How to install 21st century technology – at a 14th century castle…

UNDERSTANDABLY, high-speed broadband was not at the top of the list when designing buildings in the 14th century.

However, for those operating in such buildings now, it can be vital.

But installing such technologies can be challenging – as was the case at Old Wardour Castle, near Tisbury.

Once one of the most daring and innovative homes in Britain, it was built in the 1390s, a lightly-fortified luxury residence, providing comfortable living and lavish entertainment for John, the fifth Baron Lovell, who was granted permission to build it by King Richard III.

Today, the ruins are an English Heritage site, welcoming visitors from across the country and beyond.

But the facilities are, like the castle itself, somewhat dated.

So for the English Heritage technology team, remote site connectivity is one of their biggest challenges.

Visitor attractions need good connectivity, for ePOS solutions that run tills and payment entry devices, to security systems and connecting laptops to the corporate network, even a 14th century building needs a 21st century internet connection.

That is where Wessex Internet came in.

The firm, based in Blandford, specialises in taking full fibre connectivity to remote rural locations other providers are unable, or unwilling, to tackle.

“Having connected a farm just under 1km from the castle, we completed a challenging build across the historical site to extend our ultrafast network to the castle,” a spokesperson said.

“A route was planned around the car park to the entrance of the visitor centre, where an existing manhole and ducting installed by English Heritage could be used to reach the site’s comms room.”

An engraving of Old Wardour Castle from 1732

An engraving of Old Wardour Castle from 1732

Due to the historic nature of the site, the usual process of installing such technology could not be deployed.

“As the car park has not been excavated previously, it was possible there could be historical artefacts underground,” the spokesperson went on.

“Wessex Internet usually installs full fibre using vibratory moleploughs and directional drills which minimise disruption, but these could not be used as there was a risk of potentially damaging artefacts that the operators could not see underground.

“Therefore, the company adapted its installation methods, carefully digging a 750m open trench across the site, supervised by an on-site archaeologist throughout the installation.”

The work was successful, and Old Wardour Castle now boasts a 100Mbps Ethernet Leased Line, delivering over full fibre infrastructure.

Wessex Internet said the installation is future-proofed and can be upgraded to up to 10Gbps if required in the future.

“Remote site connectivity is one of our biggest challenges,” said Barry Larkins, IT operations manager at English Heritage.

“A local fibre connection, instead of a slow and unreliable copper line, will make a huge difference to the site.”

If only the designers in the 1390s had known what was in store…

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