Lancaster Castle
Lancaster Castle
A medieval castle on the site of an 11th-century motte, which itself was built on the site of a Roman station. There was a Saxon timber fort atop a mound here when William the Conqueror granted Lancaster to Roger de Poitou. Roger rebuilt the castle mound in Norman style sometime around 1088-90.

The castle was captured by Hubert de Burgh in 1199, and the defences strengthened with a series of banks and moats. The castle was owned by the crown until 1399 when it became a permanent part of the Duchy of Lancaster. The centre for administering the Duchy was established at Lancaster Castle, with courts, gaols, and judicial offices.

In 1314 the Scots under Robert the Bruce captured Lancaster and destroyed the castle. It is due to this destruction that we can see no trace of Saxon stonework above foundation level. It changed hands several times during the Civil War and was eventually ordered destroyed by Parliament. This was carried out, but the parts of the castle used for the gaol and courts were spared. HMP Lancaster gaol is now established within the castle walls.

The prison is not open to the public, but quite a bit of the historic areas of the castle can be visited, with daily opening hours.

The Pendle Witch Trial

With such a long history as a gaol and court, it is not surprising that several celebrated cases were heard at Lancaster Castle. The most famous by far is the trial of the Pendle witches in 1612. In that year 10 men and women from Pendle were convicted of witchcraft and hung on gallows erected on the nearby moor. The trial became so well known because the Clerk of the Court, Thomas Potts, left such detailed records, so that today we can read the chilling testimony and convictions.