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Lancaster Castle

Lancaster Castle has dominated the town for almost 1000 years, but installations on the hill on which it stands goes back a thousand years further, almost to the birth of Christ. The Romans built the first of at least three military forts on the site in AD79. Little is known about Lancaster until 1093 when the Norman Baron, Roger of Poitou, built a small motte and bailey castle which was replaced 50 years later by a large stone Keep which still stands today as the oldest part of the Castle. Unfortunately, the Keep is part of the Castle which cannot be visited as it forms part of HM Prison Lancaster Castle.

Lancaster Castle is still used today as a Crown Court. It deals with trials of the more serious criminal offences, the sentencing of offenders committed for sentence by magistrates' courts, and appeals from lower courts. The court in Lancaster was once the only Assize for the county of Lancashire. It was known as The Hanging Court due to the large number of death sentences handed down. Many hundreds of others who passed through its doors were sentenced to Transportation.

Lancaster Castle contained two treadwheels - one to drive 23 calico looms and one to draw water from the well. The first one was installed in 1822 and Lancaster's use of the treadwheels was quite unique as most prisons did not harness the energy in any useful way.

Until the Bankruptcy Act of 1866, Lancaster Castle housed between 300 and 400 debtors at any one time. Insolvent debtors were required to work within the prison and in return received, 3ozs bread and 4ozs oatmeal daily, 1oz salt and 10lb potatoes weekly.

There are many things to see including the beautiful Gillow furniture in the Grand Jury Room, the dungeons and drop room, hanging corner and the magnificent Shire Hall with its display of heraldic shields. The castle is also famous for being the site of the trial of Pendle Witches in 1612.

General Information:

  • Evening and Theatrical Events
  • Guided tours by qualified historians and professional guides
  • Shop
  • Parking nearby
  • Access with wheelchairs and push chairs is limited
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    Lancaster is easily accessible by road and rail; the Castle is 5 mins. walk from the railway station.

    Lancaster Castle Postcode for SatNav: LA1 1YJ


    +44 (0)1524 649 98
    +44 (0)1524 847 914

    Shire Hall
    Castle Parade
    LA1 1YJ

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