OCR and SHP B criteria

The study of Norwich Castle must focus on the relationship between the site, other historical sources and the aspects listed in a) and n) below. 

Our additional historical sources can be found by following the links below and are in the following formats:

  • Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery History and Guide – this covers most aspects below and is available to buy for £4 from our shop.  Pages 4-9 have been copied and are included in our resource pack
  • Maps
  • Photographs (the zoom tool can be used for those with small text)
  • Information and guides used by us to inform our museum displays and resources
  • Notes made from books, reports, conferences, etc
  • Magazine articles
  • Graphic panels from our museum displays
  • Primary sources, eg Chapel book, execution report
  • Textbooks
  • Pictures, drawings, images
  • Models
  • Animated films

a) The reasons for the location of the site within its surroundings

Castle, 1067-1345

  • Situated strategically at the end of a natural escarpment (steep slope), which lies to the south along the river
  • At the foot of this ran the major route to the well-established Saxon town of Norwich from the south

Additional Historical Sources (AHS)

Gaol/prison, 1345-1887

  • Norman castle used as a gaol from 1345 onwards
  • Became overcrowded - prison reformer John Howard visited in 1776 and wrote a report to Parliament in 1777, highlighting terrible conditions in gaols around the country
  • New prison buildings built in 1822 around the north and east walls which had the most space on the mound
  • Courtroom built at the bottom of the mound in 1822, linked to the prison for prisoner access via a spiral staircase and tunnel

AHS

Museum, 1887-present

  • Castle symbol of civic and cultural pride for local people

AHS

b) When and why people first created the site

Castle, 1067-1345

  • 1067 - new Norman king William I imposed his power on a Saxon population by building castles, including in Norwich
  • Demolished around 100 Saxon homes
  • Motte and bailey – steep mound surrounded by deep, defensive, dry ditches and baileys (open spaces between ditches) to make it difficult for the enemy to reach
  • First keep made of wood so they could build with speed but also to allow the earth in the mottes (mounds) time to settle before building in stone began in 1094 (completed by 1121)
  • Local flint was used to build the castle but limestone was brought from Normandy to face it as a reminder of the wealth and power of the Normans
  • Installed a garrison of soldiers to keep law and order and prevent rebellion

AHS

Gaol/prison, 1345-1887

  • Edward III sold the castle fee (area around the castle) and loaned the building to the city in 1345.  It then became the county gaol.
  • Became overcrowded - prison reformer John Howard visited in 1776 and wrote a report to Parliament a year later
  • New prison buildings built in 1822 around the north and east walls which had the most space on the mound
  • Courtroom for prisoner trials built at the bottom of the mound in 1822, linked to the prison for easy and safe access via a spiral staircase and tunnel

AHS

Museum, 1887-present

  • Castle symbol of civic and cultural pride for local people

AHS

c) The ways in which the site has changed over time

Castle/royal palace, 1067-1345

  • Built as an awe-inspiring symbol of the king’s power and military might
  • Today’s castle is only a small part of the original 23 acre site
  • Visitors would have gone through a large gateway near what is now the Archant newspaper offices, into a bailey (which now forms part of Castle Mall), across a drawbridge and bridge
  • Keep was and still is 21m high and 28m wide with walls around 3m thick
  • The original doorway is on the first floor on its eastern side, protected by a forebuilding called the Bigod Tower
  • Bigod Tower has an elaborate carved archway a waiting room to the keep’s Great Hall (half of the current balcony floor level) where people met, ate, slept, etc. There was also a small kitchen, a mezzanine floor for musicians and garderobes (toilets)
  • The other half of the floor was the King’s private apartments – bedrooms for himself and the queen, a fireplace, sink, a room with the top of the well in it, and chapel
  • The only other floor in the keep was the basement (the current main floor was put in when the castle became a museum – see later) which was used for storing food, drink, fuel, weapons, etc

AHS

Gaol/prison, 1345-1887

  • Edward III couldn’t afford the upkeep of the building as the roof was starting to collapse, so sold the fee and loaned the building to the city in 1345
  • Keep housed prisoners awaiting trials, plus debtors
  • Architect Sir John Soane designed and built a new prison block in and around the keep in 1792-1793, but the buildings around the keep were too small and so were demolished in the 1820s
  • Another new gaol designed by William Wilkins was built around the keep in 1822 along with a courtroom at the bottom of the mound
  • Architect Anthony Salvin refaced the castle with Bath limestone, 1834-9

AHS

Museum, 1887-present day

  • Gaol moved to Mousehold heath in 1883 and the process of converting the prison buildings into a museum began
  • Edward Boardman, a Norwich architect, was commissioned to convert the keep and prison
  • His work involved ripping out Soane’s prison cell block
  • To support the new roof, open arches were built down the centre of the keep, another floor was put in above the basement and a balcony was installed at the level of the original Norman floor
  • A large development programme sees the construction of two new art galleries in 1950
  • The central rotunda is introduced, with the infilling of an open courtyard and garden to unify the museum and provide new facilities in 1969
  • £12m Heritage Lottery refurbishment in 2001 – art galleries

AHS

d) How the site has been used throughout its history

Castle/royal palace, 1067-1345

  • Built as a royal palace which explains the grand decoration of the building inside and out
  • However, no Norman kings lived in it but the king’s constable (his representative) and a garrison of soldiers were stationed here to administer the region
  • Day’s business, feasts and entertaining took place in the Great Hall and this is where most people would have slept
  • King’s constable had luxurious private chambers with a fireplace, sink, separate bedchambers and garderobes and lavish decorations
  • Anglo-Saxon Chronicle recorded the only time Henry I was known to visit Norwich in 1121: “In this year, King Henry spent Christmas at Norwich.”
  • Baileys used for grazing livestock and housing the industries and dwellings associated with the castle, eg main kitchens, blacksmith, armourer, prison
  • South bailey became a cattle market with drovers bringing livestock from around the region
  • Three sieges
  • Demise as a military centre in the 14th century following the building of the city walls 

AHS

Gaol/prison, 1345-1887

  • Gaol/prison for at least 500 years (gaol is where suspects are held before trial; prison where convicted criminals are held as punishment)
  • New prison building in 1822 meant different types of prisoners could be kept in different blocks, with each prisoner having their own cell. There were also exercise yards in between blocks
  • Courtroom built in 1822 at the bottom of the mound for prisoners’ trials

AHS

Museum, 1887-present

  • Incorporated the collections of the earlier Norfolk and Norwich Museum
  • The biggest and finest early collections were of natural history, particularly birds
  • Now also home to historical collections from Ancient Egypt, Celtic, Roman, Anglo-Saxon and Viking periods
  • Plus the Norwich School of Artists – three generations of landscape artists who lived and worked in the first half of the 19th century – and others
  • Houses also Decorative Arts from Medieval times to present day – silver, ceramics, jewellery, glass, costume, textiles – and Teapots

AHS

e) The diversity of activities and people associated with the site

Castle/royal palace

  • Henry I spent Christmas at the castle in 1121
  • King’s constable would have run the region with the backup of soldiers
  • Servants would have served food, cleaned, carried messages, etc
  • Workers in the baileys
  • Three sieges

AHS

Gaol/prison

  • Up until the 19th century, quality of life for prisoners depended on how much money they had as rich prisoners could rent bedding, furniture and buy better food
  • Prisoners were all mixed – men, women, children, those accused of serious crimes and those accused of less serious crimes, etc.
  • Children were born in the castle
  • From the 19th century, the gaoler was in charge of a team of turnkeys (guards) who were responsible for security and maintaining order
  • Prisoners had their own cell and a standard diet, plus faced brutal tasks as the treadmill.  At first the treadmill ground grain for a local bakery then later was used to keep the water system full; once that happened, the prisoners just walked on compressed air
  • Trials took place in the courtroom involving judges, lawyers, prisoners, jury members, witness, clerks, reporters and the public

AHS

Museum

  • Museum workers – Visitor Services, Building Services, Learning, Curators, Display teams

AHS

f) The reasons for changes to the site and to the way it was used

  • Military and administrative importance of the keep declined in the 14th century and so it began to be used as a gaol
  • By mid-18th Century the prison was overcrowded and John Howard, a well-known prison reformer, wrote a report about it in 1777, highlighting conditions 
  • Soane’s prison was built in the 1790s to the side of the keep, but was too small and so was demolished in the 1820s and replaced with Wilkins’ prison, which had cell blocks radiating out from the gaoler’s house in the middle.
  • Refaced with Bath stone due to erosion of the Normandy limestone, 1834-1839,, in order to restore it to how it would have looked when the Normans first built it.  The only difference in the re-faced keep is that the whole exterior is now faced in stone while the original building was flint up to the first floor on the exterior
  • Became unfit for purpose and so the prison moved to Mousehold Heath
  • Donation from John Gurney of £5,000 to turn it into a museum

AHS

g) Significant times in the site’s past: peak activity, major developments, turning points

  • 1067 – Normans demolished around 100 Saxon homes to make way for the castle
  • 1075 – Lady Emma and the 1075 rebellion: Ralph de Gauder, Earl of East Anglia, rebelled against William I. He left his wife Emma alone to defend the castle for three months while he fled to Brittany. William won the castle back after a three-month siege.
  • 1121 – The stone keep was completed, Henry I spent Christmas here
  • 1174 – Prince Henry, eldest son of Henry II, rebelled against his father and took the castle. Henry II took it back in 1175.
  • 1215-16 – Louis, Dauphin of France, took the castle after being invited over by English barons unhappy with King John. He was sent back to France after John died and his son took the throne
  • 1345 – Edward III relinquished the castle as a royal palace.  It was used as the county gaol.
  • 1793-8 – Sir John Soane built a new gaol inside and around the keep
  • 1822-27 – Soane’s gaol was demolished and replaced with William Wilkins’ design; courtroom built at bottom of mound
  • 1834 – Anthony Salvin began re-facing the castle with Bath limestone
  • 1888 – Architect Edward Boardman submits plans for converting the gaol to a museum.  Excavation and building work begins.
  • 1894 – The Castle was converted into a museum, opened on 23 October by the Duke and Duchess of York, later King George V and Queen Mary
  • 1950 – A large development programme sees the construction of two new art galleries
  • 1969 – The central Rotunda is introduced with the infilling of an open courtyard and garden to unify the museum and provide new facilities
  • 2001 – Norwich Castle was relaunched after a Heritage Lottery funded refurbishment
  • 2006 – Norwich Heritage Economic and Regeneration Trust (HEART) includes the Castle in its Norwich 12 initiative which promotes the 12 most important buildings in Norwich

AHS

h) The significance of specific features in the physical remains at the site

Castle/royal palace

  • Bigod Arch is the original entrance to the royal hall in the keep. The elaborate carvings on the doorway show symbols of wealth and power – Pegasus, the classical winged horse (Normans believed they were the next Romans), a dragon, an eagle, a kneeling knight (reminder of the feudal system) and royal hunting scenes (William’s hated hunting laws) – to remind the Saxons of who’s in power now
  • Kitchen unusual in a castle – food usually cooked outside in the bailey, then brought inside – so thoughts are that food was re-heated here before being served – a Medieval microwave!
  • Garderobes – communal toilets so people could ‘do their business’ and be ‘privy to information’. Waste would have come down the Castle’s west wall where the Saxons lived, perhaps reminding them what the Normans thought of them!
  • Well was the first thing to have been built and is around 40m deep. It would have stretched all the way to the top floor of the keep where it was probably enclosed within a room of its own
  • Fireplace and sink (water would have come out of the lion’s mouth on the outside of the wall) in the south wall in the king’s quarters was a reminder of how wealthy the Normans were
  • Chapel window faces south east, not east to Jerusalem – perhaps a reminder to the Pope and his priests that they were not the only ones in charge
  • Graffiti on the chapel walls show knights fighting – perhaps a prayer to look after them?

AHS

Gaol/prison

  • Graffiti elsewhere shows religious carvings and declarations of innocence made by Medieval prisoners
  • Wilkins’ prison in 1822 was designed so the gaoler’s house and chapel was in the centre with cell blocks radiating out from them so he could ‘oversee’ all prisoners and be a source of inspiration to them
  • Grave markings of murderers who were hanged outside Norwich Castle and whose bodies were not allowed to be buried in churchyards

AHS

i) The importance of the whole site either locally or nationally, as appropriate

  • Norwich landmark for over 900 years
  • One of the finest surviving secular (non-religious) Norman buildings in Europe
  • Norfolk’s principal museum and art gallery from 1894
  • Collections are designated as being nationally significant and include archaeology, fine and decorative arts, natural history and geology
  • Egyptian gallery displays many artefacts from ancient Egyptian tombs, between 2,500-4,500 years ago. These were donated from collections of wealthy Norfolk travellers who visited Egypt during the 19th Century and includes rare exhibits such as a clay model of a granary. One of the most stunning artefacts is the mummy of Ankh Hor, which was presented to the castle in 1928 by King George V
  • Boudica gallery tells the story of how one Norfolk woman nearly beat the Romans and displays Celtic treasures such as torcs (neck rings worn as symbols of power) and silver coins
  • Roman gallery tells how the Romans influenced British life through roads, towns, bathing, water supplies, shops, medicine, sewers and entertainment
  • Anglo-Saxon collection one of the best in the region
  • Natural History: the Bird Gallery has examples of nearly every species found in Britain
  • Norwich School of Artists: Norfolk landscape artists, Crome talented landscape painter, Cotman one of Britain’s outstanding water colourists
  • Decorative Arts: Norwich was England’s second city until late 18th Century, played an important role in decorative arts and manufacture, nationally important silver, ceramics, jewellery, glass, costume and textiles. Most important is Lowestoft Porcelain, 1757-1800, many pieces made to order and inscribed with customers’ names
  • Teapots – with around 3,000 examples, the collection is the finest of its kind in the world
  • Named as one of the Norwich 12 by HEART in 2006 – one of 12 buildings within the city which collectively represent a millennium of urban development

AHS

j) The typicality of the site based on a comparison with other similar sites

Similarities between Norwich Castle and Norman castles in general

Outside

  • Motte or mound
  • A big stone keep
  • Large, stone building blocks and thick walls
  • Curved, arched doorways
  • Small, narrow windows for shooting arrows
  • Bailey or yard at bottom of motte
  • A moat and drawbridge

Inside

  • Dark, cramped, noisy, smelly, smoky

Differences

  • Does not have a great tower
  • Not as smoky as other castles as the two fireplaces in the outer walls had chimneys or smoke outlets but the fire in the centre of the Great Hall didn’t have an outlet
  • Built as a royal palace so not as grim and stark as other castles of the period - Falaise in Normandy is the closest but not as decorative as Norwich
  • Prison buildings and a courtroom built around the Castle in 1822

Other castles of the period

  • Immediately after the Norman Conquest castles were built at a number of places to deter attempts at local rebellion – Pevensey (Sussex), Hastings (Sussex) and Dover (Kent) which were all built to protect William’s strategic connection with Normandy across the English Channel
  • Elsewhere during the 1070s William ordered the building of stone castles at Colchester and London, the later now known as the White Tower
  • Slightly later in date are Norwich and Rochester where work began during the reign of William Rufus (1087-1100).  These early castles were also palaces where the king could receive his powerful subjects and dispense justice
  • As in Normandy these stone castles in England were accompanied by timber castles built by powerful barons, usually with the agreement of the king. These castles both protected the baron from attacks by his enemies and were a means of demonstrating his power to the surrounding population. Over a period of time these timber castles were rebuilt in stone
  • During the Middle Ages the role of the castle began to change.   Gradually the king ceased to visit the larger castles such as Colchester and Norwich. At the same time their defensive role declined as they were unable to resist attack by cannon. Instead the role of some castles, such as Colchester and Norwich, were reduced to being a prison. Smaller castles continued to be built but these were more prestigious country houses rather than military strongholds.
  • In the 17th century, at the time of the English Civil War, some castles in England briefly served a military purpose (not Norwich) and, in some cases, were badly damaged as a result.  Others such as Rochester fell gradually into ruin, losing their roofs and floors and becoming covered in vegetation.   Some castles were used to house military garrisons, such as Caen from 1718 and Dover from 1744. Finally, some castles became museums, as was the case at Colchester in 1860 and Norwich in 1894.

AHS

Similarities between Norwich Castle Prison and Pentonville Prison

  • Gaolers’ house in the middle of the prison to oversee and inspire his prisoners
  • Exercise yards in between cell blocks
  • Different blocks for different types of prisoners, eg criminal, debtors
  • Hard labour for prisoners, eg treadmill, oakum picking

Differences

  • Norwich Castle keep was part of the prison with cells and an exercise yard inside the keep
  • Norwich used the silent system (where prisoners aren’t allowed to speak to each other) until 1850 whereas Pentonville was designed for the separate system from when it was built in 1842. The separate system kept prisoners apart – only left cells for religious services and exercises

AHS

Similarities between Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery and other county museums

  • Galleries on the county’s history, artefacts, natural history and art

Differences (possible!)

  • Norman keep
  • 19th century prison buildings and courtroom
  • Nationally significant collections

AHS

  • Other museums

k) What the site reveals about everyday life, attitudes and values in particular periods of history

Castle/royal palace, 1067-1345

  • Normans built the castle as a royal palace to remind the Saxons of their wealth and power:

    • Brought over limestone from Caen to show their wealth and power
    • Carvings showing a knight kneeling (how to greet a king) and hunting scenes (only the king was allowed to hunt)
    • Faeces coming down the side of the castle facing the Saxon quarter!
    • Water from a sink and smoke from a fireplace facing the French quarter! Fireplace on the side of the building was considered wasteful but Normans wanted to show off their wealth but were also borrowing from the Romans
  • Normans drew on architecture and images of Ancient Rome (Bigod arches, classical carvings) as they believed they were the next big empire and civilisation
  • Normans also needed somewhere to accommodate the king, his constable and soldiers in case of rebellion
  • Great Hall hosted feasts, servants used fighting gallery to carry messages and food, kitchen used to warm food up before it was served, musicians played
  • Garderobes or toilets were where the Normans hung their clothes as they knew that moths wouldn’t go near their toilets (ammonia in urine repels them) and also held meetings as the toilets were communal! Daisy wheel carving to ward off evil spirits
  • King’s apartments half of the castle show how important he was
  • Chapel altar faces south-east towards the political capital London and not dead east towards the religious capital of Jerusalem; could show that the Normans wanted to remind the Pope and his priests that they also held power in England

AHS

Gaol, 1345-1822

  • Place where suspects were held before trials, plus debtors
  • Suspects had to pay for everything – food, bedding, clothes, etc – but conditions were horrendous as everyone was held together (men, women, children, suspects of minor and major crimes, debtors, etc), the food was very basic, flooding took place, there was no heating and there were rats which shows no one thought suspects were worth looking after
  • Punishment for lots of crimes was hanging which was done outside of the castle to crowds of thousands which shows the government thought capital punishment was a good idea and would deter people from committing crimes and which shows people thought hangings were entertainment
  • John Howard’s 1777 report highlighted the conditions in gaols around the country

AHS

Prison, 1822-1888

  • New prison buildings built in 1792 but were too small so those were demolished and another set of buildings and a courtroom were erected in 1822 incorporating the most up-to-date systems of prison management and trials – gaoler’s house in the middle with cell blocks and exercise yards radiating out from it so he could ‘oversee’ the prison and be a source of inspiration to his prisoners; spiral staircase and tunnel linking the prison with the courtroom
  • From 1820s, prison became a punishment – hanging was only for murder and treason
  • Replica cell in keep basement shows that the prison employed the separate system – prisoners stayed in their cells to work
  • Prisoners were punished with hard labour and boring, repetitive and sometime unnecessary work.  For example, the treadmill used to first grind corn and then later to pump water around the prison.  Once the water system was full, it switched to compressing air
  • Shop was the schoolroom as Norwich was one of the first prisons to have a school master to teach the prisoners to read and write and some kind of skill, which demonstrates that the gaoler believed in rehabilitation
  • Hangings public until 1867 as public executions did not terrify people into keeping the law
  • A murderer’s hanged body was buried within the Castle walls with a simple stone slab with the person’s initials and year of execution on it (they were not allowed to be buried in churchyards)

AHS

Museum, 1887-present

  • Victorians were great collectors and wanted to show others their curiosities, eg the Fitch Room displays the collections of Robert Fitch who donated Saxon and Roman finds, porcelain, books, minerals and geological specimens
  • Won £12m from Heritage Lottery fund for refurbishment in 2001 which shows how important the museum is

AHS

l) How the physical remains may prompt questions about the past and how historians frame these as valid historical enquiries

  • Who built it? Who changed it? Who used it?
  • What is it? What changes has it seen? What was it used for?
  • When was it built? When was it changed? When was it used?
  • Why was it built? Why was it changed? Why was it used?
  • How was it built? How was it changed? How was it used? How much did it cost to build/change?
  • Where was it built? Where was it changed? Where did the people come from who used it?

m) How the physical remains can inform artistic reconstructions and other interpretations of the site

n) The challenges and benefits of studying the historic environment

Benefits

  • Gives a sense of place, well-being and cultural identity
  • Defines and enhances a connection of people to a place, such as regional and local distinctiveness
  • Stimulating and life-enhancing way to engage with history

Challenges

  • Difficult to interpret due to lack of sources and evidence
  • Different interpretations of the same site
  • Lack of written sources
If you have any questions on the above, please contact Jenni Williams on 01603 494898 or jenni.williams@norfolk.gov.uk.