The interview: '˜Don't let our local landmark become a memory'
It might be a thing of the past '“ but history has never been more important to Rokia Brown.
The passionate historian has been working hard to keep the community clued up about local landmark Codnor Castle – and to help build a long-lasting future for the curious castle.
Chairman of the Codnor Castle Heritage Trust, Rokia, was one of the founding members of the trust which was formerly The Codnor Castle Preservation Society – a small group of local people formed in 2006, who were concerned about the continued decay and neglect of the castle remains.
The society then became the trust in September 2009.
With a knowledgeable and highly skilled board of trustees that includes historians, archaeologists, surveyors, heritage professionals and teachers, the trust has a strong membership base, who are all keen to promote the castle as a major site of historical importance.
And 47-year-old Rokia, who also works as a support worker at SENAD based at Ecclesbourne Lodge, is the driving force behind that. She believes that no-one regardless of their age, gender or ability should be excluded from learning.
She said: “The joy of learning about the past should not be limited – anyone and everyone can enjoy history and get involved in their community’s history.”
Rokia, who graduated from Nottingham Trent University with a degree in heritage, history and English literature, first got involved in community projects whilst volunteering at Groundwork Erewash.
“I volunteered at Groundwork, where I donated my time to community, woodland and allotment projects in Ironville and Waingroves. I developed a real taste for community work and eventually that led me to the castle.”
The trust started out as an action group concerned with the demise of the castle, which had appeared to fall out of public memory.
“We were keen to put pressure on UK Coal and the council which were both set to do consolidation work at the castle, but it was moving slowly and we wanted to make sure the wheels were in motion.
“From there it progressed and we have worked hard to raise the profile of the castle and raise awareness of its history and importance to the community.”
And Rokia was behind the successful bid to bring Time Team to the landmark nearly ten years ago, in June 2007.
“There had been questions raised as to whether it had medieval status, so I contacted them about the castle but they didn’t seem interested. An independent geographical survey was carried out, which was then submitted to the TV team, and they agreed to come out and excavate the drawbridge pit, which is where they found the famous gold coin – it was so exciting!”
As well as raising awareness, Rokia is keen to get youngsters involved in learning.
“It’s extremely rewarding to see the community learn – especially children. They are our next generation will carry on our hard and avoid another sad demise of the castle. We’re giving a whole generation new memories and promoting a treasure on our doorstep with its amazing history.”
The castle also plays host to a range of events, to boost visitors to the landmark. It hosts heritage weekends including reenactments, have-a-go archery craft stalls, guided tours and much more. The next event at the castle will be a Victorian heritage weekend on May 27 and 28, where there will be a ‘Wild West shoot-out’ with the Yellow Ribbon Battle Reenactment Group.
There are also open days held at the castle every second Sunday of the month, something which Rokia believed is crucial to the castle.
She said: “We can’t let the history of the site be forgotten. As a local resident, I really believe we are extremely lucky to have this remarkable site on our doorstep. The castle and surroundings should be preserved, enjoyed and remembered now and for all time.”
For more: www.codnorcastle.co.uk.