Norwich Castle

Castle Meadow view of Castle COLOUR [0757] 1935-09-14
Castle Meadow view of castle mound COLOUR [2965] 1939-04-16
Keep from castle bridge [B160] 1931-00-00
Keep south side from horse fair ground [B225] 1932-03-28
Lodge gates to castle bridge [B162] 1931-00-00
"On the Conqueror's motte (its horseshoe bailey represented by the upper part of the Castle Mall) stands the keep of Norwich Castle, which, from resemblances to Falaise, must be one of the few due to Henry I (c.1130). Though refaced in 1834-9 and gutted, its competent design forms an important link in the development of forebuildings and subsidiary chambers. The latter were to be placed at the four corners, each carried on a diagonal arch, but during the progress of the works the addition of a forebuilding and stairs on external arches produced three ‘triangular' rooms on the west and none on the east, and there are only slight remains of all the diagonal arches. It was a royal castle planned for a large garrison. The modern floor-level comes halfway up the storage basement. The main floor, corresponding to the two lower tiers of the arcading outside, was at the level of the present gallery, and contained the soldiers' Hall and the knights' Chamber south of it separated by a wall in place of the modern arcade. Each is supplied on the west by a group of four latrines, separating the Kitchen, with the fireplace in the north-west angle blocking an abandoned stairs. Pantry, formerly with round water tanks and wooden overflow pipe, and Governor's room, with private stairs to all levels in the south-west angle. The service stairs are in the north-east angle next the entrance doorway, whose richness can only be seen from a room in the forebuilding, once the vestibule at the head of the destroyed entrance stairs. At the east of the Chamber and overlooking these stairs were the postern door, Constable's Room and Chapel (with a north aisle and the apse askew in the south-east angle), forming part of a four-storeyed block. Below, and in charge of the Constable, were the prisons; above were the Guard Room and chapel triforium supporting a Watch Room with three windows and an escape door in the gable-end. The two main rooms were lit by the triforium windows, connected by the wall-passage which formed a fighting gallery all round the keep. It probably continued along the spine wall to link marshalling platforms (over the west rooms) with the postern by stairs. The Guard Room consequently had access in five directions. The Chamber has a fireplace and sink, contained the well and like the Hall had a row of arches below to carry the floor. The adaptation of the design later in Castle Rising keep supplied clues to missing parts at Norwich. Of the buildings round the inner ward, and of the thirteenth-century curtain wall, which replaced a wooden palisade, only the base of the gatehouse survives at the head of the partly Norman bridge. The outer bailey ditch 100 feet wide was seen in 1938 rather inside Harrod's suggested position. Subsequently the castle served as a prison until 1887, after which the prison buildings were converted into a museum." (A.B.Whittingham in The Archaeological Journal Vol.CVI, 1949).
The Motte or Mound was built by the Normans. The original Castle, probably of wood, was replaced by one of stone c1130. Of this, the shell of the Keep, together with the base of the Gatehouse and the partly-Norman bridge survive. In 1340 it was handed over to the County Sheriff to become a Common Prison, but it remained Royal property until 1806 when transferred to the County. The exterior was refaced in 1834-39 by the architect Salvin. The building continued in use as a penitentiary until 1887 after which, on September 12th, the Corporation of Norwich took formal possession. It was purchased for the nominal sum of £4,000. The cost of conversion into a museum was about £22,000 defrayed in part by a gift of £5,000 by the late Mr John Gurney.
Gatehouse turret base west side of bridge [4645] 1961-09-03
Bridge over inner ditch east side [4644] 1961-09-03
Partly Norman. Refaced 19c.
Bridge over inner ditch illuminated [2827] 1938-10-28
Floodlit during Civic Week, 1938.
Bridge over inner ditch illuminated [2828] 1938-10-28
Floodlit during Civic Week, 1938.
Keep south side Jubilee floodlit [0532] 1935-05-05
Keep south side [2193] 1938-03-21
Time ball on battlements NW corner [2349] 1938-04-18
A month before the arrival of the City Hall bell in 1938 the time ball on the battlements of the Castle, made redundant by time signals broadcast over the radio, had been dismantled. It had been used for the first time on 10th August 1900, much against the wishes of the museum curator, James Reeve, who feared that the daily detonations might endanger the structure. Exploded electrically from Greenwich, it worked by electro-magnet and detonator, with the current coming via the GPO. Its operation necessitated an attendant climbing up daily to rehoist it, a duty carried out some years before his death in 1934 by Arthur Harmer. A man of many parts, Arthur was also caretaker of Churchman House, city mortuary keeper and one of the liveried attendants accompanying the Lord Mayor when he travelled in the civic coach to official functions.
Time ball on battlements [2350] 1938-04-18
Bigod's Tower original entrance Keep E side [4390] 1955-09-24
Gallery exterior former prison building [4391] 1955-09-24
Keep west side blind arches [4669] 1962-06-11
Bigod's Tower 12c Norman entrance arch [6024] 1979-07-26
Original 12c entrance to the Keep in the Bigod Tower. One of the finest surviving pieces of secular Norman architecture in the country.
Bigod's Tower entrance smaller arch [6048] 1979-09-01
Keep 900th anniversary candle decoration [7138] 1994-07-08
9 candles.
Keep interior north side African spears [B226] 1932-03-28
Keep interior NE corner [B227] 1932-03-28
Keep interior SE corner snapdragon [B228] 1932-03-28
A relic of corporation pageantry.
Keep interior south gallery Egyptian mummy [B229] 1932-03-28
Keep interior east gallery Japanese armour [B230] 1932-03-28
Keep interior elephant's head and leg bones [B231] 1932-03-28
Keep interior Bengal tiger [B255] 1932-05-00
Given by King George V who shot it at the Coronation Durbar of 1911.
Keep interior elephant's head and leg bones [B256] 1932-05-00
Keep interior west side [B545] 1933-04-17
Used as a museum since 1894.
Keep interior NW corner [B546] 1933-04-17
Keep interior early 16c door [2162] 1938-03-13
Early 16c. Orginally from the Prior of Walsingham's town house near St George Colegate and later transferred to the Prior of Ixworth's house St Clement's Alley.
Keep interior St Vedast churchyard cross [2185] 1938-03-19
A plaque in St Vedast St at the southern end of Rose Lane marks the site of the pre-Conquest church of that name. Here, built into the angle of a house, was discovered a large stone of apparent antiquity. In 1896 the house was pulled down to widen the street, and the opportunity was then taken to investigate the stone. After the removal of several coats of whitewash and paint, long-hidden designs were partially revealed on two of its sides. Dr Browne, then Bishop of Stepney and a leading authority on such matters, happened to be in Norwich at this time and he considered it to be probably a portion of a churchyard cross of Scandinavian type of about 920 AD. An illustrated paper on the subject by the Rev William Hudson was published in Norfolk Archaeology Vol.13; the stone itself was presented to the Norwich Castle museum by its purchaser Mr F.B.Crowe.
Keep interior Golden Eagle and Pearl sign [2362] 1938-04-23
Shop sign formerly above Bonser's, Davey Place.

Text and photographs copyright George Plunkett