28th February 2018:

Oxford Archaeology has started excavation in the basement of Norwich Castle’s iconic Norman keep. Led by Norfolk Museums Service with financial support from Historic England, these are the first major excavations on the Castle site since the 1990s.

The archaeological work is being undertaken as part of the preparatory stages in the £13.5 million Norwich Castle: Gateway to Medieval England project, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund. The project aims to reinstate the Norman floor levels and present the interior of the castle as it would have looked in the 12th century.

The OA East team is led by Heather Wallis and are two weeks into an eight week programme of excavation analysing two areas in the south west and north west of the basement. The works will examine how the lower floor of the keep was used during the Norman and medieval periods and how the Norman motte, the largest example in Britain, was constructed. The resulting information will help to inform the interpretation and engineering decisions suggested in the Stage 2 funding bid being submitted to the Heritage Lottery Fund in the summer of 2018.

Although the basement is currently closed to visitors to allow the work to be carried out, there are plans to put on accompanied tours after the work has finished.

John Davies, Chief Curator and Director of the Norwich Castle: Gateway to Medieval England project, said: “This is not only the first major excavation within the castle in nearly twenty years, it is by some way the largest ever undertaken here. It represents our best opportunity to resolve some of the fundamental questions about the origin and development of the Norman keep. In particular we hope to resolve some of the issues that archaeologists have debated about the building, such as the extent to which the original keep walling had to be modified when the mound was expanded but then slumped, and how the internal arrangement of walls were remodelled. Given the size of our exciting Keep redevelopment project, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity for us to examine the site and try to understand it”.

Oxford Archaeology has previously carried out work at both The Tower of London and Oxford Castle. In the Eastern region we have in recent years also worked at Cambridge Castle Mound and Wisbech Castle in Cambridgeshire. Our long history of working in Norfolk, includes excavation in the medieval urban centres of Kings Lynn and Norwich. Recently OA East carried out major archaeological work in advance of construction on the Norwich Northern Distributor Road.