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Norwich Castle

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
castellum Norwici

In the civil parish of Norwich.
In the historic county of Norfolk.
Modern Authority of Norfolk.
1974 county of Norfolk.
Medieval County of Norfolk.

OS Map Grid Reference: TG23190853
Latitude 52.62840° Longitude 1.29604°

Norwich Castle has been described as a certain Timber Castle, and also as a certain Masonry Castle.

There are major building remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.
This is a Grade 1 listed building protected by law*.


This was the only castle built by William I in East Anglia. It was probably under construction before the end of the 1060s as an earthwork and timber fortification. In around 1100 the motte was heightened, and the surrounding ditch deepened. The square keep was built on top of the motte around 1095-1110 to serve as a Royal Palace. The construction is Caen stone over a flint core. The Keep is entered at first floor level through an external structure, the Bigod Tower. Although the Keep remains, its outer shell has been repaired repeatedly, most recently in 1835-8 by A. Salvin. The Norman bridge over the inner ditch was replaced in about 1825. The castle was used as a gaol from 1220, with additional buildings constructed on the top of the motte next to the Keep. These buildings were demolished and rebuilt in 1789-93 with more alterations occurring in 1820. The site ceased to be used as a gaol in 1887 when it was purchased by the city to be used as a museum. (Norfolk HER)

Norwich Castle, a post-Conquest motte and bailey castle is scheduled for the following principal reasons:
Period: the castle mound, moat and north-east bailey of Norwich Castle typify both a particular class of monument, the motte and bailey castle, and a period, the Norman invasion and conquest of England, and represent one of only a few classes of monument from this period;
Rarity: although not rare as a class, each motte or motte and bailey castle is of value for its contribution to our understanding of the process of subjugation following the conquest, and the development of lordship and the feudal system in Norman England. Norwich Castle is relatively rare for the state of preservation of the C12 donjon (not included in the scheduling, but listed at Grade I), and for the evidence gathered from the extensive excavation of the south baileys in the late C20. Of greater rarity are the remains of Anglo-Saxon Norwich which underlie the castle and its north-east bailey;
Documentation: although the date of construction of the castle is not recorded, its subsequent history is increasingly well documented. Archaeologically, the castle is very well documented by the publication of the reports of the excavations within the area of the south baileys, undertaken in advance of the construction of Castle Mall, and by earlier excavations undertaken in the late C19 and early C20;
Group Value: the most significant association with the scheduling of the castle is the donjon, listed at Grade I, particularly its early fabric, the survival of which adds significantly to the importance of the earthwork remains. The castle is also surrounded by listed buildings and several scheduled monuments, but has closest group value with medieval structures, foremost of which is the cathedral, listed at Grade I, the origins of which are contemporary with the enlarged castle mound and donjon. It also has group value with the two scheduled cathedral gates, the Erpingham Gate and St Ethelbert's Gate, C15 and C14 respectively, both scheduled and listed at Grade I;
Survival / Condition: the survival in good condition of archaeological deposits was demonstrated by the excavations undertaken in the late C20 in advance of the construction of Castle Mall;
Vulnerability: the location of the monument in the heart of a thriving city, forming part of a well used garden, and at the centre of a road network that runs over the infilled castle moat means that buried archaeological deposits are vulnerable to interventions, and possible damage;
Diversity: archaeologically the castle contains diverse features, including the possible survival of late Anglo-Saxon deposits. It also represents a class of monument significant for its diversity of form;
Potential: stray finds and formal excavations undertaken over the past century, particularly those carried out in the late 1980s in advance of the construction of Castle Mall, indicate that those unexcavated parts of the monument are likely to contain material of similar quality and quantity, evidence of material, social, economic and military history, from the late Anglo-Saxon period onwards, applicable in both a local and national context. The potential for the survival of evidence of Norman colonisation of the late Anglo-Saxon town is particularly significant.
Anglo-Saxon Norwich was made up of five small villages which had, before 1066, merged to form the borough of Norwich. The town was the fourth largest in England, providing a thriving market for its rich agricultural hinterland, and well placed for trading links with Scandinavia. After the Norman Conquest, as William's army moved north, it may have presented itself as an ideal site for a well supported garrison for his campaigns in East Anglia in 1068, and a date of 1067 has been suggested for the construction of the castle, strategically placed overlooking the river valley as it loops around to the east, north-east and north. To the north-east the development of the cathedral created a second precinct, while to the west of the castle and castle fee (an area of about 23 acres) was the French Borough, laid out as an area for trade and commerce. Together these had a considerable impact on the form of the Anglo-Saxon town, causing the destruction of 98 properties, as well as the disturbance and removal of Anglo-Saxon cemeteries.
The first castle probably consisted of a timber keep or 'donjon' on top of a small mound or motte, surrounded by a palisade, with an outer bailey protected by a ditch. The sequence of construction is not absolutely clear, but it seems probable that an initial defensive enclosure, surrounded by a bank and ditch, was followed by the creation of the motte and south bailey, with the north-east bailey a slightly later addition. Military assault in 1075 and again in 1088 may have resulted in the archaeologically observed strengthening of the castle's defences. Around the castle and its two baileys and extending beyond them, was the castle fee, defined by a ditch that enclosed an area extending from St John the Baptist Church to the south, to London Street and Bank Plain to the north, and from Castle Street to the west, to Cattle Market Street and Kings Street to the east.
Soon after 1094 work began on both the construction of the cathedral and a magnificent new castle donjon, sited on an enlarged motte, which also contained other structures including a chapel dedicated to St Nicholas. A stone bridge across the castle moat was also built, and a well sunk in the courtyard area at the foot of the bridge. Alterations were also made to the defences between 1094 and 1121, including the insertion of a new south bailey ditch and the recutting of the outer ditch to the north-east bailey, a defended meadow. The south bailey is likely to have contained service buildings, including stables, bakery and brewery, and possibly the Great Hall. Excavation within the south bailey produced no evidence of structures themselves, which may have been of timber construction, but stonework from gatehouses associated with the bridge was found.
In the C13 a massive barbican ditch was dug between the inner and south bailey, replacing a smaller ditch, but by 1300 the donjon was mainly in use as a prison. A purpose built gaol was constructed on the castle mound at an unknown date, and was demolished and rebuilt by Sir John Soane between 1789 and 1793. In 1825 this was in turn replaced by the present building, attached to the north and east sides of the donjon, designed by William Wilkins. The donjon itself was refaced in 1835-1838 by Anthony Salvin. In 1887 the prison closed, and between 1884 and 1888 it was converted into a museum by the prominent Norfolk architect, Edward Boardman, work that was prefaced by excavation to determine whether the mound was artificial or natural.
By 1221 the city had begun to encroach onto the south and east baileys, used by the townspeople for grazing and occasional commerce, as well as for dumping rubbish and quarrying for building materials. After 1345 the south bailey was transferred to the city, and unlicensed tipping and quarrying continued into the C16 and C17. More deliberate attempts to level the ground in the early C18 seem to have been carried out in advance of the construction, in 1738, of the Cattle Market, over both south and east baileys. In 1960 the market was moved and this area became a car park, and in the 1980s work began on the construction of an underground shopping mall (Castle Mall).
The east bank of the motte is cut into by Shirehall, built in 1822-23 by William Wilkins, and by Shirehall Chambers, built in 1907. These buildings also occupy a substantial part of the ditch, already levelled by 1907. The Historical Ordnance Survey (OS) map of that date shows the area of the ditch south of Shirehall (shortly to be occupied Shirehall Chambers) level with Market Avenue and the area of the north-east bailey. To the east, and within the bailey, is the former Agricultural Hall, built in 1882 by J B Pearse, redeveloped as the home of Anglia Television in 1979, and Townshend House, a modern building.
The programme of work undertaken between 1987 and 1998, in advance of the development of Castle Mall, included the most extensive archaeological investigations to have taken place within the Castle fee since records of finds were begun in the C19, and were at the time the largest of their kind in northern Europe. Early excavations include those undertaken during the conversion of the prison to a museum in 1888, and those carried out in 1905-1906 by E J Tench, in advance of the construction of the addition to Shirehall, to the east of the motte, and published in the journal Norfolk Archaeology in 1910. There have been a number of further evaluations and investigations from the 1950s up to and after the major excavations of the late 1980s and 1990s, the latter including, in 1992, trenches in the top of the bridge that indicated its early medieval date, followed by work in 1993-94 that revealed the upper surfaces of the vaults of the C13 gatehouse.
Norwich Castle was first scheduled in 1915 (NF5). The scheduled area was extended in 1983 to include the south and east baileys, the inclusion of the east bailey based on the observed survival of medieval levels in the course of excavation undertaken in 1973.
The monument includes the earthworks and buried remains of Norwich Castle, including the Castle mound and its moat, and part of the north-east bailey.
DESCRIPTION The scheduled area includes the castle mound and surrounding moat, as well as its north east bailey. At its base the castle mound measures about 145 metres from west to east, and 135 metres from north to south, and at the top, about 110 metres at its widest from south-west to north-east, and 95 metres from north-west to south-east. The top is flat, with almost the entire area occupied by the donjon and late C19 prison. The donjon is a 30.5 metre square structure sited towards the south-west, with the octagonal prison attached to its east and north sides. The donjon and prison, which remain in use as a museum, are listed at Grade I (NHLE entry 1372724) and are not included in the scheduling. The base of the castle mound is revetted by a modern low brick wall, from west of the bridge to the south, continuing around the west and north. Excavations undertaken in 1905-1906, to the east of the mound, revealed its stratification, indicating layers of loam, marl, gravels and chalk.
The greatest depth of the ditch, cut into solid chalk, is estimated to be between 22.5 and 13.5 metres. The ditch survives only to the south of the mound, where it would originally have been considerably wider. A footpath runs along the present base of the ditch, underneath the bridge that gives access to the Castle Museum. Although this was refurbished in 1825, with lodges constructed in 1811 to designs by Frances Stone, excavation has demonstrated that the medieval bridge survives substantially intact beneath its later stone cladding, including the vaults of the C13 gatehouse. The bridge consists of a southern and northern abutment and central arch. To the west and north of the mound, encroachment and infilling have levelled the ditch, over which there now runs a modern road, Castle Meadow. Where this road turns south, to the east of the mound, it becomes Market Avenue, which appears to follow the edge of the east bank of the infilled moat. The area to the east of this, where the land falls away gradually, formed a part of the defended meadow that was the east bailey. The baileys to the south of the castle mound, ditch and bridge were substantially removed by archaeological investigations and the subsequent construction of the Castle Mall shopping centre, and no longer form part of the scheduled area. (Scheduling Report)

From documentary sources, it is known that the castle had a southern bailey with an inner barbican, a small bailey on the north-east side, and that the whole area was bounded by Castle Fees, which may have been marked by a ditch or bank. 1193 Pipe Roll gives total garrison as seventy-five knights and men at arms both horse and foot which is a considerable garrison by the standards of the time although Norwich was one of the largest cities of England (with a population about half that of London at c. 5000) and Norfolk the most heavily populated county. Estimates of medieval population are difficult and can widely vary. Broadbery et al given an estimate of the population of Norfolk as about 150,000 at Domesday and probably 60% higher by 1193. This would given a 'police' per head figure of 1 to 2500 compared with the modern figure of about 1 to 250 although the garrison at Norwich would not represent the whole of the 'military' in Norfolk.
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Sources of information, references and further reading
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:20:06

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