Secrets of Great British Castles

Lancaster Castle

Series 2 - Episode 5 Lancaster Castle



Dan Jones starts his historical examination of Lancaster Castle with a recent story: that of the Birmingham Six who, in 1974, were held in the castle’s prison during the court case over the infamous IRA bomb attack.

The medieval castle has a long history of bloody violence: under King John many were incarcerated and never seen again, while in the 14th and 15th centuries there were countless gruesome trials by ordeal, punishments and executions. Until the 19th century more than 200 crimes were punishable by death – including stealing rabbits, being in the company of gypsies and practising witchcraft. No wonder Lancaster was known as “The Hanging Town”.


Lancaster Castle has witnessed scenes of historical, cultural and political significance throughout the centuries, including incidents of religious persecution, the trials of the Lancashire Witches and 200 public executions. Owned by the Duchy of Lancaster, it was a state prison until 2011 and is still a working crown court. Dan Jones explores its turbulent history and meets Wendy Robinson, a retired prosecutor from Australia, whose ancestors were sentenced to death at Lancaster Crown Court in 1817 for stealing sheep.

Cast & Crew

Presenter Dan Jones
Director Gerry Hoban
Executive Producer Abigail Adams
Executive Producer Billy McGrath
Producer Ciara Bresnihan
Producer Fiona Fahy
Series Producer Sarah Share
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Documentary History