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Iceni Centre, formerly the Iceni Village, closes despite attempted revival

PUBLISHED: 06:35 15 July 2014

The Iceni Centre closes. Picture: Matthew Usher.

The Iceni Centre closes. Picture: Matthew Usher.

© Archant Norfolk 2014

An attempt to revive a Breckland heritage site has failed after dwindling visitor numbers forced the owners to close the attraction.

The Iceni Village, just of Swaffham, reopened its doors for the summer season at Easter under a new guise and a new name, the Iceni Centre.

The mock Iceni village no longer existed and as part of a refurbishment programme, the main farm building was redecorated and reorganised to include a new entrance area, an exhibition of 1800 carriages and what was hoped to be the main attraction - a showroom displaying the remains of a 4,000-year-old Bronze Age giant.

It had been hoped the attraction would be able to help double its number of visitors from 10,000 to 20,000.

But within three months, the owner, Sir Samuel Roberts, who lives at nearby Cockley Cley Hall, said they have closed the site after their attempt to move away from the Iceni village had not drawn in enough visitors to make the attraction viable.

He said on one day, they took just 70 pence.

Sir Samuel said they will now attempt to make the site a hub for arts and crafts.

He said: “Over the last 40 years, the idea of the Iceni village was so entrenched in people’s minds that when they arrived they wanted to see the Iceni village.

“They wrote some negative comments on Trip Advisor and we were not making enough money to cover costs.

“It was not unfair what they said on Trip Advisor because we didn’t have the Iceni village there any more but without throwing a huge amount of money at it, which I couldn’t do, we couldn’t keep it open.”

The museum complex was founded by Sir Samuel’s father, also Sir Samuel Roberts, in 1975 after he had become interested in the history of the area.

Sir Samuel had decided to scrap the mock Iceni Village because it had been described as an “inaccurate historic attraction”.

He said the centre’s five part-time staff will be redeployed and that the recently refurbished buildings will be put to a different use. “We will redirect it,” said Sir Samuel.

Are you trying to boost tourism in Breckland? Email kate.scotter@archant.co.uk.

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