My parents took me out on Saturday to a place I’ve wanted to visit for a while – Norwich Castle! It was built in the 1000s, which was far older than I realised – it looks so modern!
Norwich Castle can actually be seen from where I’m staying at the UEA, and I see it every time I go into Norwich. It’s something I’ve walked around, and taken beautiful pictures of, but never actually gone inside.
And now, evidently, I have!
The day technically started in the Chapelfield shopping centre. I got a new pair of Converse so that was exciting!
Nowhere in Norwich is far to walk, so it only took a few minutes to get to the castle. It was up a slope so took longer to get there when we walked up that bit but it’s pretty easy to get to (and wheelchair accessible, I believe. We climbed no stairs).
On entering… we had to pay. That was the one slightly sucky thing – it cost a lot to get in.
The cafe wasn’t the best equipped in the world, but I had a Brie and cranberry baguette which was nice enough! Then we could go around the exhibits.
The first place I went into was called ‘Boudicca and the Romans’. This was a really interesting and well-put-together exhibit. One thing I absolutely LOVED about the castle was how interactive it was. Of course many of these things were aimed at kids, but I enjoyed doing some of the activities and it was also accessible.
The exhibits around the cafe all lead into each other, so I walked straight from the Roman exhibit into one of the galleries. They had some beautiful paintings and portraits, all under different headings (‘Moonshine’ was particularly beautiful). In the picture below of the horse, you’ll be able to see the little bronze plates below. On the left was a description of the picture in Braille and on the right was a raised engraving of the painting – presumably so blind people can feel the engraving and ‘see’ the picture. I don’t ever recall seeing anything like that before so it was really interesting to see.
We did the most exciting bit next: into the main bit of the castle! Walking around the top, where the original floor would have been but is now a balcony, there were disused old kitchen stairs, the toilets (and the smallest doorways EVER), graffiti, stain glass windows and old doors of the original castle. Just seeing the inside was impressive enough though.
We walked down some circular stairs to get to the bottom of the castle. This housed the foundations… and the prison. Norwich Castle used to be the city gaol. It was so creepy and yet interesting. There was a lot about Elizabeth Fry, prison reformer, and also about specific prisoners, like the first couple to be married on Australian soil after transportation. They were originally from Norwich!
Punishment was also big in those times so there was a type of cage used put sinners (e.g. Murderers) who weren’t allowed to be buried. This was one of the cages actually used to hold prisoners until they simply rotted away.
Going up the stairs took us to the main castle floor which didn’t actually exist when the castle was first built. Because we went in half term, there were loads of activities about the Romans to do and lots of kids. It was fairly quiet though so it was pleasant to walk around and interesting to learn more about the castle.
In the centre was also a 41 metre deep well. I’d been able to see it in the gaol through grates (and originally got scared because I didn’t know where the noise of metal on stone (when coins were sent down) was coming from!).
It was really interesting to see the rich history of Norwich Castle. I was surprised at simply how small the interior of the castle was though, I have to say. It seemed to have little living space but I suppose a lot of that was the other museum parts and also would have been demolished/rotted away.
Leaving the main castle interior we walked back into the bit we’d been in earlier, with the cafe and Boudicca exhibit, just upstairs. Up here we had the Anglo-Saxon and Norse exhibits. There was even an excavated grave of a young woman. It was really interesting to see everything though. On the east, of course Norwich had vikings!
After this we did the Egyptian exhibit. Mum loves the Egyptians so got very excited! There is an unwrapped mummy in this part of the exhibit – and yes, it was creepy. The mummy is female and only her head and right arm remain of her upper body. She was also placed in a sarcophagus that wasn’t her’s originally. There were other sarcophagi in the room too, as well as a mummified cat, baby crocodile, and falcon. Really interesting but really creepy!
Then there was the military exhibition. This encompassed Norwich regiments from WWI to present day. It had some really interesting artifacts, including some models made from a soldier’s drawings, the whistle played on the Christmas Day match in 1914, lots of Nazi memorabilia and lots of personal donated souvenirs and items (e.g. Letters). In the modern day section, dad and I were amused by the Yorkie saying ‘Not for civvies!’
There was also a lot of taxidermy. One exhibition was called ‘Norwich wildlife’ and one was exotic animals. Taxidermy makes me sad to see but I’m glad it doesn’t happen nowadays. It was a little interesting though. In the wildlife section the exhibits were done with a trick of the eye where the back wall was curved so it looks 3D. It was awesome but so weird!
We of course visited the gift shop where I got a letter opener in the shape of frickin’ Excalibur (HOW AWESOME IS THAT?!) and left to find a tearoom. We had a walk around the castle and headed back down to Norwich.
This is where the second part of the title comes in! We went to a tearoom simply called ‘Harriet’s Tea Rooms’. It felt like we walked into a place in the centre of London! It was absolutely gorgeous and we got to sit in the window too. We had the ‘Harriet’s House Blend’ which was basically English breakfast tea (I will be more adventurous next time!) and I had a fruit scone with cream and jam. Mum had a cheese scone with cream cheese and marmalade.
That was pretty much the end of our day in Norwich. We went to a lovely Italian called Paolo’s Restaurant which did possibly the best pizza I have ever had after going back to mum and dad’s hotel and watching St Trinian’s (fun fact: over two days this weekend I watched 4 Colin Firth films. I’m not complaining).
Visiting the castle was such a great day out and I can’t wait to go back in the future! There are a couple of writing and arty workshops I want to go to so watch this space!