York Castle Museum

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York Castle Museum
York Castle Museum.jpg
York Castle Museum is located in North Yorkshire
York Castle Museum
Location within North Yorkshire
Established1938; 81 years ago (1938)
LocationYork, England
Coordinates53°57′20″N 1°04′42″W / 53.95559°N 1.07827°W / 53.95559; -1.07827Coordinates: 53°57′20″N 1°04′42″W / 53.95559°N 1.07827°W / 53.95559; -1.07827
TypeSocial history museum
Visitors246,973 (2016)[1]
DirectorReyahn King, York Museums Trust

York Castle Museum is a museum located in York, North Yorkshire, England, on the site of York Castle, which was originally built by William the Conqueror in 1068. The museum itself was founded by John L. Kirk in 1938, and is housed in prison buildings which were built on the site of the castle in the 18th century, the debtors' prison (built in 1701–05 using stone from the ruins of the castle) and the female prison (built 1780–85).


York Castle Museum consists of several individual structures located to the immediate south of Clifford's Tower, within the former castle bailey, it is surrounded by part of the York Castle wall on its southern side, and beyond that the River Foss. In 1969 a gallery was built to link the museum in the Female Prison with the Debtors' Prison.[2]

Debtor's Prison[edit]

The Debtor's Prison was originally built as the County Gaol in 1701–1705,[2] it is a three storey building with a central range and clock turret flanked by projecting wings built with Tadcaster limestone and brick walls, and a lead and slate roof.[3] The prison's most notable inhabitant was Dick Turpin, who was incarcerated in the 1730s before his trial at the York assizes, his cell forms part of the exhibition in the current museum.[4]

Female Prison[edit]

The Female Prison and yard were built in 1780–83 at a cost of £1,540 and to a design by Thomas Wilkinson and John Prince; the frontage of this building matches that of the Court building on the opposite side of the bailey.[2] The prison was altered and wings added in 1802 with a podium and steps added in 1820–50; the front of the building is constructed from sandstone ashlar with the inside of the portico rendered. The prison was bought by York Corporation in 1934 opening as the Castle Museum in 1938.[5]

Raindale Mill[edit]

Raindale Mill is a reconstructed early-19th-century flour mill which was moved from the North York Moors to the grounds of York Castle Museum in the 1960s.[6]


In 1931 John Lamplugh Kirk, a physician and amateur archaeologist based in Pickering, North Yorkshire advertised for expressions of interest from sites who wished to house his large collection of objects relating to the study of Social History. Although he received responses from sites in Middlesbrough, Wakefield, Batley, Doncaster and York, it was the latter which was ultimately successful;[7] the Female Prison was bought by the York Corporation in 1934 and modified to house the Kirk Collection of "bygones", opening as the Castle Museum on 23 April 1938.[5][8][9]

A major attraction of this new museum was the recreation of a late Victorian street, named 'Kirkgate'; this was the first of its kind in Britain.[9]


  • Kirkgate – a recreated Victorian Street, named after the museum's founder, was redeveloped and expanded in 2012.[10]
  • Toy Stories – a history of children's toys.[11][12]
  • Recreated period rooms including a Victorian parlour and a 17th-century dining room.
  • Turpin: the Untold Story: the room in which Dick Turpin learnt to play the viola.
  • The Cells – a display about life in the prison – was opened in 2009 in the cells of the old Debtors Prison. The former Condemned Cell, possibly once occupied by Dick Turpin, can also be visited.
  • 1914: When the World Changed Forever – opened in 2014 to commemorate the centenary of the First World War.[13]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Trustees Reports and Financial Statements, Year Ended 31 March 2016 (PDF) (Report). York Museums Trust. 2016. Retrieved 15 February 2018.
  2. ^ a b c RCHME (1972). "THE DEFENCES OF THE CITY OF YORK: AN INVENTORY". An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in City of York, Volume 2, the Defences. pp. 57–86.
  3. ^ Historic England. "Castle Museum (Debtor's Prison) (536704)". PastScape. Retrieved 16 July 2019.
  4. ^ "Dick Turpin's old haunt in York in line for a makeover". York Press. 18 January 2017. Retrieved 16 July 2019.
  5. ^ a b Historic England. "Female Prison (536712)". PastScape. Retrieved 16 July 2019.
  6. ^ "York Museums Trust inviting volunteers to help restore Raindale Mill". York Press. 1 July 2009. Retrieved 15 May 2011.
  7. ^ Srisinurai, S. (2013). Exhibiting the countryside: A post-colonial study of museums in North Yorkshire (PDF) (Thesis). University of York. pp. 47–49. Retrieved 16 July 2019.
  8. ^ "Dr John Kirk – founder of York Castle Museum". York Castle Museum. Retrieved 16 July 2019.
  9. ^ a b "Inside the Yorkshire museum founded on one man's obsessive collecting". Yorkshire Post. 21 April 2018. Retrieved 14 November 2018.
  10. ^ "Kirkgate Victorian Street". York Museums Trust. 11 June 2013. Retrieved 11 June 2013.
  11. ^ "York Castle Museum gallery details". York Museums Trust. 11 June 2013. Retrieved 11 June 2013.
  12. ^ "Playing with toys from the past at York's Castle Museum". York Press. 16 February 2013. Retrieved 11 June 2013.
  13. ^ "York Castle Museum to mark World War I in 1914: When the World Changed Forever". Culture 24. Retrieved 15 April 2015.

External links[edit]