Record Details

NHER Number:30
Type of record:Monument
Name:Castle Keep, Norwich Castle


William Fitzobern built the Castle Keep around 1120 on the site of the earlier timber and earth motte and bailey. It stands to the southwest of the original Castle motte and was built in at least two stages using some imported French stone. Since its construction it has been subject to numerous repairs and modifications. This is evidenced by the fact that much of the current façade is of 19th century date and intended to closely replicate the Norman stonework. Investigations here since the 1960s have recovered several small finds including a specimen of Caen stone, medieval and later pottery sherds and animal bones. This work has also established that the building was carefully laid out to a preconceived plan with internal space divided coherently and more recently has recorded the form and details of The Great Arch in the Bigod Tower.

Images - none


Grid Reference:TG 23159 08504
Map Sheet:TG20NW

Full description

Built by William Fitzobern in about 1067 AD on site of ninety-eight Late Saxon houses.

Norwich Castle Keep was converted from a prison into a museum. A copy of architect E. Boardman's plans for converting the Keep is held at Norfolk record Office (S16). During the conversion work the well was emptied and although no detailed records were made of the work, a assemblage animal bone, shell, 16th/17th century pottery and a medieval pewter flagon were retained (NWHCM: 1890.54). The pewter flagon has a zoomorphic handle and is likely of 14th century date.
See article (S17) and photographs (S18).
A. Beckham (HES), 6 May 2020 and 19 May 2021.

1967. Specimen of Caen stone found while Rotunda being built.

1971. Historical survey and general description.
See (S1).
S. Howard (HES), 28 October 2011.

1972. Medieval and later pottery and animal bones from trenches below floor of keep basement. Wall footings identified. A unidentified object made of walrus ivory was also recovered (S15).
Amended by A. Beckham (HES), 20 March 2020.

1975. Trenches through dungeon onto entrance door. Much medieval/post medieval material.

1982. Building Survey.
Survey by [1] that sought to clarify the evolution of the design and internal planning of the keep.
See preliminary report (S2), and final report in (S3) for further details.
Amended by P. Watkins (HES), 15 October 2015.

1986. Excavation.
Small-scale excavations by NAU as part of survey of keep by [1].
Uncovered evidence of earlier plan of building.
Late 11th-century deposits located. Evidence of rebuilding of north wall.
See report in (S3) for further details. See (S4)/(S5) for a shorter summary of the results of this work.
Amended by P. Watkins (HES), 15 October 2015.

April 1997-July 1998. Architectural Survey.
Recording of the exterior stonework of the keep. A photogrammetric survey of the exterior of the keep was used as the basis for this work. Detailed examination of the stonework, mostly dating from the complete refacing carried out in the 1820s and 1830s, allowed the decorative mock joints incised by the 19th century stonemasons to be differentiated from the 'true' joints that divided the different blocks of stone. The different types of stone used on the exterior of the keep were identified, and surviving elements of the Norman keep were recorded. These included a large corbel drain support reused in the south face, a Caen stone arch at the base of the north side of the Bigod tower and three separate areas of Caen stone, both reused and in situ, on the east face. Further surviving Caen stone was located behind the Bath stone façade in the window reveals of the west face. The Norman chimney flue systems on the central buttress of the south face and on the north east corner buttress were examined.
See report (S6) for further details.
A. Cattermole (NLA), 25 May 2007.

See notes, elevations, references and schedule in file and further details under NHER 429 (whole castle).
Material from 1986 excavation held by NCM.
For discussion of similarity of architecture to that of the cathedral see reference (S7).

2000. Photogrammetric Survey and Architectural Survey.
A small-scale research project took advantage of the emptying of the Keep during the museum redevelopment. A photogrammetric record of all the internal keep elevations was produced, and these were then enhanced to show architectural elements, features and phasing. These annotated CAD elevation are intended to act as an aid for future interpretation.
Information from (S9). For further details see digital images and annotated drawings (S13) and accompanying notes (S14).
Amended by P. Watkins (HES), 19 September 2017.

2000. Photogrammetric Survey and Architectural Survey.
Following rectified photographic recording by Hirst Conservation a drawn record was made of the condition of the newly-cleaned Great Arch. See report (S8) for further details. This work is also noted in (S12).
Amended by P. Watkins (HES), 15 October 2015.

Norwich HEART
Described by Norwich HEART as architecturally the most ambitious secular Norman building in Europe.
See (S10) and (S11).
D. Gurney (NLA), 27 January 200]9.

Monument Types

  • HOUSE (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • CASTLE (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • CASTLE (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • MOTTE (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)

Associated Finds

  • ANIMAL REMAINS (Undated)
  • POT (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • UNIDENTIFIED OBJECT (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • WORKED OBJECT (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • POT (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • SHACKLE (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)

Protected Status

  • Scheduled Monument

Sources and further reading

---Photograph: GYA, GYB, GYC, ERE, CWE-CWR.
---Drawing: Mackenzie, F. and Rawle, S. 1813. South-west view of Norwich Castle. Engraving.
---Unpublished Document: Arber, N. 1992. Notes on castle history.
---Publication: Green, B. 1970. Norwich Castle. A Fortress for Nine Centuries.
---Leaflet: Green, B. 1990. Norwich Castle. A Guide to the Castle as it was in about AD 1200. Norwich Museums Service.
---Leaflet: 2021. Norwich Castle. Royal Palace Reborn. History of Norwich Castle..
---Picture Postcard: Arber, N. 1991. Picture postcard featuring the Great Hall of Norwich Castle Keep as it may have looked about 1200. Norfolk Museums Service.
---Correspondence: Heslop, T. 1992. Correspondence about a then forthcoming publication on Norwich Castle Keep, NHER 30. 27 July.
---Unpublished Document: [Unknown]. [Unknown]. Summary of Paul Drury's History of the Castle.
---Drawing: [Unknown]. [Unknown]. Annotated copy of elevation drawings of Norwich Castle Keep. Annotated architectural elevation. [unknown].
---Unpublished Report: Drury, P. J. and Ayers, B. S. 1989. Norwich Castle Keep.
---Drawing: Drury, P. [Unknown]. Photocopy of phased plans of Norwich Castle Keep. Architectural Plan. [Unknown].
---Unpublished Document: Margeson, S. [Unknown]. Notecards on Norwich Castle Keep. Notes.
---Monograph: Jennings, S. 1981. Eighteen Centuries of Pottery from Norwich. East Anglian Archaeology. No 13.
---Drawing: Various. Various. Architectural plans.
---Record Card: Ordnance Survey Staff. 1933-1979?. Ordnance Survey Record Cards. TG 20 NW 22 [4].
---Archive: NIAS. Norfolk Industrial Archaeology Society Records.
---Monograph: Pevsner, N. and Wilson, B. 1997. Norfolk 1: Norwich and North-East. The Buildings of England. 2nd Edition. pp 256-260; Pl 7.
---Publication: Heslop, T. 1994. Norwich Castle Keep.
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1996-2000. [Articles on Norwich Castle Keep].
---Article in Serial: 1892. Norfolk and Norwich Archaeolgical Society. Report for 1889. Norfolk Archaeology. Vol XI pp i-v. pp iii-iv.
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 2011. More highs and lows. 22 March.
---Article in Serial: Green, B. 1980. Norwich Castle. The Archaeological Journal. Vol 137 pp 358-359.
---Article in Serial: Whitingham, A. 1980. Note on Norwich Castle. The Archaeological Journal. Vol 137 pp 359-360.
---Article in Serial: Wilkins, W. 1796. An Essay towards a history of the Venta Icenorum of the Romans, and of Norwich Castle, with remarks on the architecture of the Anglo-Saxons and Normans. Archaeologia. Vol XII pp 132-180.
---Record Card: Clarke, R. R. and NCM Staff. 1933-1973. Norwich Castle Museum Record Card - Norwich - Post Roman.
---Article in Serial: Shepard Popescu, E. 2004. Norwich Castle. Medieval Archaeology. Vol XLVIII pp 209-219.
---Secondary File: Secondary File.
---Slide: Various. Slide.
---Fiche: Exists.
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1998. [Articles on damaged corbels in Norwich Castle Keep].
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 2016. Fit for a king: Castle that will soon re-live its royal destiny. 15 October.
---Article in Monograph: Popescu, E. 2016. Norwich Castle. Castles and the Anglo-Norman World. Proceedings of a Conference held at Norwich Castle in 2012. Davies, J. et al (eds). pp 3-30.
---Article in Monograph: Ayer, B. 2016. '…traces of the original disposition of the whole'. Excavated evidence for the construction of Norwich Castle keep. Castles and the Anglo-Norman World. Proceedings of a Conference held at Norwich Castle in 2012. Davies, J. et al (eds). pp 31-42.
---Article in Monograph: Heslop, T. 2016. The shifting structure of Norwich Castle keep, 1096 to c. 1230. Castles and the Anglo-Norman World. Proceedings of a Conference held at Norwich Castle in 2012. Davies, J. et al (eds). pp 43-54.
---Article in Serial: Sillence, M. 2017. Continuity and Change in the Civic Seals of Norwich 1200-1600. The Coat of Arms. 3rd Series, Vol 13, No 233, pp 11-20.
<S1>Unpublished Contractor Report: Faulkner, P. A. 1971. Report on Norwich Castle Keep. Department of the Environment.
<S2>Unpublished Contractor Report: Drury, P. J. 1984. Norwich Castle Keep. A Preliminary Report on the Evolution of the Fabric and the Internal Planning of the Building. Chelmsford Archaeological Trust.
<S3>Unpublished Report: Drury, P. J., Heslop, T. A. and Ayer, B. S. 1992. Norwich Castle Keep.
<S4>Article in Serial: Ayers, B. 1986. Norwich Castle Keep. NARG News. No 45 pp 1-3.
<S5>Unpublished Report: Ayers, B. 1986. Norwich Castle Keep. Publication draft.
<S6>Unpublished Contractor Report: Whitmore, M. 2000. Norwich Castle Keep: recording of exterior stonework, 1997-98. Norfolk Archaeological Unit. 443.
<S7>Article in Monograph: Thurlby, M. 1996. The Influence of the Cathedral on Romanesque Architecture. Norwich Cathedral: Church, City and Diocese, 1096-1996. Atherton, I. et al (eds). pp 136-157. pp 150-152.
<S8>Unpublished Contractor Report: Moss, N. and Wallis, H. 2001. Recording of the masonry of The Great Arch in the Bigod Tower, and other decorative features within Norwich Castle. Norfolk Archaeological Unit. 590.
<S9>Article in Serial: Gurney, D. and Penn, K. (eds). 2001. Excavations and Surveys in Norfolk 2000. Norfolk Archaeology. XLIII Pt IV pp 707-728. p 720.
<S10>Publication: Sheehan, B.. 2008. Norwich 12: A journey through the English city..
<S11>Moving Image: Norwich Heritage Economic and Regeneration Trust (HEART). 2008. Norwich 12. A journey through the English city.. DVD.
<S12>Article in Serial: Gurney, D. and Penn, K. (eds). 2002. Excavations and Surveys in Norfolk, 2001. Norfolk Archaeology. Vol XLIV Pt I pp 162-177. p 170.
<S13>Digital Dataset: Plowman, Craven & Associates, Thomas, P. and Rutledge, T. 2000. Photogrammetic record of Norwich Castle Keep and accompanying annotated CAD drawings.
<S14>Unpublished Document: Thomas, P. and Rutledge, T. 2000. Norwich Castle Keep. A Project to Enhance and add Archaeological Observations to the Photogrammetrical Recording of the Internal Elevations..
<S15>Article in Serial: Green, B. 1973. A Romanesque ivory object from Norwich. Antiquaries Journal. Vol LIII Pt II pp 287-9.
<S17>Article in Serial: Brownsword, R. and Homer, R. F. 1991. The Norwich Castle Flagon. The Journal of the Pewter Society. Vol 8, No 2, pp 62-65.
<S18>Photograph: [Unknown]. Photographs of a medieval pewter flagon recovered from Norwich Castle's well in the late 19th century. print - black and white. black and white print.
<S18>Documentary Source: Boardman, E. 1888. Printed copy 'Norwich Castle Museum Scheme' by Edward Boardman containing 2 plans and explanation re proposed conversion into a museum. Norfolk Records Office.

Related records

Mon 539Parent of: Castle Motte Ditch (Ditch 10) (Monument)
Mon 569Parent of: Norwich Castle (Monument)
Site 1773Parent of: Norwich Castle Keep (Monument)
Site 1775Parent of: Norwich Castle Keep (Monument)
429Part of: Norwich Castle, Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery (Monument)
MNO8645Related to: Bridge over Castle moat, 2 entrance lodges, cast iron gates & railings NORWICH (Revoked)
MNO8640Related to: The Castle Mound NORWICH (Revoked)

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