A History of Norwich Castle Museum
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 Between 1822 - 1827 the outside block of the gaol was demolished as the castle was deemed as outdated.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.
© 2017 Louise Powles