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Weird Norfolk: Norwich Castle’s Top 5 Weird Exhibits

PUBLISHED: 12:16 28 April 2017 | UPDATED: 14:30 28 April 2017

Norwich Castle. 
Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Norwich Castle. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2016

We sent our Weird Norfolk correspondent to Norwich Castle Museum to select her top five weird and wonderful exhibits.

Norwich Castle Museum dominates the city centre, looking down from on high from its huge motte, a quiet observer of Norwich life since 1100.

Bought by the City of Norwich in 1887, it opened as a gargantuan cabinet of curiosities in 1895 and is a veritable Aladdin’s Cave for those who are enchanted by the obscure, the quirky, the thought-provoking, the bizarre and the magically macabre.

Alongside its more traditional museum exhibits of archaeological finds and impressive paintings, a little bit of exploring reveals some unexpected and unusual treasures.

Nestled in the taxidermy galleries you’ll discover the preserved remains of a rare little liger cub, a hybrid cross between a male lion and a female tiger, which grow up to be the largest breed of cat in the world and a four legged duckling, the result of a rare mutation.

Meanwhile, a close inspection of the model castle in the basement of the keep will reveal a pair of tiny gallows with their victims still hanging – Saturday was the day when prisoners would be hung on the bridge between the two gatehouses, attracting crowds of up to 30,000 onlookers (‘gallows days’ are where today’s phrase ‘gala day’ comes from). The last public hanging at Norwich Castle was in 1867.

The castle’s basement and dungeons are home to a number of haunting exhibits including the chains and shackles used to restrain prisoners, a pair of stocks, a gibbet iron, a scold’s bridle and a collection of death masks taken from the corpses of infamous local criminals which were studied by phrenologists looking for physical traits shared by criminals.

These models of the heads of hanged men are so detailed that they show every feature of the faces, including the rope marks around elongated necks.

A simple looking lead plate in the Boudica Gallery is actually a plea to Neptune to punish a thief for stealing a number of items – as an incentive, the curse issuer promises the God of the sea a pair of leggings if he obliged. The curse tablet asks Neptune to intervene in the case of a theft and was discovered on the bank of the River Tas in 1981 near Caistor St Edmund in Norfolk.

* What are your favourite exhibits at the Castle Museum? Let us know!

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