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Norwich Castle: Gateway to Medieval England

Norwich Castle’s magnificent stone Keep is the centrepiece of the museum and art gallery complex. The Keep sits on top of a huge man-made Norman mound that dominates the city centre.

In medieval times, Norwich Castle was one of the most elaborate and strategically important buildings in the whole of Europe. Its long and eventful history as a fortification, royal palace, prison and museum, has resulted in much of its internal structure being demolished. Many Norman features survive but remain largely hidden from visitors today.

Gateway to Medieval England is a four-year project that will reinstate the Norman floors and rooms in the Keep and, for the first time, enable access to five floor levels.

New displays and activities will immerse visitors in the sights and sounds of Norwich Castle during its heyday as a royal palace.

The development will open up the keep from basement to battlements. The Norman Great Hall will be transformed to show the lavishly-decorated room that King Henry 1 would have seen when he visited the Castle in 1121.

Visitors will be able to climb the spiral stone stairs to a walkway the Normans built high into the walls and enjoy the spectacular view over the King’s Chamber and Great Hall.

The result will bring to life one of Europe’s most important 12th century buildings right in the heart of Norwich, one of Europe’s most complete medieval cities.

The idea to reinstate the Norman floor levels is not a new one. The proposal has been put forward several times since the Castle was converted to a museum in the 1890s.

Victorian architect, Edward Boardman, wanted to reinstate the Norman principal floor ‘in order to make evident the object of the ancient openings’ and enable a better appreciation of the historic Keep. This and subsequent attempts to realise his vision were rejected on financial grounds.

Precious objects will reveal stories of medieval life beyond the Castle’s walls in a new gallery created in partnership with the British Museum.

Gateway to Medieval England has involved a programme of consultation with professional historians, archaeologies, architects and the public. Their response has consistently recognised the Keep as the museum’s most important ‘exhibit’.