Medieval security aims to keep modern invaders away from historic Castle Acre site

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Heritage officials fighting to stop a medieval West Norfolk landmark being damaged by road traffic have turned to the technology of the time to get their message across.

Drivers heading towards the Bailey Gate in Castle Acre are now being greeted by a portcullis that is intended to stop lorries and other large vehicles trying to get through.

The initiative was led by English Heritage, which maintains both the village’s castle and priory.

But it has also been welcomed by community leaders, who hope it will address a major problem for the village, and have called for the public’s help to protect it.

Four years ago, English Heritage won damages following legal action against a company whose lorry had damaged the 12th century structure, which is a Grade I listed building.

Although large tractors and trailers are also thought to present a risk to the structure, officials say the main danger relates to lorry drivers following satellite navigation systems which don’t recognise height or weight restrictions towards the monument, despite the warning signs.

There is a height restriction of 11 feet, three inches at the site, and a width restriction of six feet, six inches.

And Shelley Garland, properties curator for English Heritage, said: “Historically, a portcullis was part of the Bailey Gate and we hope that it will act as a visual reminder to drivers that it’s not large enough to accommodate large vehicles.”

Parish councillors have also appealed for residents to report any incidents they see of oversized vehicles attempting to drive through the gate, so that details can be passed on to the police.

The authority’s vice-chairman Laurie Fisher, said: “Hopefully it doesn’t detract from how it looks. I think they’ve done an excellent job.”

The portcullis was installed earlier this month in a project which also saw repair work carried out to fix damage caused by previous vehicle strikes.

Although the original would have been able to be pulled down in order to secure the castle against would-be invaders, the modern equivalent is fixed in place.