With beginnings in Roman times, Lancaster Castle is a fascinating place to visit. It’s not your ordinary castle tour.
It’s moving, thought provoking, disturbing and very interesting.
The castle has been the scene of notable trials, over 200 executions for everything from murder to stealing cattle and has housed prisoners of various categories until as recently as 2011.
In 1612 one of the most famous cases was heard at Lancaster Castle. Ten people were convicted of witchcraft and went to the gallows on the moors above the town. For more information on the most famous witch trials in England – The Pendle Witches
Until 1866, the Debtors Prison housed between 300 and 400 debtors at any one time. Now being transformed back to it’s original state from the prison laundry.
These are some very eery cells, where you can be locked in total darkness as part of your tour experience.
I passed on this bit of the tour!
This room I found the most disturbing. Small, circular in shape, with a tall ceiling, it was originally used to house the ‘criminally insane’. Many of the inmates would today be more kindly identified as having a mental illness.
There were also lots of awful tools and instruments of punishment on display. The original wood chairs, in this picture, were used to tie inmates down. There are finger nail marks and teeth marks in the wood!
After 1800 the executions at Lancaster Castle took place at “Hanging Corner”, in an angle between the tower and the wall. On the ground floor of the tower is the “Drop Room” which contains relics of the many executions, including the last hanging rope ever used and the hangman’s bell. The sound of that bell reaches right inside you.
Lancaster Castle is still used as a Crown Court
The smaller court room (not shown), which is also still a working court today, still has the original hand ‘holdfast’ and branding iron in the dock.
The A-Wing where you can view cells used up until 2011 – very claustrophobic.
Our tour guide was extremely well informed about the history and I learnt so much. The castle is very atmospheric with such a vast history in every corner. I had no idea it was still an active court and had been a prison until 2011. This place really captures the history of crime, punishment and culture through the ages. You could feel the suffering that has taken place within the walls.
For more information visit Lancaster Castle
Have you ever visited any similar places? I would be really interested to know of anywhere similar that has such a long history.