In 1984, local businessman Sean Crane and his wife Mary, set up Hurst Ferries – now known as Hurst Marine, to provide a regular ferry service from Keyhaven to Hurst Castle.
The strategic wisdom of placing Hurst Castle at the extreme end of one of the most exposed and vulnerable locations in Britain is reflected in the castle’s long military history. It means, however, that its care, together with maintenance of the spit and sea defences is a continuing task if all are to survive. In 1993 English Heritage could no longer see how to finance the castle and was looking to close its doors.
Sean’s strong family connections to the castle – his father was the Castle Keeper from 1956 and his uncle, the Lighthouse Keeper from 1952-1989 – made him determined to keep the castle open and save it from closure. An agreement was then set up between Sean Crane and English Heritage to ensure the castle remained open for future generations to enjoy. Hurst Marine continue to manage the castle alongside English Heritage, with Sean’s son, Jason now in charge of the day-to-day operation of the family business.
Over the past half century extensive conservation work has been undertaken and is still ongoing at the castle. Saturday 26 February 2022 marked one year since the collapse in the east wing, after the sea exposed and undercut its foundations.
English Heritage has now completed the stabilisation of this damaged section. With teams working tirelessly over the last year and 22,000 tonnes of shingle and rock armour transported along the spit to protect the east wing, the charity – alongside the Culture Recovery Fund – have committed approximately £3m on works to stabilise the breach and protect Hurst Castle, bringing in a team of specialists including those with skills in marine engineering and coastal defence construction.
In forthcoming weeks, a permanent revetment sea defence engineered to provide protection for the next 50 years will be completed. Following this, English Heritage has commissioned a feasibility study of extensive geotechnical investigations around the castle and on the spit itself. This will look into understanding the forces at work on this exposed shingle causeway; and the geology under the castle and is essential in informing the best course of action with regards to the future repair of the breach. The study will take at least 6 months to complete. During this time, the east and west wings as well as the beach will remain closed for the public’s safety.
Whilst English Heritage is pleased to be able to proceed with this next stage, we must stress that there can be no quick fix to the complex issues facing the castle. This is an ever-changing environment and despite our efforts, Hurst Castle’s east wing and west wing – where we have also detected movement – are still at risk from a myriad of threats including sea level rise and climate change.
We are also pleased to announce that Hurst Castle has been named to the 2022 World Monuments Watch, a selection of 25 heritage sites of worldwide significance whose preservation is urgent and vital to the communities surrounding them. These sites powerfully demonstrate pressing global challenges of climate change, imbalanced tourism, underrepresentation, and recovery from crisis, underscoring the need for greater action to support heritage places and the people who care for them. You can view the full list of 2022 Watch sites here.
Sean Crane’s uncle was the Lighthouse Keeper from 1962-1989
Sean Crane’s dad, who was the Castle Keeper from 1956