Lancaster Castle, often known as John O’ Gaunt’s Castle is one of the most historically fascinating surviving buildings in the country. Its beginnings date back to Roman times when, from its commanding position on the hill overlooking the town of Lancaster and the River Lune, it stood as a bastion against the marauding forces of the ancient Picts and Scots tribes.

Owned by The Duchy of Lancaster (Her Majesty the Queen is the Duke of Lancaster), the castle has witnessed scenes of significant historical, cultural and political impact throughout the centuries. These include incidents of religious persecution, the trials of the ‘Lancashire Witches’ and 200 executions for everything from murder to stealing cattle.

Until 2011 it was a fully functioning HM Prison and today it is a magnificent ‘living’ monument, offering a glimpse into England’s often dark past through tours and special events enjoyed by modern day visitors of all ages.

Duchy of Lancaster

The Duchy of Lancaster is an ancient inheritance that began 750 years ago in 1265.

In 1399 Henry IV passed a Royal Charter which decreed that the Duchy should be a distinct entity held separate from all other Crown possessions and handed down through the Monarchy.

So it remains to this day. The Monarch is always the Duke of Lancaster – hence the historic Lancastrian toast ‘The Queen, Duke of Lancaster!’. The title is always that of ‘Duke’ for both Kings and Queens.

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The Castle’s Dark History

A glimpse into the history of Lancaster Castle and its use as a place of punishment offers a revealing insight into the nation’s changing attitudes towards crime in general, as well as religious and cultural beliefs through the centuries

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Royal Visitors

As well as crooks, criminals and the wrongly accused, Lancaster Castle has had many Royal Visitors over the centuries.

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Read our Castle Stories

duchy of lancaster