Secrets of Great British Castles

Lancaster Castle

Season 2, Episode 4 of 6

Dan Jones is exploring one of the oldest - and most fearsome - castles ever built: Lancaster Castle. Dating back to Roman times, Lancaster Castle, owned by The Duchy of Lancaster, has witnessed scenes of historical, cultural and political significance throughout the centuries, including incidents of religious persecution, the trials of the 'Lancashire Witches' and two hundred executions. Until 2011 it was an HM Prison and it is still a working Crown Court. In this episode, Jones explores Lancaster's grisly history of crime and punishment. Lancaster Castle has been the scene of notable trials, scores of executions and has housed prisoners for centuries, until as recently as 2011. Today, the castle is full of relics from its past, including a scold's bridle, a bizarre form of punishment reserved exclusively for women. Resembling a muzzle or cage for the head it had a padlock at the rear and a projecting spike that would have been held firmly inside the mouth when the bridle was closed. Dan discovers a dungeon that was also used to imprison witches. One of the most famous witch trials in English history took place at Lancaster Castle almost 400 years ago. On August 20th 1612, 10 people who were convicted of witchcraft at the Summer Assize in Lancaster Castle, went to the gallows on the moors above town. Between 1584-1646, 15 Catholics were executed in Lancaster for their faith. Jones shares the story of Father Arrowsmith who was hanged, drawn and quartered and visits the church where Fr. Arrowsmith's hand is on display. Miracles of healing are said to occur at its touch.

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