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Engraving of Norwich Castle in 1845

Norwich Castle, 1845

From an engraving by Charles Knight (1791-1873).

A Brief History of Norwich Castle in Norfolk.


Norwich Castle

Norwich Castle
Copyright © Stacey Harris | Licensed for reuse

Norwich Castle - Historical Events.

Norwich, in the east of the county, is the county town of Norfolk and is in the valley of the River Wensum close to the Norfolk Broads. The city has many old buildings and ruins, and narrow winding streets which remind visitors of it's historical past. Popular sights to see include the 11th-century Norwich Cathedral with its tall and stately spire, and the remains of Norwich Castle. Norwich was home to many famous people in history such as Elizabeth Fry, who did so much for prison reform, and Mother Juliana, a nun who lived in the 14th and 15th centuries and wrote a book called The Revelations of Divine Love. Lord Nelson was educated at Norwich Grammar School.

Norwich Castle is now an impressive, Grade I listed ancient monument originally built by William the Conqueror following the Norman invasion. It is a popular tourist attraction in Norwich and a local heritage site with a museum. The Norman castle, which was William the Conqueror's only castle in East Anglia, is steeped in history as it was used as a place of imprisonment and execution between 1220 to 1887 as well as a fortification. The iconic stone Norman keep is now the Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery. It is believed that Norwich Castle was built some time between 1066 and 1075 as the Normans swept through East Anglia. It was originally built as a motte and bailey castle.

The first major historical incident at Norwich Castle was the Revolt of 1173 when King Henry II's sons started a civil war by rebelling against him, and the royal castle was made ready for defence. However, the castle was captured by Hugh Bigod, 1st Earl of Norfolk, with over 800 soldiers and supporters in 1174. Norwich Castle remained in Bigod's possession until the end of the rebellion when it was returned to royal control.

From about 1220, Norwich Castle was used as a gaol and saw many prisoners incarcerated and executed until 1887 so it's no surprise that many visitors claim to have witnessed paranormal activity and events on the site. There is a long history of ghostly sightings and reports, with the most well known being the apparition of a lady dressed all in black who was executed after being accused of murdering her husband, a floating skull which just drifts through the air, and the ghostly sight of the rebel leader Robert Kett's body hanging from the top of the castle keep. Robert Kett was from Wymondham in Norfolk, and rebelled against the agricultural laws at the time.

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