Lancaster Castle Restored and Re-Opened

Following a 2-year conservation project, the Duchy of Lancaster has re-opened the historic John O’Gaunt gate and unveiled the new-look Lancaster Castle to the visiting public.

The works have included the careful removal of the former Prison Visitors building to reveal a new sweeping piazza, covered cloister walk, purpose-built Visitor café, gallery space and teaching suite. Historic sightlines between the Castle and the Priory Church have also been restored by the lowering of the curtain wall to its original height and both the Male Felons and King’s Evidence Towers are now clearly visible for the first time.

Access has been improved throughout and includes 2 new step-free terraces, one in front of the covered Cloister Walk and the other in front of the world-famous Well Tower where the Lancashire Witches were incarcerated before trial in 1612.

In the first weekend of opening, over 4,000 people visited the Castle and sampled the new Visitor Café operated by local family owned coffee roasters Atkinsons. Commenting on the public reaction to the new space, Atkinsons’ owner and ‘Keeper of the Flame’ Ian Steel said: “We have been overwhelmed by the positive feedback received. We knew that The Kitchen was going to be an extraordinary new space and facility for the city and it is proving even more popular than we anticipated.”

Duchy Chief Executive Nathan Thompson added: “We are very pleased to be able to open the Castle to the public once again. Our objective has always been to protect this valuable heritage asset for future generations and bring these historic buildings back to life. We believe that this latest phase of works will encourage a wide variety of community uses and increase the national and international appeal of the City as a visitor destination.”

Lancaster Castle was returned to the Duchy at the end of 2011 with the closure of HMP Prison by the Ministry of Justice. After instigating a programme to protect the buildings by making them wind- and watertight again, the Duchy converted the former debtors’ workshops to create a new Northern estates office at Lancaster Castle.