A 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.

The castle has been the scene of notable trials, scores of executions and has housed prisoners of various categories until as recently as 2011.

Our guided tours unlock the fascinating, often macabre heritage of this imposing, historically significant monument.

Crime & Punishment

Lancaster Castle provides a unique snapshot of the history of the judiciary and penal reform in the UK. It has been a place of adjudication and incarceration for centuries and still houses one of the oldest working crown courts in the country.

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HMP Lancaster

Lancaster Castle has served as a prison since the mid-17th century. Its latest incarnation was as HMP Lancaster, a Category C prison which was operational on this site right up until late 2011.

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Until 1800, condemned criminals at Lancaster were executed at a place called Gallows Hill, on the moors close to Williamson Park

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Lancashire Witch Trials

One of the most famous and dramatic events to take place in Lancashire occured almost 400 years ago in 1612, and has since formed the basis of novels, and radio and television programmes.

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Read our Castle Stories

duchy of lancaster