Lancaster Castle
Lancaster Castle is a medieval castle, a Crown Court, and a Category C men's prison, located in Lancaster, Lancashire, England. The castle buildings are owned by Lancashire County Council, which leases a major part of the structure to Her Majesty's Prison Service. The site itself is owned by the Duchy of Lancaster.

In 79 AD, a Roman fort was built at Lancaster on a hill commanding a crossing over the River Lune. Little is known about Lancaster between the end of the Roman occupation of England in the early 5th century and the Norman Conquest in the late 11th century. The layout of the town was influenced by the Roman fort and the associated civilian settlement; the main road through the town was the route that led east from the fort. After the Norman Conquest in the second half of the 11th century, Lancaster was part of the Earldom of Northumbria; it was claimed by the kings of England and Scotland. In 1092, William II established a permanent border with Scotland further north by capturing Carlisle. It is generally thought that Lancaster Castle was founded in the 1090s, on the site of the Roman fort in a strategic location. The castle is the oldest standing building in Lancaster, and one of the most important. The history of the structure is uncertain; this is partly due to its continued use as a prison, which prevents extensive archaeological investigation.

As there are no contemporary documents recording the foundation of the castle, it is uncertain when and by whom it was started. Despite this, it has long been supposed that Roger de Poitou was responsible; he was the Norman in control of the Honour of Lancaster. If it was Roger who began the construction of the castle, it would have been a timber, probably incorporating the earthworks of the Roman fort into its defences. The form of the original castle is unknown. There is no trace of a motte, so it may have been a ringwork – a circular defended enclosure. Roger de Poitou fled England in 1102 after he participated in a failed rebellion against the new king, Henry I. As a result, the king confiscated the Honour of Lancaster, which included the castle. The Honour changed hands several times. Henry granted the Honour to Stephen of Blois, his nephew and later king. When the Anarchy erupted in 1139 – a civil war between Stephen and Empress Matilda for the English throne – the area was in turmoil. Stephen secured his northern frontier by allowing David I of Scotland to occupy the Honour of Lancaster in 1141. It is possible that David refortified Lancaster Castle at this time; due to a lack of investigation, there is little evidence to suggest additions to Lancaster in the mid-12th century. However, the uncertain construction date of the keep means that the King of Scotland could have been responsible for building it. The war came to an end in 1153; it was agreed that after Stephen died, he would be succeeded by Henry Plantagenet (later King Henry II), Matilda's son. Part of the agreement was that the King of Scotland would relinquish the Honour of Lancaster, which would be held by William, Stephen's son. After William's death in 1164, the Honour of Lancaster again came under royal control when Henry II gained possession of the Honour. On the death of Henry II, the Honour passed to his son, Richard the Lionheart. Richard gave the Honour of Lancaster to his brother, Prince John, in the hope of securing his loyalty. In the late 12th and early 13th century, many of the timber castles founded during the Norman Conquest were converted into stone. Lancaster was one such castle. Building in stone was an expensive and time consuming process. For example, the late 12th-century stone keep at Peveril Castle in Derbyshire would have cost around £200, although something on a much larger scale, such as the vast Château Gaillard cost an estimated £15,000 to £20,000 and took several years to complete. For many castles, the expenditure is unknown, however work on royal castles was often documented in Pipe Rolls which began in 1155. The Rolls show that John spent over £630 on digging a ditch outside the south and west walls, and for the construction of "the King's lodgings". This probably referred to what is now known as Adrian's Tower. His successor, Henry III also spent large sums on Lancaster: £200 in 1243 and £250 in 1254 for work on the gatehouse and creating a stone curtain wall. For the next 150 years, there is no mention of building work at Lancaster Castle, although the records are incomplete. The Well Tower is thought to date from this period, however if there was no work on the castle this may indicate it was not strategically important. As Lancaster was not near a border and the region was generally peaceful, it may have been decided that costs beyond maintenance were unnecessary. The castle has been a prison since at least 1196 and is now partly open to the public. The notorious Pendle Witches trial took place here, in the time of Thomas Covell, the Governor of the Castle and Prison. The castle survived an attack by Robert Bruce and more than one royalist attack during the English civil war. The Shire Hall, which was built in 1802 to a design by Thomas Harrison, has displays of heraldic shields, and the Grand Jury room has a collection of Gillow furniture. There is also a Crown Court and some medieval dungeons. The castle was linked on to Edmund Crouchback, 1st Earl of Lancaster from Henry III in 1267, and from this the castle is part of the Duchy of Lancaster, currently owned by Queen Elizabeth II. In the United States, the Lancaster County Prison in Lancaster, Pennsylvania was built in 1737 as an almost exact replica of Lancaster Castle.

Judicial history
Due to the unique situation of having a prison and courthouse in the same building, it has been host to cases where there was a perceived risk of prisoners escaping on the journey from court to prison. (See the Birmingham Six.) The Crown Court is the oldest working court-room in Britain. It also holds the dubious distinction of being the court in Britain where the most death sentences have been passed. The Castle was also the site of the most public hangings outside London. with the site of these executions being the "Hanging Corner"

The castle today
The Castle still is a functioning prison for Category C male inmates, as well as a Crown Court. Access to the keep, towers, battlements and dungeons is currently denied to visitors. While not open to the public, the castle does operate guided tours of parts of the castle seven days a week between 10.30am and 4pm. The content of the tours varies due to the pattern of use by the Crown Courts. Admission is by guided tour only. In addition the castle hosts and organises events for the public. Function Factory Theatre appear there regularly to perform their play "Cold Light Singing" which is based on the true story of the Pendle Witches. In July 2010, the Ministry of Justice announced that it was intending to close the Category C prison at Lancaster Castle in the future, stating that the prison is outdated and costly. The closure of the prison would then allow Lancaster Castle to be opened up to visitors and tourists as a permanent attraction.

The keep is the castle's oldest standing building. It is uncertain when the keep was built, although it probably dates to the 12th century. The keep acted as the residence for the lord of the castle – the owner or his representative. In the event of an assault, the keep would have formed the last line of defence. It is 20 metres (66 ft) high with four storeys; each floor was divided into two rooms. The outer wall is 3 metres (9.8 ft) thick; along the exterior are buttresses at each corner and in the middle of each wall. Like most other Norman keeps, Lancaster's would have been entered through the first floor. Construction in stone would have been a costly and time consuming exercise, estimated around five years and £1,000. In the south-west corner of the castle is a cylindrical tower. It is called as Adrian's Tower due to the popular legend that it was build by the Roman Emperor Hadrian. The tower was in fact built in the early 13th century, probably during the reign of King John. Although the exterior was refaced in the 18th century, there is medieval stonework visible on the interior.


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