Norwich Castle in the city of Norwich was built on the orders of William I (the conqueror). Some 98 Saxon houses are thought to have been demolished in 1067 to make way for the castle. Originally constructed in wood, the castle was surrounded by dry defensive ditches which were very deep.
The castle was held for the king by Earl Ralf of East Anglia. In 1075, Earl Ralph along with two other Earls plotted against the king. The king learnt of the plot and Earl Ralph fled to Brittany. His wife remained at the castle and after a three month seige, was allowed to join her husband in Brittany and the the garrison were promised they wouldn’t be harmed.
In the Domesday Book of 1086, Norwich Castle is one of the 48 or 49 castles mentioned.
In 1094, work began on constructing the castle in stone on the orders of King William II (William Rufus). William died in 1100 and it then fell to his brother King Henry I to complete the castle. The castle was finally completed in 1121. The castle didn’t take the form of a normal castle, it was intended as a royal palace. No kings ever lived there permanently, Henry I is the only king known to have stayed at the castle at Christmas 1121.
The keep was constructed out of limestone from Caen in Normandy, France. The design of the castle as a palace was later copied in other castles such as nearby Castle Rising, in Norfolk. The castle originally had flint faced walls at ground level with limestone facing on the upper level.
In 1173-1174, Henry II’s sons and wife lead a revolt against his rule. Hugh Bigod, 1st Earl of Norfolk, one of the local nobility joined Henry’s sons and wife in the revolt. Along with hundreds of his own men and some Flemish soldiers, he captured Norwich Castle. The castle would later be restored to the crown when the conflict was ended when Henry’s children were reconciled to him.
The castle was used as the county gaol from the 14th Century and buildings were erected on the motte for this purpose. It was used for this purpose until the 1790s when a new prison was constructed around the keep, with the old buildings being demolished to make way for the new prison.
The buildings around the keep became quickly outdated and were pulled down between 1822 and 1827. Between 1834 and 1839, the keep was refaced, this refacing was said to be sympathetic to the original architecture of the castle. This refacing was done with Bath stone.
The castle ‘s life as the county gaol would come to an end in 1883, when it it was purchased by the City of Norwich and converted for use as a museum, which opened in 1894.
Today Norwich Castle still operates as a museum and is open to the public.