KEEP­ING UP WITH THE Con­quer­ers

One of the big­gest trans­for­ma­tions of Nor­wich Cas­tle in its near thou­sandyear his­tory will re­store it to its pala­tial hey­day

EDP Norfolk - - Heritage -

NOR­WICH CAS­TLE was once a royal palace as well as a for­mi­da­ble fortress and ex­quis­ite ex­am­ple of the very grand­est of Nor­man ar­chi­tec­ture. Wil­liam the Con­queror’s son feasted here when king him­self, it was be­sieged and cap­tured, and home to aris­to­crats, top gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials, sol­diers and ser­vants.

Over the next three years a project to re-imag­ine one of the most elab­o­rate cas­tles in Europe will trans­form it, colour­ing in its mag­nif­i­cent past and show­ing off its finest fea­tures.

Where pre­vi­ous projects have cre­ated much-needed ex­tra back-room fa­cil­i­ties, Nor­wich Cas­tle: Gate­way to Me­dieval Eng­land, is fo­cused on how

vis­i­tors will ex­pe­ri­ence the cas­tle.

Some parts of the Nor­man build­ing will be open to the pub­lic for the first time, others will look com­pletely dif­fer­ent as time is re­wound and floors re­placed, door­ways re­dis­cov­ered and mu­seum arte­facts re­dis­played to tell the story of the cas­tle, Nor­wich and Nor­folk.

The £13m project will be funded with grants in­clud­ing £9.2m from the Her­itage Lottery Fund,

“Noth­ing like this has been done be­fore. It’s huge for Nor­wich, Nor­folk and the whole re­gion,” said Dr John Davies, chief cu­ra­tor for Nor­folk Mu­seum Ser­vice and project leader. “The idea is to draw peo­ple’s at­ten­tion to the im­por­tance of Nor­wich Cas­tle na­tion­ally and the of­fer Nor­wich has as its city and Nor­folk as its county.

“The whole of the in­te­rior of the keep has been lost and we want to re­in­state the lost el­e­ments. It’s the big­gest thing that any of us will ever be in­volved in. This is go­ing to be leav­ing our legacy for gen­er­a­tions.”

Prepara­tory work is al­ready ex­cit­ing his­to­ri­ans. “We think there may be an ear­lier me­dieval great hall im­me­di­ately out­side the cur­rent keep. That’s a re­ally spec­tac­u­lar dis­cov­ery,” said John. “We are even ques­tion­ing the dat­ing of the cas­tle.”

Miss­ing floors will be re­built to recre­ate the royal place of Henry I with its mag­nif­i­cent Great Hall. The Nor­man ar­chae­ol­ogy and ar­chi­tec­ture will be brought to life with real sto­ries from the time, and na­tion­ally im­por­tant me­dieval trea­sures will go on show in a new Bri­tish Mu­seum part­ner­ship gallery. This will show off some of the cas­tle’s re­mark­able me­dieval col­lec­tions, re­veal­ing what daily life was like in the cas­tle and its city and county nine cen­turies ago, chart­ing the de­vel­op­ment of me­dieval science and en­gi­neer­ing, and high­light­ing Nor­folk’s con­nec­tions with the rest of the world.

From the panoramic views from the top of the cas­tle, through the fight­ing gallery, to deep be­low the Nor­man mas­ter­piece, the project aims to re­store the build­ing with new in­sights into an­cient his­tory.

Next month vis­i­tors are in­vited to a free evening at the cas­tle to try out some of the high-tech pos­si­bil­i­ties for the back-tothe-fu­ture project. They will be able to try vir­tual and aug­mented re­al­ity screens and head­sets, plus their own smart­phones, to see the cas­tle keep in some of its 12th cen­tury glory, thronged with me­dieval mer­ry­mak­ers, sol­diers and ser­vants, its miss­ing floors mag­i­cally re­in­stated and its role as a royal palace, and be­sieged fortress, tem­po­rar­ily re­stored, as part of the con­sul­ta­tion and eval­u­a­tion for the Gate­way to Me­dieval Eng­land project. The free drop-in evening, called Dig­i­tal Takeover, runs from 5-10pm on Satur­day, Oc­to­ber 28.

Re-en­ac­tor Lee War­den as a me­dieval knight on the fight­ing gallery of Nor­wich Cas­tle, which the pub­lic can ac­cess on the new fight­ing gallery tour

Above: John Davies, chief cu­ra­tor at Nor­wich Cas­tle Mu­seum

Left: The launch of the Nor­wich Cas­tle keep project ‘Gate­way to Me­dieval Eng­land’

Be­low: Nor­wich Cas­tle as royal palace; an artist’s im­pres­sion of the cas­tle keep with the re­in­stated Nor­man lay­out

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