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A History of Norwich Castle Museum

Updated on December 8, 2017

Norwich Castle hasn't always been a museum

Norwich is a large city in the east of England in the beautiful country of Norfolk. Norfolk these days is famous for it's Norfolk Broads and scenic countryside, but Norwich is definitely the place to visit if you want to shop till you drop. Aside from that, there is rich and varied history in Norwich. And this applied for Norwich Castle too. Steeped on a hill high in the centre of Norwich, you wonder how it ever got here in the first place. As it stands atop this high hill overlooking the city, it is now a museum open to the public and teaching people of all walks and life the history of the castle and has a vast array of exhibitions and displays for everyone to see. But, Norwich Castle has a much darker side to it too. I shall tell you a bit about the history of this and what it is today.

Norwich Castle was originally designed to be a palace, but no king ever did stay there. Henry I did visit the cast on one occasion, that is known of. This was at Christmas time in 1121. The castle itself was build by the Normans in the 11th Century using limestone that was shipped in from Caen in France. In around 1067 Saxon homes were demolished. This was to make way for the earthworks where they build a wooden fort. It was from the 14th Century that they used to the keep as a gaol. Between 1822 - 1827 the outside block of the gaol was demolished as the castle was deemed as outdated. John Howard, who was a prison reformer, visited the castle on 6 occasions. There were extra buildings constructed around the motte, next to the keep. These buildings were subsequently demolished between 1789 - 1793. The castle stopped being used as a gaol in 1887.

In 1549 Robert Kett was executed by hanging at the castle for his role in the Norfolk Rebellion, of which he was leader. The Norfolk Rebellion revolted against the closure of land. There is a plaque outside the castle that tells the visitor about this.

The City of Norwich bought the castle and work carried out to transform it into a museum. It opened as a museum in 1895. None of the outer building remains today and it is still used as a museum to this day.


The castle today

Today, the castle still operates as a museum, and is as popular as ever. In recent years they have built a lift that will take you up to the castle. Prior to this you had to walk up to it, which for some people proved difficult. You can see the life in the 1st picture I posted to the right of the photo. Inside the castle now are galleries and exhibitions dedicated to local history, and history of the castle in particular. People enter the keep through the Bigod arch. This is an original 12th century carving, and you can still see many examples of the castle as it was then. There's even a 900 year spiral staircase you can walk down. Also, which I find particularly interesting, is a deep well which you can look down. Obviously this is covered over, but it's interesting to be able to look down it. As you can see from the photo below, it is very deep.

There are also guided tours of the castle where you can get a tour of what life was like when it was a prison. The guide will tell you about life as a prisoner and the executions that took place in the grounds of Norwich castle that people used to come and watch. Norwich castle is in stark contrast to the city today. Surrounded by modern shopping malls and cars, the castle still stands atop of the city with it's hundreds of years of history still telling people about life was like all them years ago.


Norwich Castle

© 2017 Louise Powles


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    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 6 weeks ago from the short journey

      Thanks for a look at Norwich Castle Museum. The info you feature is highly enhanced by the modern pictures being compared to the early drawing.

    • Coffeequeeen profile image

      Louise Powles 7 weeks ago from Norfolk, England

      Thankyou Mary. Norwich is indeed a wonderful city to visit. And the Castle Museum is a must see! I hope you do visit Norwich, you would love it I'm sure.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 7 weeks ago from Ontario, Canada

      This looks interesting. We plan to again visit the UK this Spring so this goes in the list.

    • Coffeequeeen profile image

      Louise Powles 2 months ago from Norfolk, England

      Thankyou. Yes, it is a lovely place to visit.

    • Readmikenow profile image

      Readmikenow 2 months ago

      Good article! I've always had a fascination with castles.

    • Coffeequeeen profile image

      Louise Powles 2 months ago from Norfolk, England

      Thankyou very much Linda for the lovely comment. It's much appreciated. =)

    • Linda Robinson60 profile image

      Linda Robinson 2 months ago from Cicero, New York

      Your hub Louise is astonishing, so fascinating and it from the very first word to the last your interest is held throughout the entire hub, you don't want to stop reading it. Absolutely loved it and look forward to reading more of your excellent hubs. You are an excellent writer. Happy to be following you. Linda

    • Coffeequeeen profile image

      Louise Powles 2 months ago from Norfolk, England

      Oh it's lovely Claire. It's amazing the history it has.

    • Claire-louise profile image

      Claire Raymond 2 months ago from UK

      Wow, it's really beautiful, I would love to have a guided tour.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 3 months ago from The Caribbean

      What a shame to have been imprisoned and miss most of the beautiful hilltop view. Thanks for sharing the information and the pictures. I'd still like to tour the present day museum.

    • k@ri profile image

      Kari Poulsen 3 months ago from Ohio

      It's amazing to me that the castle is 900 some years old. The skills it must have taken to build leaves me in wonder. I loved the photos. The one labeled "A walk through the museum" is beautiful.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 3 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

      The information and the photos are interesting. You've described another place that I'd like to visit.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 3 months ago from USA

      I very much enjoyed this article with its somber and grim history. Think about how cold and miserable it must have been as a prisoner there. Thank you for profiling this place.

    • clivewilliams profile image

      Clive Williams 3 months ago from Jamaica

      Nice History...beautiful pictures.

    • Coffeequeeen profile image

      Louise Powles 3 months ago from Norfolk, England

      Thankyou for the lovely comment Jackie. St Augustine sounds interesting. I'd love to visit there sometime!

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 3 months ago from The Beautiful South

      Wow, it has been many years since I have been there but there is a place that looks so much like this inside in St. Augustine, Florida. I would think it came from this same building plan. It is also a museum but could have had the same history behind it, who knows? I really don't and cannot even remember the name of it.

      I mean St. Augustine is our oldest city with the oldest fort and jail, etc. Built by the men who came here from all over. I just wonder?

      Thanks for such an informative and interesting article.