‘Once-in-a-career opportunity’, says Hugh Feilden

Feilden & Mawson has landed the job of restoring Norwich Castle keep.

The Norman castle, which dominates the city’s skyline and was once one of the most important secular buildings in Europe, has been a royal palace, prison and museum and has been much altered over the centuries.

The project will reinstate correct floor levels and room layouts in the former royal palace as well as recreating the great hall.

A spokesman said it was a century-old dream that had long been deemed too challenging.

Feilden & Mawson partner Hugh Feilden, who will lead the project team from the practice’s Norwich headquarters, said it was a “once-in-a-career opportunity” for him.

“It is a quite remarkable honour to have worked on major projects on both the castle and cathedral [in Norwich], which were built at the same time and are thought likely to have been designed by the same master mason,” he said.

“F&M has known about the vision for the castle for some time and, with our extensive background in heritage and conservation, we have been tracking the project closely. It’s a very prestigious project in our ‘home’ city and we have been very keen to be part of it,” said Feilden.         

“Knowing how keen competition was for the work, F+M was thrilled to hear we had been selected.”

Much of his initial research will be studying the ideas and drawings of Victorian architect Edward Boardman who prepared plans for the conversion of the castle from a prison into a museum in the 1890s.

“Reinstating the internal floors was part of his vision, but the project ran out of money – or courage – to complete as he had envisaged. In a sense we will be completing his vision. But to do that it is necessary to take out some of the work he did,” said Feilden.

“From now until about next March we will be designing the scheme to meet listed building approval and criteria for Heritage Lottery Fund support. Then the focus will switch to technical design. Work on the castle fabric will start in 2019 and take about a year to complete.”

The British Museum, which is collaborating on the project, plans to have a gallery in the castle, while the project will also provide a new arts venue.

The structural engineer is Alan Conisbee.