Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery
One of Norwich’s most famous landmarks, Norwich Castle was built by the Normans as a Royal Palace over 900 years ago, however no Norman kings ever lived there. The only time Henry I is known to have stayed at Norwich Castle was for Christmas in 1121. From around 1067 the Normans began demolishing roughly 100 Saxon homes in Norwich to make way for the castle earthworks within which they built a wooden fort, surrounded by deep defensive dry ditches. After the land settled, work began on the stone keep in 1094 by King William II. Following his death in 1100 work continued under his brother King Henry I and was completed by 1121.
Used as a prison from the 14th century, the Castle became a museum in 1894. Packed with treasures to inspire and intrigue visitors of all ages, its outstanding collections of fine art, archaeology and natural history are of national importance and include the best collections anywhere of paintings by the Norwich School of Artists and the world’s largest collection of ceramic teapots.
There is so much for visitors to see and do at Norwich Castle, including visiting the Castle Keep - the heart of the Norman Castle, learning about Boudica and the Romans and the story of the Celtic rebellion against the Romans. Find out about Anglo Saxons and Vikings and the turbulent era between Roman occupation and the Norman Conquest and view the Egyptian collection to gain an insight into ancient Egyptian culture. Discover the Natural History gallery and browse the wide variety of specimens on show and learn about the individual pieces and collections as well as about the explorers who collected them. Learn about the Royal Norfolk Regiment and discover their rich archive that illustrates the Royal Norfolk Regiment’s 300-year history.
Norwich Castle Keep - enter through the Bigod arch, one of the finest examples of 12th century stone carving in existence and the original entrance to the Norman Royal Palace. Explore the Norman toilets, the dark well, the King’s chapel and discover the 900-year-old spiral staircase before getting dressed up as royalty and taking your place on the throne. There are displays on two floors to browse that are considered to be internationally significant, as well as beautiful objects loaned by the British Museum.
Boudica and the Romans - Boudica, great warrior Queen of the Iceni, a Celtic tribe that lived in the area now covered by Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire during the late Iron Age. Learn about the Queen and her revolt against the Romans in AD60-61. View recreated scenes, take coin rubbings, handle objects, watch an animation about the Iceni Queen and even take a ‘ride’ on a reproduction wooden chariot, the type used by Boudica herself as she led her people into battle.
Anglo Saxons and Vikings - Norwich Castle has one of the most significant collections of Anglo-Saxon material in the country with over 900 objects on display. This includes ’Spong Man’, a 6th century ceramic cremation pot lid that was excavated from Spong Hill, North Elmham in Norfolk. It is the earliest known three-dimensional depiction of an Anglo-Saxon person. One of the most exciting items on display is also one of the smallest. It is a tiny, double-sided gold seal bearing a depiction of the 7th century Frankish Queen Bathild on one side and a secret, erotic scene on the other. It is likely it was owned by the Queen herself and was originally part of a swivelling finger ring and was found in 1999 in a Norfolk field.
The Egyptians - Discover a small but significant collection of artefacts that date from around 2500 to 4500 years old in the Egyptian Gallery at Norwich Castle. Many of these have been donated by wealthy travellers such as Jeremiah Colman, who visited Egypt in the 19th century, and Henry Rider Haggard, author of ‘King Solomon’s Mines’. View the mummy of Ankh Hor, a priest who worked in the temple of Amun in Karnak around 3000 years ago.
Natural History Gallery - The Natural History Gallery in Norwich Castle showcases a rich plethora of exhibits including mammals, reptiles, birds, fish, insect and plant specimens and fossils, as well as scientific equipment, both historical and modern, that have been used in the study of the natural world.
Art - View stunning and important works by artists such as John Crome, John Sell Cotman, Sir Alfred Munnings, Thomas Gainsborough, William Hogarth, Edward Burne-Jones and members of the Dutch School. Look out for the soaring oil on canvas of the Tower of Babel by Tobias Verhaecht, the magnificent 17th century painting ‘The Paston Treasure’, commissioned to display a family’s extravagant collection. The Norwich Union and Bernard Matthews exhibition galleries host a varied programme and have previously played host to works by Constable, Picasso, Hans Holbein the Younger, Titian, Manet and Jeff Koons. There are also paintings and sketches by artists who all share a love of East Anglia and have called Norfolk home at some point in their lives, such as Alfred Munnings, John Arnseby Brown and Edward Seago.
The Royal Norfolk Regiment Galleries - Discover the rich and varied collection of objects, photographs and archive material that illustrates the county Regiment’s 300-year history. View medals, weaponry and uniforms and learn about what life was like for a soldier in peace time and conflict. Listen to poignant letters from soldiers and see detailed sketches by a Norwich architect of his accommodation and dugouts in 1915-16. By the touch of a button, watch as they transform into 3D models.
Talks and Tours - Enjoy talks and tours at Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery. These include guided tours of the castle keep, battlements, dungeons and Victorian Shirehall courthouse. Further details can be found by going to their website.
Norwich Castle Study Centre - This is used by researchers from around the world to investigate the internationally important collections that are kept at Norwich Castle, including fine, contemporary and decorative art, natural history, archaeology, the Royal Norfolk Regiment and costume and textiles.
Venue Hire - Parts of Norwich Castle Museum are available for private hire and film hire. To find out more, please visit their website.
Shop - The shop is free to visit and has a good selection of local crafts, including pottery and jewellery as well as castle souvenirs, soft toys, dressing up attire, posters, prints and an extensive range of greetings cards and books.
Café - Norwich Castle café serves an excellent variety of hot and cold food and drink throughout the day. There is also a picnic room for those who prefer to bring their own food, available at weekends and in school holidays. When the weather is good, visitors can sit and eat their picnics at one of the tables outside on the castle mound, whilst enjoying a panoramic view over the city of Norwich.
To find out more about Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery, including opening times, admission costs, venue hire and upcoming events and exhibitions, please go to their website.
Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery, Market Avenue, Norwich, Norfolk, NR1 3JQ
Tel: 01603 493625
Norfolk Museums Pass
Having a Norfolk Museums Pass allows you to explore ten of the best Norfolk museums with unlimited admissions throughout the year. It is great value for money and makes the perfect gift for friends and family who enjoy history, exploring museums, art galleries and historic buildings and can be enjoyed the whole year through. There are a number of annual subscriptions available, including single, joint and family options and further details can be found on the website below.
A timeline of Norwich
Read about some of Norwich’s most important dates in history, including when Norwich Castle, Norwich Cathedral and other historic and important buildings were built. When the Black Death reached Norwich, Kett’s Rebellion and when devasting fires hit the city. See important dates in history for Jarrold Department Store, Colman’s Mustard, The University of East Anglia, Norwich International Airport and Norwich City Football Club.
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Official website for information on Norwich Castle