Cosmeston Medieval Village: Protest at Vale of Glamorgan funds cut

Supporters of a south Wales tourist attraction used as a location for the BBC TV series Merlin have protested against funding cuts there.

Vale of Glamorgan council is making three redundancies at Cosmeston Medieval Village, Penarth in a bid to save £50,000.

But it is also introducing free entry to attract more visitors to the site.

Campaigners, who say the changes threaten the village, marched to the council offices in Barry at 17:00 GMT.

The 600-year-old village site was discovered on the Cosmeston Lakes Country Park site in 1978.

During the next decade it was reconstructed as a visitor attraction portraying life in a medieval village in the year 1350.

Visitors to the Cosmeston site were shown around the village by guides in costumes portraying characters including a noble lady, a carpenter's wife, a priest, an archer and a village swineherd.

Image caption The village was used as a location for the BBC Wales TV series Merlin

However, changes introduced by Vale of Glamorgan council will see two full-time officers working at the village made redundant.

Of the 12 guides employed part-time on casual contracts there, one will be made redundant, four will be redeployed within new posts and seven will remain as casuals to be employed as required within the village.

The village's collection of rare breed animals - including boar, sheep, geese, ducks and chickens - has already been rehomed.

From "some time around Easter" visitors will be allowed free entry to the village where they will instead be able to hire audio tours.

Under the changes, the council said, school parties would be offered a costumed guided tour.

The council's move has been met with opposition from those involved with the village who feel it will diminish a "valuable educational facility".

"A lot of us fear for the village itself," said archaeologist Karl-James Langford, who gives extramural lectures to students around the Vale of Glamorgan.

Mr Langford said he feared free entry at the village would drop the burden of paying for the village's upkeep into the lap of local taxpayers.

"At the end of the day we have a national resource there," said Mr Langford.

Go away disappointed

"There will be no money to pay for the roofs to be re-thatched as I'm told will be needed in the next few years."

Mr Langford said visitors to the village would go away disappointed due to the lack of costume guides, and animals, there.

"There's going to be nobody sitting next to you by an open fire telling you about the history of the village," he said. "You can't get that from a tape recording."

Helen Reeves-Howard, who worked for eight years as one of the site's in-costume guides, said three petitions had been set up to protest against the changes.

She said a Facebook site had attracted 595 friends, a paper petition had around 1,000 signatures on it, and an online petition had gained 594 followers.

These would be handed into the the council on Wednesday evening.

"Not only is [the village] a tourist attraction, it provides a unique taste of the 14th Century that people will not get anywhere else," said Ms Reeves-Howard.

"It's also a site of huge historical interest, and contains the earliest example of a semi-detached cottage in Britain.

"We want the council to put some more thought into what the changes will do to the local community."

Defending its move, the Vale of Glamorgan council said it had introduced the same model operated by Welsh government at other historic/museum sites such as the Museum of Welsh Life at St Fagans.

'Difficult financial times'

"We are not aware that model has been accused of harming tourism," said a spokesperson.

"Changes to the way we run the village will save the council - and the taxpayer - at least £50,000 per year, in what are very difficult financial times."

The council said it estimated that Cosmeston Lakes Country Park received about 200,000-300,000 visitors per year and only around 20,000 of these visitors paid for entry to the medieval village.

"We hope that even more visitors will tour the village when entry is free," said the spokesperson.

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