Soon after the Battle of Hastings William the Conqueror ordered a motte and bailey castle to be built here, but with a difference. It was to be the largest motte to be built in England, over 65 feet high surrounded by a dry ditch. To accommodate it, many houses and two churches were destroyed. Its garrison was commanded by Earl Ralph de Guarder of East Anglia.
In 1075 the Earl rebelled against the Conqueror by defying his command for Ralph not to marry the woman of his choice. Fearing for his life Ralph fled to Brittany later to be joined by his wife Emma, his lands and titles were subsequently taken from him.
Circa 1100, a stone square towered keep was to be built, replacing the timber tower and
was to take twenty years to complete.
By about 1200 a great stone gatehouse was built at the top of the bridge that
spanned the dry ditch, with a drawbridge.
Immediately after the death of King John, Louis the Dauphin who was still in England at the behest of the rebel barons, was now conquering parts of the country for himself and in the process captured Norwich castle. With emergence of the very young Henry III the barons quickly changed tack giving him
support and throwing Louis out of the country.
The following years the castle lost its military importance and was neglected so much so the roof had gone and prisoners when they looked up could see daylight. Conditions were so bad the prisoners were moved out.
In 1834 the architect Anthony Salvin restored the castle and by 1887, the Norwich Corporation bought it and carried out more repairs, turning the castle into a museum.
It is now owned by Norfolk County Council and is open to the public
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