Delving into the Castle archives

Norwich Castle is one of the best excavated medieval castles in Britain. This is largely due to the extensive work that was undertaken between 1987 and 1998 when the Castle Mall shopping centre was under construction.

However, the mound and stone Keep is less well understood, as it has always been occupied and in use.

Over the years, building work on the museum and keep have allowed for archaeologists to make small excavations allowing some insight into the building’s past. However the Gateway to Medieval England project has for the first time given us the opportunity to draw together all this previous research, complete new surveys and plan for future excavations.

This will not only result in us recording the archaeology that would be affected by any new building work, it gives us the opportunity to extend excavations to find out as much as we can about the castle’s past.

The first step has been undertaking a highly detailed ‘metric survey’, involving laser-scanning and drone photography. This survey has created very accurate measurements of the medieval walls, even recording every individual stone block or brick. This will help us identify what materials were used so we can better understand and date the different phases of construction.

We will also be excavating the ground floor of the Keep which will help us to understand the depth and size of the foundations used for the building’s massive walls, and the way the mound itself was put together in the 11th and 12th centuries.

There may be further excavation on the surface of the mound outside the Keep. This might tell us much more about the use of the site as both a castle and as a prison.

The result of these investigations will not only be greater knowledge that can inform the new displays planned for the museum, but which can help inform the continued conservation of one of Norwich’s premier historical monuments.

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