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Norwich Castle mound to be surveyed as part of ambitious keep project

PUBLISHED: 19:46 17 December 2017 | UPDATED: 15:49 18 December 2017

Norwich Castle will host different events during Heritage Open Days. Picture: Nick Butcher

Norwich Castle will host different events during Heritage Open Days. Picture: Nick Butcher

Archant © 2017

A special survey of Norwich Castle’s mound is to begin next month as the ambitious quest to return the castle’s keep back to how it was in its days as a medieval royal palace gathers pace.

Norwich Castle as Royal Palace: An artist's impression of the Castle Keep with the reinstated Norman layout.Norwich Castle as Royal Palace: An artist's impression of the Castle Keep with the reinstated Norman layout.

The £13.5m Norwich Castle: Gateway to Medieval England project aims to re-imagine the castle’s keep as it was in the days of the Norman kings, including recreating the keep’s main Norman floor and great hall. Building work is due to begin in 2019 but before this extensive research work must be completed.

Tim Pestell, senior curator of archaeology, said: “We are working away on getting the architects plans finished and we are getting all sorts of surveys done. We are looking to do an archaeological excavation in the basement to understand that area more. We also need to understand how the mound is constructed to understand what sort of weight capacity it has.”

He explained further: “We’ve taken the prison display out along with all the other displays in the basement, to be able to lift the Victorian floor which it was sitting on, to be able to do an archaeological excavation, to be able to dig one-metre deep pits, to be able to get the auger rig in to drill the boreholes to work out what the mound is made of and how it is made up.”

Dr Pestell said this would help inform decisions on how best to rebuild the keep’s Norman floor and that the process may also help them understand more about what was there before the castle.

The Keep Giving campaign at Norwich Castle, encouraging people to Adopt an Object from the castle keep. The castle keep which will soon be changing from how it looks today. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYThe Keep Giving campaign at Norwich Castle, encouraging people to Adopt an Object from the castle keep. The castle keep which will soon be changing from how it looks today. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

“There was a timber castle on the mound and then the mound was extended, can we find anything to do with that or has that all been totally destroyed? “There’s lots of really interesting questions to ask,” he said.

Meanwhile fundraising continues. The project is being supported by Heritage Lottery Fund, and the castle’s £50,000 Keep Giving public fundraising campaign has raised more than £17,500 via donations and the Keep Adopting scheme which invites people to adopt historic artefacts.

“Keep Giving has been enormously helpful so if people want to help make a difference to the project we are urging them to get involved,” Dr Pestell said.

“It’s absolutely fundamental because it is not just money coming towards the project, it’s a very genuine indication of people’s popular support for the project.”

Norwich Castle Museum. The castle keep. Picture : ANTONY KELLYNorwich Castle Museum. The castle keep. Picture : ANTONY KELLY

For more about Keep Adopting and Keep Giving, visit www.adoptanobject.co.uk



A CASTLE FIT FOR A KING’S CHRISTMAS FEAST

King Henry I was thought to have stayed at Norwich Castle for Christmas 1121.

While not much is known about actual events at the time, it is thought the castle keep’s great hall could have been the setting for an elaborate feast with Henry I’s large entourage, which would have also included government and religious figures.

“Christmas 1121 would have been the first time he spent Christmas with his new wife, Adeliza of Louvain, so he was probably looking to impress her by doing something special, so it is quite likely it was a big important event here,” said research assistant Dickon Whitewood.

Henry I's Great Seal. He is depicted as a mounted knight, ready to defend his domains in England and Normandy.
Photo: Norfolk Museums ServiceHenry I's Great Seal. He is depicted as a mounted knight, ready to defend his domains in England and Normandy. Photo: Norfolk Museums Service

“We do not know but what we can assume happened was that not only would there have been feasting and religious celebration, but that Christmas was also the time that the king would have a formal crown wearing.”

From December 20 to January 3 the castle is running a From Field to Feast programme of activities for families to discover how people would have prepared for a medieval seasonal feast. Visit www.museums.norfolk.gov.uk

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