Castle and Priory

Castle Park

Castle Park, on the south side of the Castle precinct, became a select area during Lancaster's prosperous maritime era.  Many of the houses were built for wealthy merchants.

No. 20 Castle Park.  The datestone above the entrance of this house reads 1720.  It was built originally for the Birdsworth family, but later owned by the Satterthwaite family.  The houses next door once formed stables and a coach house but have since been converted to residences.  In the garden behind these houses is an 18th century brick-built privy house containing seating for three adults and one child.

Lancaster Castle

The earliest castle on the site is likely to have been a timber structure erected by Roger of Poitou in around 1092 within the south west corner of the ruins of the Roman fort.  The first stone buildings are likely to have been erected in the 12th century.  Since then the Castle has undergone repeated alterations and additions.  Extensive building was carried out between 1788 and 1823 with the addition of the Shire Hall, Crown Court, Governor's House (designed by Thomas Harrison) and the Female Penitentiary (designed by Joseph Gandy).  The Castle has been a prison for much of its history - a role in which it continues today and much of the building is not open to the public.  The Castle is owned by the Queen as Duke of Lancaster.

The John O' Gaunt gateway was probably added to the Castle in 1405 to improve defences against the Scots who had sacked the town in 1322. It was built by Henry IV but has been named after his famous father.  The trees in front of the walls follow the line of a former moat.

The keep, or Lungess Tower is the oldest part of the castle, dating from the 12th century.  Other medieval structures are Adrian's Tower and the Witches Tower.

Find out more about the Castle from Lancashire County Council's website and from the Castle pages on the Historic Lancaster website.

Lancaster Priory

The Priory was founded in 1094 by Roger de Poitou on the site of an earlier Anglo-Saxon church, very probably a monastery dating from the 9th century.  Roger gave the church and its associated properties to the monastery of St. Martin of Seez in Normandy.  In 1414 the Priory was transferred to the Brigittine Convent of Syon in Middlesex and in 1430 it became the parish church of Lancaster.  Monastic connections were severed in 1539 and St. Mary's has continued as Lancaster parish church to the present day.  Most of the present building dates from the 15th century, except for the tower, which was rebuilt in the 18th century.

Find out lots more about the Priory at the Lancaster Priory Website.

The Roman Fort

The Roman forts of Lancaster occupied the summit of Castle Hill and their remains lie under the Castle and Priory.

The earliest Roman fort was built of turf and timber in the early-mid AD 70s.  It was rebuilt in stone in c. AD 102 and was occupied by units of auxiliary cavalry as evidenced by large quantities of horse dung found in a well during archaeological excavations. The Ala Augusta cavalry unit was the garrison in the late first century and the Ala Sebosiana probably arrived in Lancaster in the late 2nd century. An irregular unit of bargemen (numerus barcariorum) was based here in the 4th century.  They probably acted as lightermen, bringing into port at Lancaster goods taken from deeper-draughted vessels anchored in Morecambe Bay.

After you have visited the Priory proceed through the gateway on the north-west side of the building into Vicarage Lane.

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