THE future of one of Worcestershire’s most historic buildings has been secured thanks to a £5 million lottery grant.

The organisation running Hartlebury Castle – home to the Worcestershire County Museum – has been handed the cash by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to use to buy the building and the surrounding 43 acres of parkland, which was put up for sale by the Church Commissioners of the Church of England in 2007.

The grant was awarded to The Hartlebury Castle Preservation Trust (HCPT) along with partners Worcestershire County Council and Museums Worcestershire to ensure the building, home of the Bishop of Worcester until 2007, can remain open to visitors for years to come.

HCPT chairman Robert Greenwood welcomed the award.

"We are delighted with this £5 million award from HLF that, together with the generosity of so many organizations, authorities and individuals who have pledged £2.25 million in matched funding, revenue support, individual gifts and time, will now enable us to go ahead with our project," he said.

"For centuries Hartlebury Castle was Worcestershire’s powerful centre of influence and it’s great to know that we are now able to achieve the dream of the founder trustees, members and volunteers."

Among the projects the cash will be used for will be the maintenance of the Hurd Library, which was purpose-built for former Bishop of Worcester Richard Hurd in 1782 and today houses a nationally-important collection of books including a New Testament given to Alexander Pope by Jonathan Swift.

Current Bishop of Worcester the Rt Revd Dr John Inge said he was “delighted” by the announcement and thanked the HLF for its generosity.

“It is very good news for the people of Worcestershire and beyond,” he said.

“It the result of a great deal of hard work and constructive collaboration by the many friends of the castle, the county council and the church commissioners.

“I look forward to the next phase in the life of this great building – it will be an exciting one.”

Head of the West Midlands arm of the HLF Reyahn King said she and her colleagues had been impressed by the HCPT's plans for the building.

"The purchase will ensure that Hartlebury Castle with its distinctive architecture and the Hurd Library is saved for future generations," she said.

"We applaud the trust’s vision to welcome more visitors and bring the stories and site to life.”

Hartlebury Castle was built in 860 and was later given to the Bishop of Worcester by Saxon King Burgred. During the Civil War the castle was garrisoned for King Charles I but quickly fell to the parliamentarians.

The HCPT plans to complete the purchase by early December.