Norwich Castles renovation is one of the largest heritage projects currently under way in the UK, according to Norfolk Museums.
The castle is one of Europe’s most important early medieval castles, having been built at a time when there was a pivotal shift in history, when the Normans invaded Britain and took power after the Battle of Hastings in 1066.
In 2023 when the project is completed it will be the first time in over 900 years that people will be able to explore all levels of the keep. With the help of a lift, everyone will be able to explore all five levels of the keep - from basement to battlements.
The castle's assistant head of museums, Dr Robin Hanley, said the "vision is enabling people to appreciate this fantastic asset".
However, achieving this vision of transforming Norwich Castle has not been totally straight forward and has required care to safeguard its 900-year-old structure, though with 3-metre-thick walls it is far from fragile.
The Clearwater team have enjoyed the challenge of working on such a well-loved local heritage site.
Matt Cook Clearwater MD commented “It’s not every day you get to work on a 900-year-old building nor one so iconic locally. Working closely with our partners we have relished the opportunity to produce drawings to the most exacting standards and have enjoyed the puzzle of integrating the modern requirements of electrics and plumbing seamlessly into the castle’s fabric “
The Clearwater team have been creating construction drawings and modelling, including mechanical and electrical designs. A couple of the challenges heritage building’s throw up include having limited ability to use fixings to the existing building. When these fixings are a necessity then anything removed has to be replaced with the exact same compound as was originally used. This means Clearwater are having to design in an innovative fashion to ensure the lightest of touches on the original fabric of the building. Where utilities need to pass through walls, it’s not a simple process with many of the walls being well over 1 metre thick.
The key physical changes which the project will deliver are:
• The recreation of the Norman interior spaces of the Keep through reinstating the original principal floor level. This will enable the interpretation of the Keep as it appeared during its heyday under the great Norman kings, including the recreation of the Great Hall, King’s chamber and chapel
• The construction of a unique viewing platform at battlement level which will offer stunning views of medieval and present-day Norwich
• The installation of a new lift to ensure that all five levels of the Keep – from basement to battlements – are fully accessible for the first time in its history
• The development of a new medieval gallery, designed in partnership with the British Museum, that will showcase national medieval treasures alongside objects from Norfolk’s own internationally-significant collections
• The creation of dedicated learning spaces, including a multi-sensory area for our Early Years audiences where they will be encouraged to lead their own creative exploration of life in a medieval castle
• The creation of new visitor and school entrances including a glass atrium which will afford, for the first time in fifty years, clear views of the Keep’s beautiful East façade and Bigod Tower, from inside the Museum
• The development of new visitor facilities including a new café overlooking the atrium with an internal glass bridge into the Keep, and a new shop
• Upgraded toilets which will include a Changing Places facility designed to accommodate visitors who cannot use a standard accessible toilet