Norwich Castle Museum – Norwich, England - Atlas Obscura
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Norwich Castle Museum

This medieval castle is filled with an eccentric collection that ranges from ancient Egyptian artifacts to taxidermy to a mummified hand that was cut off during a duel.  

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The towering castle of Norwich built on the orders of William the Conqueror is an impressive edifice to behold, however, inside its walls is an unusual museum that is also worth visiting. 

The earliest parts of Norwich Castle date back to the early 11th century, when the Normans demolished a number of Saxon homes that once stood on the castle grounds. The castle was completed around 1112, during the reign of King Henry I. Though it was designed to be a royal palace, no Norman kings actually ever lived here. 

For several centuries, the Norwich Castle was used as the country jail. The roots of the museum date back to the 1880s, when the jail that had been used since the medieval age to imprison felons and debtors was bought by the city of Norwich council. They removed many of the additions built for the prison and converted the centuries-old space into a museum, which opened in 1894.

Norwich Castle Museum is home to a number of permanent galleries and temporary exhibits covering topics that include archaeology, natural history, and art. The museum’s archeological collection contains artifacts from diverse civilizations and historical eras ranging from the Ancient Egyptians to the Celts and Saxons of Britain and from the Roman empire to the 18th-century British empire. 

A number of the artifacts kept by the museum are of enormous historical and artistic significance in the history of Britain such as the Anglo Saxon “Spong man” and the Iron age golden torc of the Snettisham horde.

Here too are displayed a few very bizarre and macabre historical objects such as the mummified hand of Sir John Heydon. The 16th-century aristocrat lost his left hand in a sword duel with a local member of Parliament. 

The museum also holds quite a large natural history collection of fossils, taxidermy specimens of mammals, birds, reptiles, and fish as well as pinned insects (a particularly impressive collection of butterflies), which were collected and donated by several natural historians over the centuries. 

Know Before You Go

The Norwich Castle museum is open every day from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The entrance fee for visiting adults is £13. 

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