Lancaster Castle

Lancashire, England

City/Town/Village: Lancaster
County: Lancashire
Latitude/Longitude: 54.0499, -2.80592

Owner

HM Prison

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Lancaster Castle is a Listed Building. Here's what the official description says about it:


LANCASTER

SD4761NW CASTLE PARK
1685-1/6/59 (North side)
18/02/70 Lancaster Castle
(Formerly Listed as:
CASTLE HILL
Lancaster Castle)

GV I

Castle, now prison and courthouses. Occupies part of the site
of a Roman fort. Principal dates of construction of the
surviving structure are c1150, when the keep was erected;
c1200 (parts of Hadrian's Tower, fragments of curtain wall
running north and east from the tower, some masonry in the
Gatehouse passageway, and the lower part of the Well Tower);
early C15 (the Gatehouse and Well Tower). The upper storey of
the keep is probably C15 and was re-modelled in 1585.
Extensive additions were made from 1788 onwards to the designs
of Thomas Harrison. The Governor's house was the first of the
new buildings. The former Crown Hall at the west was rebuilt
and extended to the north to include a new Crown Court (1798)
and circular Grand Jury Room. To the west a new Shire Hall was
built on a 7-sided semicircular plan. The female felons'
prison was completed in 1793, and the male felons' prison to
the north was also built in the 1790s. Following a break, work
continued under the supervision of JM Gandy in 1802: the
interior of the Crown Court was completed, and the female
penitentiary was added in 1818-21.
The walls are of sandstone ashlar and rubble with roofs of
slate and lead. All the buildings are linked to form an
irregular polygon on plan with a central courtyard.
The Gatehouse, of 3 storeys and with 2 towers which have
projections of semi-octagonal plan, linked by a passageway
arch which dies into the reveals, and have machicolations and
embattled parapets. To each side square turrets, with taller
stair turrets, rise above the parapets. Above the gateway a
niche contains a statue of John O'Gaunt by Claud Nimmo,
installed in 1822, flanked by shields of arms of Henry V when
Prince of Wales (1407 - 1413).
The former female penitentiary on the south side of the
courtyard is linked to the gatehouse by the former female
felons' prison. Of 5 storeys and semicircular plan with its
curved wall facing a small yard formed by the curtain wall to
the south. The interior contains cells, 9 to each floor,
radiating from landings with cast-iron stairs.
Within the yard the wall extending from the cell block towards
the west contains rubble masonry from the curtain wall of
c1200. This forms the south wall of the former debtors' rooms,
added by Harrison, a range of buildings which is continued
towards the north where it abuts the parallel Crown Court
range, and returns towards the east against the south wall of
the keep. The north-south range, which forms the west side of
the courtyard, has cantilevered stone staircases at each end.
The keep is of 4 storeys. The east wall contains the blocked
round-arched first-floor entrance doorway and now has a
3-light mullioned and transomed window. On the ground floor
are 2 doorways with pointed wave-moulded arches. Some
round-headed window openings with angle shafts remain,
including 2 at first-floor level in the north wall. On the
north side the battlements have a plaque inscribed 'ER RA
[Ralph Assheton] 1585'. Internally, the tower is divided into
2 compartments by a spine wall. At ground-floor level 2 of the
massive timber posts which support the first floor are visible
in the southern half.
The former Male Felons' prison, to the north, built on a
radial plan with 2 cell blocks of 5 storeys linked by a
rebuilt curtain wall. The western block has been altered by
the addition of a late C19 range of cells. Between this block
and the Keep is the former Execution Yard, with a blocked
'Hanging Doorway' in the curtain wall. The eastern cell block
is relatively unaltered and used for storage, with each floor
having 2 groups of 4 cells, separated by a spine wall and
served by 2 landings. The original cast-iron doors remain.
The Well Tower on the west side of the courtyard is of
rectangular plan with a long flight of stone steps leading
down to a cellar. To the north of the steps a niche contains a
well. The stonework of the pointed cellar vault has mortar
which retains the impression of the wattle centering used in
its construction.
The former GOVERNOR'S HOUSE, to the south, has the centre of
its facade canted forwards and has Gothick windows.
At the west of the complex are the courtrooms and associated
buildings. The Crown Court range was built partly on the site
of the earlier Crown Hall and has semicircular north and south
terminations: to the south is the re-cased Hadrian's Tower and
to the north the new Grand Jury Room. Projecting on the west
side is the Shire Hall, with a ground-floor arcade of Tudor
arches, with a walkway above, and with pointed windows
lighting the Hall itself. All the openings have Perpendicular
tracery.
INTERIORS. Gatehouse: the upper rooms of the towers contain
cambered roof beams carried on corbelled wall posts. A
corridor above the entrance passage contains the following
graffito incised into the stone: 'John Bailey Committed April
ye 15th, 1741 by Brindle, for kissing', together with a
drawing of a fiddle.
Inside the Shire Hall an elliptical arch spans the full width
of the courtroom, its wide soffit decorated with blind tracery
plasterwork. Below, the east wall contains 3 pointed windows
above a continuous Gothick plasterwork canopy, added by Gandy.
In front of the arch the ribs of the ceiling vault radiate
from a central boss and spring from 7 clustered sandstone
columns which form an ambulatory around the outside wall. To
each side of the judge's seat are jury boxes, and benches are
arranged in a segmental pattern: the woodwork is in a Gothic
style and was supplied by Gillows.
The Crown Court was decorated by Gandy and has Gothic woodwork
which includes a canopy over the judge's chair.
The Grand Jury Room is vaulted and has curved Gothic doors.
Hadrian's Tower now has exposed stonework internally, squared
below and of rubble above. The circular gallery was added in
1892 when the tower was excavated to its present level. At
gallery level is a blocked round-arched opening of c1200.
To the north of Hadrian's Tower there is a barrel-vaulted
corridor under the site of the old hall. Opening off it are 5
barrel-vaulted cells with timber doors, possibly used
originally as stables but in use as prison cells by the C18.
(Transactions of the Historical Society of Lancashire &
Cheshire: Cox, E W: Lancaster Castle: 1896-: 94-122; Champness
J: Lancaster Castle, a brief history: 1993-).


Listing NGR: SD4734661889

Information from British Listed Buildings


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