage, who are set to conclude works in time for Christmas 2014.
Simon Butler, Conservation Manager for Woodhead Heritage, said: “The Christmas completion date that we are looking at is seeming really soon. It’s going to be weird for me and the team as it’s been such a big part of our lives for so long.
“This is a historic building and an impressive monument. There was always going to be complications, the archeology is a great example.
“We were putting in the foundations for the lift tower when we started to find bone and then a Saxon Sarcophagus and a Saxon church that we never even knew was there.
“They are really great and interesting problems to have, but we did have to work out how to build around that issue.
“I look forward to returning as a visitor and experiencing the great attraction for myself.”
Tourism Development Manager at Lincolnshire County Council, Mary Powell, said: “Setting that six-month countdown is a very exciting thing to be able to do.
“We’ve invited business and tourism representatives to the conference today so that they get to grips with the scale of the project and what we have managed to achieve.
“I think that businesses should be preparing for a tourism boost when 2015 comes around. We saw Lincoln Castle as a catalyst for tourism and I think it’s important that people make the most of it.
“When I called the project Lincoln Castle Revealed I didn’t realise the significance of the word ‘revealed’.
“It becomes more and more evident that we are opening up buildings that have never been seen by the public before, we are revealing sections of the wall that people have never been able to walk along before, but also we are revealing fascinating discoveries that we have found throughout the archeology.
“Of course when we discovered the Saxon skeletons under the castle foundations that was an extremely important moment. We are still waiting on DNA results from the tests we carried out.
“We have had a facial reconstruction done of one of the Saxons which was fascinating. There was even a member of the team who had a PHD in noses behind that particular project.”
Architects behind the project have undertaken late design changes in order to dedicate three rooms to exhibit the discoveries made during the project.
The exhibition will be found within the female ward of the refurbished Victorian prison.
As part of the 2015 tourism preparations, Destination Management Organisations Visit Lincoln and Visit East Lincolnshire announced they will work with over 1,000 members of staff in the nationally-recognised Worldhost Customer Service qualification.