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Construction work starts on £13.5m project to transform Norwich Castle’s historic Keep

NEWS

Construction work has begun on the major National Lottery Heritage Fund supported project to transform Norwich Castle Keep back to its origins as a Norman royal palace.

Morgan Sindall Construction have been appointed as the project contractor to undertake the work which will recreate the Keep’s original 12th century lay-out and make all five levels – from basement to battlements – fully accessible for the first time in 900 years. The project is one of the largest and most ambitious heritage projects currently underway in the UK.

Cllr. Margaret Dewsbury cabinet member for communities and partnerships at Norfolk County Council said: “This is one of the most exciting times in the 900 year history of the castle. We’re so pleased to announce that the construction project has begun. After such a testing time nationally and locally over the past few months, the Norwich Castle: Royal Palace Reborn project is a cause for optimism and is a major investment in the future of the city and the county.

We look forward to seeing the results of this fantastic project which will secure Norwich Castle’s future as a jewel in Norfolk’s and the UK’s heritage crown.”

Morgan Sindall Construction will be delivering the Norwich Castle project from their office in the Norwich, allowing them to deliver a local impact beyond the build. They have developed a tailored social value charter for the scheme, dedicated to local investment. The project team will aim to host over 100 apprentice weeks, five work experience placements, two workless job starts, two NVQ starts, and five STEM and school engagement sessions.

Area Director for Morgan Sindall Construction, Alister Broadberry said: “We are extremely proud to have secured the Norwich Castle project. It is one of the most prestigious buildings in the East of England and our team is excited to create an environment that will inspire each and every museum visitor. Our purpose is about enriching lives and communities, so the commitments we have made on this project around social value investment are just as important as the project itself. Together with the customer team, we are determined to leave a positive legacy here both in the museum and the community around us.”

Leader of Norwich City Council, Alan Waters, said: “This marks a new phase in the long, rich and eventful history of our castle, and it’s a great opportunity to celebrate the start of a new era. Norwich Castle is unique in that it houses a museum and art gallery with a wealth of important collections. The planned changes to the Keep will provide a completely new way for people to explore its history as a castle and still enjoy the collections we’ve come to know and love. This project will also make Norwich Castle more accessible and inclusive to local communities as well as attracting new visitors to the city.”

Cllr John Ward, Chairman of the Joint Museums Committee said: “We are delighted to be working with such experienced contractors to realise our ambitious vision for Norwich Castle Keep. A huge amount of work has been going on behind-the-scenes over the past few months to reach this milestone. We look forward to sharing this amazing journey with our visitors and communities over the coming months.”

Anne Jenkins, Director for England, Midlands & East at The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “The Keep is one of many heritage treasures in the hands of Norfolk Museums and it’s fantastic to see that the project has reached this significant milestone with construction now ready to go. We are excited to see the progress for the project ahead and look forward to seeing the innovative new ways for visitors to interact with the many stories of The Keep come to life.” The key physical changes which the project will deliver are:

  • The recreation of the Norman interior spaces of the Keep through reinstating the original principal floor level. This will enable the interpretation of the Keep as it appeared during its heyday under the great Norman kings, including the recreation of the Great Hall, King’s chamber and chapel.
  • The construction of a unique viewing platform at battlement level which will offer stunning views of medieval and present-day Norwich
  • The installation of a new lift to ensure that all five levels of the Keep – from basement to battlements – are fully accessible for the first time in its history
  • The development of a new medieval gallery, designed in partnership with the British Museum, that will showcase national medieval treasures alongside objects from Norfolk’s own internationally-significant collections
  • The creation of dedicated learning spaces, including a multi-sensory area for our Early Years audiences where they will be encouraged to lead their own creative exploration of life in a medieval castle
  • The creation of new visitor and school entrances including a glass atrium which will afford, for the first time in fifty years, clear views of the Keep’s beautiful East façade and Bigod Tower, from inside the Museum
  • The development of new visitor facilities including a new café overlooking the atrium with an internal glass bridge into the Keep, and a new shop
  • Upgraded toilets which will include a Changing Places facility designed to accommodate visitors who cannot use a standard accessible toilet

Complementing these physical changes, the innovative use of projection and digital technology will bring the building to life, immersing visitors in the sights and sounds of King Henry I’s lavish Castle. Newly-exposed Norman archaeology and architecture will tell previously untold stories of the Castle’s fascinating past while the British Museum Medieval Gallery will show beautiful and fascinating objects to explore the lives and stories of people from the wider medieval period and Norwich’s importance within it.

Working conditions during the construction phase will adhere strictly to the government’s Covid-19 safety protocols relating to construction sites, with extensive measures in place to ensure the safety of construction staff, museum staff and visitors. The rest of the Norwich Castle site, including the museum and galleries, is due to reopen to the public in September with a new temporary entrance and safety measures including one-way systems through the galleries, hand sanitizer stations and social distancing guidelines in place.

Entrance to Norwich Castle will be by pre-booked tickets only. Once reopened, the Museum and galleries will remain open throughout the construction phase so that the public can enjoy the many thousands of treasures still on display, alongside temporary exhibitions and other activities. The construction works will be undertaken in two phases with the new entrance spaces completed first, followed by the work on the Keep itself.