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Watch: Stephen Fry lends support to Norwich Castle transformation in new short film

PUBLISHED: 18:24 09 February 2018 | UPDATED: 18:34 09 February 2018

Stephen Fry. Picture: Matthew Usher.

Stephen Fry. Picture: Matthew Usher.

© ARCHANT NORFOLK 2015

As a major new exhibition puts a spotlight on the 900 years of history at Norwich Castle, author, actor and all round national treasure Stephen Fry has voiced a new video looking at the past, present and future of this amazing city landmark.

The model of the Castle and its defences and boundaries as they were in the 12th century, in the Square Box on the Hill exhibition of the history of Norwich Castle. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYThe model of the Castle and its defences and boundaries as they were in the 12th century, in the Square Box on the Hill exhibition of the history of Norwich Castle. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Launched online to coincide with the opening of The Square Box on the Hill exhibition, the short film takes people over the skyline of the city and into the castle while Mr Fry speaks of its vast history, the new exhibition, and the ambitious Gateway to Medieval England project that aims to re-imagine the castle’s keep as it was in the days of the Norman kings.

“People often say if stones could speak what a story they could tell. In the case of Norwich Castle it is almost a millennium of stories,” he says, reflecting on its past as a royal palace, a prison and now a museum.

“The Square Box On The Hill lifts the lid on this marvellous box of delights and shows how it will continue to inspire for the next 900 years.”

He praises the way the £13.5m Gateway to Medieval England project, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, aims to bring the castle’s royal past back to the fore.

Norwich Castle.
Picture: ANTONY KELLYNorwich Castle. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

“The final section of the show looks at the exciting plans to bring the story full circle through the Norwich Castle: Gateway to Medieval England Project, a project I’m proud to be the patron of. The transformation this project will bring about will enable visitors to experience the castle in its original form - the Great Hall and palatial residence of Norman kings.

“The castle was first conceived in the years after the Norman Conquest as a symbol of power expressed in stone, designed to impress and awe everyone who approached its walls. This project will bring that past to life.”

Paris Agar is the curator of The Square Box on the Hill which opens tomorrow, and she said the exhibition also aims to give visitors a chance play a part in the landmark’s future and share their memories of its past.

“We have the very latest architectural plans for the Gateway to Medieval England project and because the exhibition is on for four months it gives the opportunity for the public to feed back their views,” she said. “As you leave the exhibition we also have a memory board with a live social media feed with the hashtag #SquareBoxNorwich and we will have a constant feed of people’s memories coming through.”

A 14th century copper alloy roundel boundary marker in the Square Box on the Hill exhibition of the history of Norwich Castle. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYA 14th century copper alloy roundel boundary marker in the Square Box on the Hill exhibition of the history of Norwich Castle. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The Square Box on the Hill opens tomorrow at Norwich Castle and runs until June 3. Visit www.museums.norfolk.gov.uk/norwich-castle



Curator Paris Agar picks out a highlight from each section of the exhibition

Medieval palace: “We have archeaological finds from the medieval period including a walrus ivory bobbin which was found in the keep basement in the 1970s and actually dates to when the castle was a royal palace.”

Prison: “We have the original architectural plans by Sir John Soane...Very quickly though his prison was deemed unfit and insecure. An advert went out for new designs for the prison and we have three entries which show what the castle could have looked like.”

Conversion: “The two men responsible for the conversion of the castle from prison to museum were John Gurney and Edward Boardman. Unfortunately John Gurney was blinded by a riding accident so Edward Boardman created plans out of sand to act as braille. These are the original plans and what is really special about them is these proved Edward Boardman wanted to put the full [Norman] floor back in the keep.”

The model of the Castle and its defences and boundaries as they were in the 12th century, in the Square Box on the Hill exhibition of the history of Norwich Castle. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYThe model of the Castle and its defences and boundaries as they were in the 12th century, in the Square Box on the Hill exhibition of the history of Norwich Castle. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Museum: “We have installed the revolving doors which were at the entrance to the castle from 1964 to 2000 into the exhibition so you can walk through them and be transported into the present day.”

Future: “One of my favourite things is a sample of a tapestry being created by volunteers. It will be 15 metres long and adorn the Great Hall in the keep.”

A stone from the Castle Keep of two carved figures perhaps kneeling in prayer on view in the Square Box on the Hill exhibition of the history of Norwich Castle. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYA stone from the Castle Keep of two carved figures perhaps kneeling in prayer on view in the Square Box on the Hill exhibition of the history of Norwich Castle. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

A stone with words in French Norman carved into it by Bartholomew Truly, A stone with words in French Norman carved into it by Bartholomew Truly, "Bartholomew Truly wrongfully and without reason I am shut in this prison" written in the 14th century when the Castle first became the County Gaol, and part of the Square Box on the Hill exhibition of the history of Norwich Castle. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Technician Sandra Martins, at work setting up the model of the Castle Keep as a Royal Palace in the Square Box on the Hill exhibition of the history of Norwich Castle. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYTechnician Sandra Martins, at work setting up the model of the Castle Keep as a Royal Palace in the Square Box on the Hill exhibition of the history of Norwich Castle. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

A model of the centre of the museum in 1948 showing a fountain court encased by cloisters which is thought to be a precursor to the Rotunda today, on show in the Square Box on the Hill exhibition of the history of Norwich Castle. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYA model of the centre of the museum in 1948 showing a fountain court encased by cloisters which is thought to be a precursor to the Rotunda today, on show in the Square Box on the Hill exhibition of the history of Norwich Castle. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

An example of the tapestry which can be touched in the Square Box on the Hill exhibition of the history of Norwich Castle. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYAn example of the tapestry which can be touched in the Square Box on the Hill exhibition of the history of Norwich Castle. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

A sample of the tapestry to be made in the Gateway to Medieval England project on display in the Square Box on the Hill exhibition of the history of Norwich Castle. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYA sample of the tapestry to be made in the Gateway to Medieval England project on display in the Square Box on the Hill exhibition of the history of Norwich Castle. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Paris Agar, curator of the Square Box on the Hill exhibition of the history of Norwich Castle, with the suit of Japanese samurai armour from the Museum's collection. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYParis Agar, curator of the Square Box on the Hill exhibition of the history of Norwich Castle, with the suit of Japanese samurai armour from the Museum's collection. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Paris Agar, curator of the Square Box on the Hill exhibition. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYParis Agar, curator of the Square Box on the Hill exhibition. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

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