Behind the Photograph: Lancaster Castle


Overshadowing the historic City of Lancaster and the River Lune, Lancaster Castle stands as a physical embodiment of nearly 1000 years of turbulent British history. Up until its closure in 2011, H.M.P Lancaster Castle was the oldest fully functioning prison in Europe dating all the way back to 1196. In 2011 the running of the castle reverted from the Ministry of Justice to the owners of the site, The Duchy of Lancaster. As of my visit a couple of months ago some areas of the castle were still being leased to the Ministry of Justice for use as a crown court. The Castle as we see it today consists of a curious collection of structures dating from different periods, built for various purposes.  From the 12th Century Norman Keep to the prisons built in Victoriantimes, this site has seen many changes over its lifetime and currently it is the beginnings of evolving into it next incarnation as a popular tourist attraction.

Now let’s turn our attention to the main subject of this post, my favourite image from the visit.

Lancaster castle England Lancashire heritage history tourism tourist attraction medieval prison court jail

Shown here is the main entrance to the castle, this magnificent gatehouse dating from the early 15th century was constructed during the time of Henry IV (1367-1413) incorporating into the new structure an earlier Norman gateway, this impressive structure rises to a height of around 20 meters (66 ft) and is believed to be one of the finest examples of its date and type in Britain.

With this shot I wanted to capture the textural quality of the stonework. When I arrived at the castle, the first thing I did was to walk up to the stone walls and put my hand on it. It's almost as if I wanted to physically connect with it and its history, to know you are standing in a place and seeing something that many have for centuries before you is quite an amazing experience. It brings back to mind that I am, like you reading this blog, only the smallest of ink-dots on the large manuscript of time. For me that is a humbling yet reassuring feeling. By converting the image to black and white; it really brought out the tonal quality of the image, emphasising the rugged stone work, and for me brings back to memory how I felt standing there that day.

As you can imagine this building has been the backdrop of many historical events in our country's history, here are some fascinating facts about Lancaster Castle:

  • The owner of Lancaster Castle is The Duchy of Lancaster. Do you know who the present Duke is? Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II is the current Duke of Lancaster as have all the monarchs before her since 1399!
  • In 1612, Lancaster Castle was the scene of one of the most famous witch trials in English history. During the Lancaster Assizes of the 18th an 19th of August 1612, twelve people living around the area of Pendle Hill in Lancashire were found guilty of the murder of 10 people by means of witchcraft. The most astonishing fact about this trial was that the key witness for the prosecution was a nine year old girl named Jennet Device, and three of the people accused where Jennets mother, bother and sister who were all found guilty and hanged along with 6 others. One died awaiting trial, and only once of those on trial was found not guilty.
  • On the 9th June 1975, the trial of The Birmingham Six started within the Shire Hall at Lancaster Castle. The trial lasted 36 days and on the 15th of August 1975, the jury found the six men guilty and were sentenced to 21 life sentences each.

Now many areas of the castle are open to the public, guided tours of areas inside the castle are available. Speaking as a person who has visited many historic properties of the years, the tour was amazing! If you are ever in Lancaster a visit to the castle is a must – I cannot recommend it highly enough!

I really hope you have enjoy this post today, if you would like to see some more of the images I took whilst at Lancaster please visit my 500px page ( if you like them you can even licence them for use!

For more information about ReClick Photo and the work that I do please visit my website at for more information.

Thanks for reading!

Hugh at ReClick Photo.