A thousand years of history
The castle complex might seem a bit confusing at first as modern architecture stands alongside 1000-year-old walls. However, that’s because this was HM Prison, Oxford, a working prison for a very long time and is now the Malmaison Hotel. The castle was built in 1071 by Robert D’oyly, a Norman baron for William the Conqueror. The fortification was used to maintain control over England. At some point in history, it was ‘downgraded’ to a prison status and continued to remain so right up till 1996.
Remnants of a castle
Most of the original structure was destroyed in the English Civil War. The remaining castle was then converted to a prison. Within the castle is Oxford’s oldest building, the Saxon St. George’s Tower which affords a panoramic view of Oxford and its countryside for all who climb up to the top. An eerie spiral stone stairway leads down into a 900-year-old pillared crypt, St. George’s Chapel or what remains of it.
Oxford Castle Unlocked
Oxford Castle Unlocked is a guided tour of the ancient premises but with a difference. Once you enter the castle, you are in the hands of actors in period costumes with scripted parts who act as guides. They lead you through the ancient hallways, winding stairs and crypts all the while keeping you engaged with a lively narrative to make the castle come alive. Be prepared to meet Mr. Barker, a Victorian prison warden, Gypsy Boswell or King Stephen among many others.
A visit to Oxford Castle allows one to get in touch with history in a unique way. The experience leaves us with a deep respect for the past and appreciation for the present.
- Visitors are allowed to enter the castle only through the Oxford Castle Unlocked tour. Sorry folks!