Appleby Castle proudly opens The Norman Centre, an interactive experience of the Norman occupation intertwined with the history of Appleby Castle. Visitors, families and schools can explore The Norman Centre’s four floors while enjoying an immersive audio experience and follow an interactive family trail.
The museum will inform about the Keep’s Norman heritage and the Castle’s history dating back to Roman times.
THE NORMAN KEEP OF APPLEBY CASTLE
The keep is one of the few stone towers in England that still looks much as they did 800 years ago. It replaced a wooden structure that may have crowned an earthen mound – a mound that was levelled before the tower was built.
That tower has a double plinth around its base, but you can no longer see it because the ground level outside has been raised by as much as 2 metres.
Another change – the doorways from the courtyard were probably originally defended by a ‘forebuilding’ which enclosed steps rising across the face of the tower to the entry at first floor level. The present steps jutting from the doorway are quite modern!
Inside the tower there was originally only one big room on each floor. The basement at ground level was the store room: above it the main floor or ‘hall’; above that the ‘great chamber’ or private apartment of the Lord of the Castle; and above that a chamber used by the guards and lookouts keeping watch on the roof. There are only a few, small, windows – in recesses where archers or crossbowmen could shelter.
The cross wall now dividing each floor into two chambers was inserted by Lady Anne Clifford in 1651, and she also enlarged the original ‘pepper pot’ corner turrets.
But the main architecture of a Norman ‘tower keep’ – called a ‘donjon’ in Norman French, hence our word ‘dungeon’ – remains. It was the strongest part of the castle and in it the Lord, Lady and garrison could hold out even if the outer part was captured. It was not designed as a prison even though part of the tower became one several hundred years after it was built.
The museum features timelines, historical display boards, manikins and artefacts including limited edition copies of the Domesday Books.
BINAURAL AUDIO TRAIL
We have created a unique immersive audio trail narrated by our very own ghost, Caesar. Produced by award winning creatives the trail is a family friendly guide to the history of the keep and its inhabitants over the last 900 years. If you listen well you may even get to meet your ghostly guide.
There is a spectacular 360° view from the 4th floor roof with Cumbria on one side and the Yorkshire Dales on the other. Photographs can be taken on the roof top.
The floors are uneven so flat soled shoes only, no flip flops or high heels. The keep has 103 narrow steps on the spiral staircases. Do not attempt to climb the staircase if you are not in good physical health. Infants in slings cannot be carried up the staircases. People with epilepsy and heart conditions should be aware there are flashing lights on the third floor.
Important: Children entering The Norman Centre must be accompanied by an adult at all times.
Note: Because this is a grade 1 listed building there are no wheelchair or pram access.