'A palace reborn': Inside the £13.5m revamp of Norwich Castle

Castle Norwich Royal Palace Reborn project

The Castle reform is well underway. Inset: Hannah Jackson, project manager. - Credit: Hannah Jackson

When Covid ran rampant through Norwich bosses behind the transformation of its castle were worried that the multi-million pound project would be thrown into disarray.

But the work - one of the largest heritage projects currently under development in the UK - is running right on time. 

Hannah Jackson, project manager for the plan named Royal Palace Reborn, is confident in the processes put in place.

She said: "We did a lot of work with our contractor back in 2020 to build in Covid measures while working; factoring in additional cleaning time and social distancing so we didn't fall behind schedule.

"It was difficult as I think we were all still trying to figure out what exactly Covid was but we did the best we could."

The measures were also carried over into the digital space.

Ms Jackson added: "We had to look at different ways of working and move quickly to set up remote meetings with designers to architects.

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"It really changed how we delivered the project - from meeting face-to-face, to having weekly meetings and sharing designs through a computer screen."

Norwich Castle Archaeology team excavating location of new toilet block

Oxford Archaeology excavating the location of a new toilet block - Credit: Hannah Jackson

Now with the project in full swing and still within its £13.5 million budget, Ms Jackson is excited for the castle's future.

She added: "There's so much untapped history there which we haven't been able to show off, which we're trying to get back through this project."

The castle is to undergo a full five-level revamp of the Norman Keep, from basement to battlements, for the first time in its 900 year history.

She said: "We are hopeful to have certain areas finished this year as we have divided up the work.

"So we'll have a new shop, restaurant, education space and toilet block ready by the end of 2022, with the five levels of the keep ready for 2023."

Work being done within Norwich Castle for new toilet block

Steel beam being lowered down for the new toilet block as part of Royal Palace Reborn - Credit: Hannah Jackson

Ms Jackson couldn't hide her excitement at the prospect of the public finally visiting the site, saying: "This will be a great opportunity to explore Norwich from such heights, with its fascinating medieval heritage.  

"We want the it to become a symbol of something positive in the city and for those who hold Norwich in great affection."

History of Norwich castle

Following on from the Norman conquest in 1066 and around the time of the Battle of Hastings, the Normans tore down almost 100 Anglo Saxon homes in the centre of Norwich.

It provided the groundwork for the castle the city is known for today.

Norwich Castle was originally designed to be a royal palace instead of a fortification, even though no Kings ever lived in it.

Around the turn of the 14th century the keep was used as a county gaol before a prison was constructed inside the castle walls in 1792.

In 1883 work began on converting the site into a museum, with Edward Boardman commissioned to convert the castle's prison and keep.

After 11 years of hard work, Norwich Castle opened up as a museum, displaying trinkets and works from the earlier Norfolk and Norwich Museum.