Secrets of Great British Castles (2015–…): Season 2, Episode 4 - Leeds Castle - full transcript

DAN JONES: For me, a great British castle

is a fortress, a palace, a home.

And a symbol of power,
majesty, and fear.

For nearly a thousand years,

castles have shaped
Britain's famous landscape.

These magnificent buildings
have been home

to some of the greatest heroes
and villains in our national history.

And many of them
still stand proudly today

bursting with incredible stories

of warfare, treachery,
intrigue, passion and murder.

Join me, Dan Jones,

as I uncover the secrets
behind six great British castles.

This time I'm in Lancaster Castle,
in the heart of Northern England.

A castle which also houses
one of the oldest jails

and criminal courts in the land.

Hundreds of people have died here
at Lancaster,

not in battles and in sieges,
but in the name of British justice.

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JONES: It's not everyday you find
an abandoned 19th century prison,

in the middle of a medieval castle.

There's something that feels
eerily familiar about it though.

It looks almost like a 1970's sitcom.

Feels like I'm Ronnie Barker in Porridge.

Norman Stanley Fletcher,

you've pleaded guilty to the charges
brought by this court.

It's now my duty to pass sentence.

For most of its history,
imprisonment here was very real.

And this place was deadly serious.

The castle gained Lancaster the nickname
of "The Hanging Town."

Although it began life as
a bristling medieval fortress,

over the centuries,

the castle became one of Britain's
busiest and most brutal prisons.

As well as a prison,
the castle also contained a court

where people came to be tried, punished,
and to die.

Today Lancaster Castle tells us
the stories of more than

eight hundred years
of crime and punishment.

And none is more famous than the trial
that took place in the 20th century.

Following one of the worst terrorist
attacks ever seen on mainland Britain,

the bombing of two pubs in Birmingham.

in the town of Mulberry Bush

on the night of November the 21st, 1974.

Twenty-one people dead.
More than a 160 injured

as the bombs went off.

In June 1975, one of the most
notorious trials in British history

began right here at the Crown Port
in the heart of Lancaster Castle.

MALE REPORTER: According to the Crown,

the men planted their bombs
in the rotunda...

JONES: In the dock
were a group of Northern Irishmen,

accused of carrying out

what was then the worst attack on
British soil since the Second World War.

The Birmingham pub bombings
which killed 21 and injured 182

were the latest in a string of bombings
that had occurred across the country,

and they were suspected to be the work
of the IRA.

MAN: Six people have been charged
as a result of...

Like so many of the trials
that took place here,

the case of the Birmingham Six
would be controversial.

JONES: While they were on trial,
the Birmingham Six

were held in Lancaster Castle cells.

The country was living in daily fear
of terrorism.

But the Birmingham Six were innocent.

For three months they were taken
back and forth from these cells

to the castle's courtroom,
knowing that they had nothing to do

with the murderous attacks
that had rocked the UK.

MAN: Within two days, four of the six men
had signed confessions.

Confessions which they said were
brutally beaten out of them by police.

JONES: These confessions would
strongly influence the verdict.

As a result on the 15th of August 1975,

they were found guilty
here at Lancaster Castle.

They were given a total
of 21 life sentences for murder.

But they were not guilty.

They all served 16 years
in British prisons

before their convictions
were overturned in 1991.

The trial was one of
the worst miscarriages of justice

in modern British history,

and it happened right here
in Lancaster Castle.

JONES: The story of Lancaster Castle
goes back over 2000 years.

The first people to build here
were the Romans.

In 43 AD the Romans conquered Britain,

but in the North they had constant trouble
from local tribes.

To cement their rule
they built a vast network of forts,

including the one here in Lancaster.

In fact the name Lancaster,

comes from the River Lune
and castrum, the Latin word for fort.

The remains of that ancient Roman fort,

still lie underneath
the castle you see today.

This imposing tower with its curved walls,

was built in the 13th Century,
from the remains of the Roman fort.

That's why it's known as Hadrian's Tower

after one of the most famous
of the Roman invaders,

the Emperor Hadrian.

But the stone structure we see today,

began it's life nearly a thousand years
after the time of Hadrian and the Romans.

It goes back to the time of the Normans,

invaders from France,
who conquered England in 1066,

took the Crown
and covered the kingdom with castles,

as symbols of their authority.

Here, on the edge of the River Lune,

Lancaster Castle looked out
at the no mans land

that led towards Scotland.

This is the oldest part
of Lancaster Castle.

It's the Keep, which is
the strong central part of any castle,

where the Lord lived,
or you ran for safety,

if the enemy managed
to break into the outer gates.

As you can see, it's big, it's square,

and it's very hard to get into.

The original door wouldn't have been here,

it would have been up on the first floor.

And you'd have been able to set fire to
a set of wooden stairs leading up to it,

if the worst happened.

And that would leave your enemy,
down here, kicking his heels.

No one knows exactly who built The Keep.

One theory is that it was built
by King David of Scotland,

who for a time in the 1140's

was granted control of
the North of England,

and kept peace in this area.

Building a towering stone keep
of this size

would have taken at least five years.

It's outer walls are almost 10 feet thick.
It stands four stories tall.

By the 1150's, the castle was back
in the hands of the English Crown

and began to appear
in the records of the day.

But soon the castle was transformed.

This time by one of the worst rulers
England ever produced,

the infamous King John, whose suspicion
and paranoia often saw his enemies

tortured and starved to death
in his castle's dreaded dungeons.

JONES: Lancaster's stone castle
was originally built by the Normans

in the 11th century
to keep peace in the north,

but a hundred years later,
it underwent a major transformation.

When the power hungry King John
came to the throne in 1199,

he set about enlarging the castle complex.

King John is remembered as one of the most
treacherous, untrustworthy, sadistic,

incompetent, downright evil kings
in all of British history.

This is the monarch who was forced
to grant Magna Carta,

the famous bill of rights
when his barons rebelled.

He's the bad guy
from the Robin Hood stories.

His reputation is quite frankly awful
and guess what?

It's all true.

Being a suspicious tyrant,
John had a great love for castles

which he quite rightly thought he needed
to protect himself

from his subjects and from his enemies.

Lancaster like many other castles
in England benefited from his paranoia.

Just two years after visiting here in 1206
John began to spend the equivalent

of a million pounds in strengthening
the castle's defenses.

John had a deep ditch dug on the south
and west sides of the castle.

He replaced the wooden fencing
with a huge stone wall.

He ordered the building
of new fortifications

and work began on Hadrian's Tower

using some of the stone
from the old Roman fort.

But even though
John's castles were impressive,

they weren't necessarily
nice places to end up.

Because as well as being reinforced
to keep attackers out,

their interiors were used
to hold the King's enemies.

During John's rule, Lancaster Castle

began to be associated
with crime and punishment

and the emphasis was on the punishment.

John's treatment of his prisoners
was notoriously cruel.

In 1203, his teenage nephew
Arthur of Brittany

disappeared while locked
in one of John's castles.

The rumor went around
that John had got drunk one Easter,

bashed the kid's head in with a stone
and thrown his body in a nearby river.

Later John had the wife and son
of one of his great barons

locked up in another castle.

He ordered they were starved to death,
and it was said

they died, insane with hunger.

When the cell door was opened,
they were huddled together,

the mother having tried
to eat her son's face.

If you ended up in one of John's dungeons,

the chances were, you weren't coming out.

JONES: The addition of the stone wall
in the new tower,

meant that when King John died in 1216

he left behind a greatly extended castle,
looked after by a Sheriff.

The Sheriff was an official
the Monarch could trust,

and locals could fear,

and with the job of Sheriff came a castle.

As the King's deputy,

the Sheriff was responsible for
collecting taxes, keeping the peace,

and organizing the assizes.

The twice yearly court sessions
where visiting Royal Judges,

would come to town to hear
serious criminal cases.

These were big public events,

so hosting the Assizes

made Lancaster Castle
a very important place,

and it made the Sheriff,
a very important man.

JONES: In 1362, England's King Edward III,

gave the position of Sheriff,
and the title Duke of Lancaster,

to one of his sons, John of Gaunt.

John of Gaunt wasn't
directly in line for the throne,

but he was a very rich and powerful man.

Either by birth or by marriage,
he inherited vast tracts of land

between the rivers Ribbel and Mersey.

It was called the Duchy of Lancaster,

and it made him the wealthiest Lord
in Medieval England.

Now in 1377,

when his nephew Richard II
came to the throne,

John of Gaunt persuaded him
to turn the Sheriff's job,

here at the castle, into a job for life,
and to substantially increase its powers.

JONES: Richard II was aware that
John of Gaunt's power

essentially made him king of Lancashire
and a very real threat to the Crown.

In 1399, John of Gaunt died leaving
everything to his son, Henry Bolingbroke.

Richard made a land grab
seizing the estates, the castle,

and the Duchy of Lancaster.

In response Bolingbroke raised an army
gaining so much support

that Richard was forced to surrender
without a fight.

By the end of the year,
Richard II was in the Tower of London

and Henry Bolingbroke was
King Henry IV of England,

and it was King Henry who built
this magnificent gatehouse

in memory of his father John of Gaunt.

It's 66 feet high, about 25 feet deep,

with these soaring semi octagonal towers

and the great iron spiked gate
called a portcullis,

which in medieval times would be lowered
in the event of an attack.

It's got to be one of the most spectacular
gatehouses in England.

Ironically, Henry IV

did exactly the thing
he prevented Richard II from doing.

He brought the Duchy of Lancaster
under the control of the Crown.

That's where it remains,
so here's your start of a ten.

Who is the current Duke of Lancaster?

MAN: At the massive John of Gaunt's gates
are the old Norman Castle which...

JONES: Yes, it's the Queen.

As Duke of Lancaster, Queen Elizabeth II

controls more than 45,000 acres
of land and holdings.

The Duchy is worth
about half a billion pounds

with yearly revenues of around 60 million

and it all dates back to the middle ages.

During the 14th and 15th centuries

as a castle with a sheriff,
a prison, and a court,

Lancaster was increasingly
used to enforce law and order.

But here's the weird thing,

for most of the Medieval period
prison wasn't the punishment.

You're only kept in prison
to await your trial.

And the form that trial took
could be very unpleasant

because it always wasn't a judge
who decided your fate.

It could be your God,
through the notorious trial by ordeal.


Barrister and historian Dominic Selwood

Trial by ordeal was the ultimate trial
because effectively

humans brought the case,
but god decided the case.

So, in a trial by ordeal,
the accused person would take an oath.

So now it's a very crucial part
in the oath was

"I swear I'm innocent."

And it was done on holy books
and on holy relics.

So the ordeal itself whether it was
carrying a piece of hot iron,

putting a hand into a cauldron
of boiling water

to take out a hot iron ball,
was God interfering

in the physical world to say,
yes, this person is telling the truth

or no that person's perjured themselves.

Tell us a little bit more about how
a trial by ordeal would proceed.

So if we take probably the best known
which is a trial by iron,

a space of nine of the accused person's
feet would be measured out.

The iron would be heated up

and depending on the seriousness
of the crime,

the iron would weigh different amounts.

They have to pick up the iron
and run the nine feet

which could be done in about two seconds,
holding the iron and then drop it.

His hands would then be bound up
and then three days later

the binding would then be taken off.

If the skin was corrupted
then he was guilty.

If the skin wasn't, then he was innocent.

JONES: Here in Lancaster
during the Middle Ages,

most punishments
would have been carried out in public.

From executions up on
what was called Gallows Hill,

to being pelted in a stocks
with anything from rotten vegetables

to dead cats and excrement.

In an age where there was
no such thing as police,

punishment was about making sure
that law and order

was seen to be enforced.

So, one of the most gruesome things
I found at the castle is this,

the branding iron.

And here is how it works.
This was used until the 19th century.

Your hand would be clamped here
then this the iron would be heated

until it was red hot, taken out and used
to imprint the letter M

into the palm of your hand now.

M stood for malefactor or evil doer.

And as well as this being
a very painful punishment,

it was a visible sign
that you had a criminal record.

There was no escaping your past when it's
burned into the palm of your hand.

Castle historian, Colin Penny, has brought
me to the bowels of Hadrian's Tower

to show me some of the nastier tools
of punishment

from Lancaster's dark history.

But these handcuffs are tiny
like little children's handcuffs.

Children were put in prison
from the age of nine,

so they had to make handcuffs that would
fit them and not fall off.

JONES: This here strikes me
as particularly ghastly.

Tell us a little bit about
what we've got here.

This is a skulls bridle
and it was used to punish

women who had been found guilty of crimes
such as fighting in the streets,

and this gives a fairly good idea
of what it was like with this.

So you've got the bar here
that went over the tongue.

This closed around the head
and there's a loop here

through which a chain would be passed
and of course every time

they pulled on this, the bar would move.

Solid metal would break their teeth.
They would sometimes break their jaw.

Some versions had the spike coming out
of the bar and every time that moved,

it would split the tongue.


Yes, so now you are silenced.


And if you imagine somebody
pulling at the back here,

your whole head would go hack.


I'm actually going to take it off
because all joking aside,

that's absolutely horrendous.

JONES: I mean this is humiliating
and painful to wear.

It's designed to silence individuals,
but it's also designed

to silence political opinion, isn't it?

Yes, and religious ones.

JONES: Silencing dissent is a very
large part of Lancaster Castle's history.

Many of its most infamous inmates
were people whose main offense

was simply practicing the wrong religion.

By the 16th and 17th centuries
that usually meant being a Catholic.

In 1534, Henry VIII made England
a Protestant country

by setting up the Church of England.

Those who remained Catholics
were seen as enemies of the state.

From the reign of Henry's daughter,
Elizabeth I, onwards,

anti Catholic feeling intensified,

peaking during the reign of Elizabeth's
successor, James I.

Between 1584 and 1646,
15 men were executed in Lancaster

for refusing to renounce
their Catholic faith.

England was a Protestant nation
surrounded by powerful Catholic enemies,

including France and Spain.

The Gunpowder Plot had been
carried out by Catholics,

including Guy Fawkes,

who planned to blow up King James I
in the Houses of Parliament.

So, England's Catholic population
were regarded with great suspicion,

potential allies of
enemies trying to invade us.

In this climate of fear,

being a Catholic priest
was an act of treason,

punishable by the worst death imaginable.

One of the most tragic victims of
England's growing anti-Catholic hysteria,

was a priest called Edmund Arrowsmith.

He was tried at Lancaster Castle
in the summer of 1628.

Unfortunately for Arrowsmith,

he was tried by the famously
anti-Catholic judge, Sir Henry Yelverton.

He didn't stand a chance.

Yelverton found him guilty of high treason

and sentenced him not only to death
but to hanging, drawing and quartering,

using the dreadful words.

JONES: You shall there be hanged
by the neck,

till you be half dead,

your members shall be cut off
before your face,

and thrown into the fire.

Where likewise,
your bowels shall be burned.

Your head shall be cut off,

and set upon a stake or pole.

And your quarters shall be set upon
the four corners of the castle.

And so the Lord have mercy upon you.

Judge Yelverton then ordered
that Arrowsmith was to be

chained up in the castle's worst cell,
to await his horrible death.

But because many people in this area
were still secretly Catholic,

the authorities couldn't find anyone
to carry out the execution,

until eventually,
another prisoner on a death sentence,

agreed to do the ghastly deed,

in return for his freedom
and 40 shillings.

Everyone has a price.

Lancaster Castle was gaining
a reputation for tough justice,

and dreadful punishments.

And enemies of the state
could be lurking anywhere.

But soon, Lancaster's greatest fear

wouldn't be religious insurrection,
or even rebellion.

It would be something
very different indeed.


JONES: As a great British castle,
Lancaster was designed for many things.

Originally built for keeping people out,

over time it came to specialize
in locking people in.

Lancaster Castle became
the most notorious prison in Britain.

Best known for the crimes
heard in its courtrooms,

and the grisly punishments
handed down within its walls.


Being tried at Lancaster
was never pleasant,

and very often it was fatal.

Over the years, hundreds of men and women

left the castle to face
the ultimate penalty,


Until about 1800,

hangings happened
on the other side of town,

on what was called Gallows Hill.

The condemned would leave the castle
escorted by the Sheriff and his troops.

A crowd would gather to watch the
spectacle as they marched through town.

And a tradition eventually developed,

whereby he or she was allowed to stop in
the Golden Lion Pub

for a final drink before continuing on
to their fate on the hill.

They'd be wheeled up here from the castle
on the back of a horse and cart

as many as eight at a time,

while thousands of excited spectators
gathered to watch.

When they got here, they'd see a permanent
wooden structure known as a gibbet.

A noose around their neck
would be attached to the gibbet.

Then the horse and cart
would be driven away

and they'd be left
to slowly choke to death.

There were more than 200 crimes
which carried the death penalty

until the 19th century.

You could be hanged for stealing rabbits,

being in the company of gypsies
for one month,

damaging Westminster Bridge,
or impersonating a Chelsea pensioner.

Which to be fair, probably didn't happen
that much here in Lancashire.

But there was one crime this area
became really famous for,


In the 17th century, Britain was gripped
by a national terror of witches.

Lancaster Castle was
at the center of the biggest

and most notorious series of witch trials
in British history.

This is Pendle Hill.

In the 17th century, it was a forested
area with poor roads and remote villages.

A place full of superstition and mistrust.

Home to people who scraped out
a measly living

on the fringes of society.

And a chance encounter
on a road here in March 1612

led to the biggest witch trial
in English history

and the hanging of 10 people.

So here's the story.

There's this young girl called
Alison Device

and her granny is known locally
as a healer, or a cunning woman.

Now one day, young Alison is out
begging by the side of the road

and she meets a traveling salesman
but he won't give her the time of day.

So Alison curses him under her breath.

Later on the salesman collapses.

It was probably some kind of a stroke

but he blames Alison,
and he calls her a witch.

Later, the salesman's son marches Alison,
the so called witch,

straight to an ambitious,
and very eager local magistrate.

But as soon as Alison is accused
of being a witch, what does she do?

She rats on her grandmother and her mother
and her brother and her sister

and her neighbors, the Chattox family.

If she's going down as a witch,
then so are they.

This starts escalating.

Pretty soon any death
or unexplained occurrence in the area

is being linked to these two families.

This is turning quite literally
into a witch hunt.

This was the start of what became known as
the Pendle or Lancashire Witch Trials,

that were held in the castle in 1612.

Although the belief in witches
was ancient,

in England the fear of witchcraft
was nearing its peak

in the first half of the 17th century.

Henry VIII had passed the first law
that made witchcraft a specific crime.

But when James I became King of England
in 1603, he really upped the ante.

James believed his enemies were
using witchcraft to plot against him.

And he became so obsessed that he authored
a book on the subject called Daemonologie

and created a new law which made
witchcraft punishable by death.

Crimes included making a covenant with
an evil spirit, using a corpse for magic,

hurting life or limb, procuring love
or injuring cattle by means of charms.

Ronald Hutton is one of Britain's
foremost experts in witchcraft

and its folklore.

JONES: Right, what is it about Pendle
that produced witches.

Pendle around 1600 is a forest area

which means that people can squat here
without being evicted.

It's rough, the people who live here
are often semi-criminal.

They make a living by thieving,
by offering magic as cunning craft.

When we talk about witches,
what do we really mean?

A witch in this period is somebody
who uses magic

to try and hurt somebody else.

Now what am I gonna do
if a witch has put a spell on me?

I have the hot new state of the art
response from the early 17th century.

Really easy. We need from you some
of your urine about half way up,

some of your nail clippings,
clippings of your hair.

And what we then do if we're in a hurry,
we roast it over a fire.

And as your water boils,
the curse is turned back on the witch.

JONES: The trial of the Pendle witches was
to take place of course

in Lancaster Castle.

One of the reasons the trial became
so notorious is that the clerk

of the court, Thomas Potts,
published an account,

The Wonderful Discovery of Witches
in the County of Lancaster.

Now among the defendants,

you have three generations
of witches on trial.

You've got Alison, the original young girl

who is supposedly cursed,
the traveling salesman,

and her brother, James,
you have their mother, Elizabeth,

and the grandmother, Demdike.

Now, the real star
of the Pendle Witch Trials

was another sibling,
Alison's nine year old sister, Jennet.

And this book describes her as
"This young wench."

Can you tell me a little bit about Jennet?

Jennet is clearly a badly disturbed child
from a severely dysfunctional family.

And what happened in this court
was her star moments.

She agrees to accuse her entire family
of witchcraft.

She's so little she has to be put
on a table in the courtroom

for people to see and hear her.

Once she starts her mother realizes
that her daughter is sentencing

herself, the mother, to death
and begins screaming.

Jennet proceeds to accuse the whole family
of dealing with demons

and then implicates their friends
in the same practices.

James, the King, had already written
in his book on witchcraft

that the testimony of children
should be accepted

because witchcraft is such
a difficult crime to prove.

So this nine year old girl
is the deciding bit of evidence

that sentences not just her family,
but their friends to death.

JONES: One of the accused witches
was found not guilty.

Another died while awaiting trial.

The remaining 10, including Alison Device,

were found guilty and sentenced
to be executed by hanging.

This is the dungeon in the basement
of the Well Tower

where the witches were kept
waiting for their trial,

and eventual execution.
It must have been horrendous.

Damp, it's dank, there's no natural
light down here at all.

In fact, conditions were so brutal
that Alison Device's granny,

the witch known as old Demdike,
died down here waiting for her trial.


JONES: On the 20th of August 1612,

the witches were brought along the
time honored route across town.

It is said they stopped
for their final drink

in the Golden Lion Pub

before being hanged in front
of a large jeering crowd on Gallows Hill.

You can understand why Lancaster
was starting to earn its nickname

of "The Hanging Town."

But it wasn't because the Sheriff
was particularly cruel

or because the town's people were
especially fond of killing each other

or casting magic spells.

It was because Lancaster Castle
was the only place in Lancashire

to host the assizes, the twice yearly
court session when judges arrived

to hold trials for everything from murder
through to sheep stealing.

And when they arrived,
Lancaster wasn't just the hanging town,

it was a boom town.

JONES: The court at the castle was
of huge importance to the town

as the influx of judges,
lawyers and clerks

brought in lots of money to the
local inn keepers and merchants.

At 17th century Lancaster,
crime really did pay.

The judges and the lawyers
lived the high life.

Lancaster's privileged legal physician
encouraged the building of some

magnificent Georgian properties,
which still stand here on Castle Hill.

This house was the residence
of Thomas Covell,

the keeper of Lancaster Castle
during the 17th century witch trial.

Later, in the 18th Century,
it became an impressive residence,

for judges visiting Lancaster Castle,
to sit at the Assize Courts.

And by the 18th Century
something else was starting up,

that would further increase
the town's fortunes.

The Industrial Revolution.

Lancaster was at the epicenter of
this major economic and social upheaval.

And what was good for Lancaster
would be good for its castle.

Lancashire was really the birthplace
of the Industrial Revolution.

Over the course of 100 years,

the growth of cotton mills
and heavy manufacturing

led to an explosion in population,

particularly in newly thriving cities
like Liverpool and Manchester.

Across Britain and Ireland,
tens of thousands of people

were leaving the land,
and flocking to the Industrial North.

And more people meant more crime.

More theft, more violence.

A new generation of dissenters
and non-conformists.

Luddites, chartists,
early trades union agitators.

And wherever these people
were apprehended,

even as far away
as Liverpool and Manchester,

where were they brought
to be tried and imprisoned?

Lancaster Castle.

For the castle, the Industrial Revolution
was good for business.

With its cells filled to bursting,

the coming century would
see the castle extensively rebuilt.

And a new form of punishment
was about to be dispensed.


Lancaster Castle has a grisly history
of crime and punishment

going back over 800 years.

By the 18th Century it was doing
more business than ever before,

as the growing population was
accompanied by surging crime rates.

For those awaiting their fate
inside the castle

the conditions were unimaginably squalid,

and had changed little
from Medieval times.

There was little or no sanitation,

and men, women and even children
were crammed in together,

along with the mentally ill.

The overcrowding
and the filth were so bad,

they led to several outbreaks of disease,

probably typhus,
which was known as jail fever.

One outbreak in 1783 was so bad,

that as well as prisoners falling sick,

the Governor himself,
and several of his staff died.

But pressure for change
was slowly growing.

In 1777, a prison reformer
called John Howard

had published a book called
The State of the Prison.

Howard had visited hundreds of prisons,
including Lancaster,

and his damning report led to new laws
about how prisons should be run.

Soon prisons had to provide
male and female segregation,

better sanitation and ventilation,

and more communal spaces for exercise.

Much of Lancaster Castle
had to be redesigned

to meet the new requirements.

In 1796, the old Medieval Hall
of the Castle was demolished,

to make way for a new Crown Court
and this Shire Hall.

They were both the work
of the architect Thomas Harrison.

This fabulous 10 sided room
with its vaulted ceiling,

gothic columns and arches,

became the venue for civil,
non-criminal cases,

like bankruptcy and divorce.

But not all the money was spent on
comforts for the judges and barristers.

This women's prison was built
inside the castle in 1821,

and in its own austere way,
I think it's grimly spectacular.

This new female penitentiary
was built according to the latest,

labor saving design,
the panopticon principle.

With cells radiating out
from a central hub,

so the guards could watch all the inmates
at the same time

without necessarily knowing
that they were being watched.

This was also fairly luxurious.

For the first time
prisoners had their own cells,

which is something that many
in Britain's overcrowded jails

don't even have today.

In a Victorian age
of innovation and invention

even the ancient practice of hanging
was made more efficient.

And this resulted in a new venue for
the executions at Lancaster Castle.

After 1800, hangings were moved
from Gallows Hill

to this spot
around the back of the castle.

Although still in front of jeering crowds
who would gather to watch the awful show.

Soon, more Britons were being executed
here in the renowned hanging town,

than anywhere else outside London.

This is now the Crown's Court jury room,
but it was the drop room,

where the condemned waited
before they were taken out to die.

The doors opened out onto the gallows,

the condemned walked out, and dropped.

Literally thousands of people
would have gathered here,

in the grounds of the priory,

to witness this most public of ends.

Until 1853, the method of hanging used,
was called the short drop,

a horrible way to die
of slow strangulation.

This was later replaced by the relatively
more humane long drop,

in which the victim fell much further,

the neck was snapped
and death was instantaneous.

But radical change was in the air.

In the 18th and 19th centuries,

courts across England,
including Lancaster,

began offering an alternative punishment
for some hanging offenses.

Transportation, as it was called,

was forced banishment
to an overseas penal colony,

by far the largest of which was Australia.

Sentences ranged from seven years to life.

Between 1788 and 1868,

160,000 people
were transported to Australia.

Men, women and children,
sometimes as young as nine,

Lancaster Castle still has records
for many of those it dispatched,

halfway around the globe.

But I'm particularly fascinated
by the story of two young brothers.

James and Leonard Cheatham,

sentenced to death in 1817,
for stealing sheep.

Now, stealing sheep might not sound
like a serious offense,

but these sheep were worth
more than 40 shillings,

which made it grand larceny,
a hanging offense.

However, the judge sitting here,
in the castle,

commuted their sentence to transportation.

The brothers were sent to Sydney
to become convict servants,

but they served their time,
were given their freedom,

both married convict women,
who'd also been transported.

How do I know all this?

Because their Australian descendant,
Wendy Robinson, told me so.

Or to be more precise,
Crown Prosecutor Wendy Robinson.

Incredibly, one of Australia's
most successful criminal lawyers,

is descended from two sheep stealers,

sentenced in this castle,
and in this very courtroom.

JONES: Tell me what this document
is, Wendy?

ROBINSON: It's the indictment,
upon which they were tried,

or the original would have been handed up,

and read out in this court
at the commencement of their trial.

Down at the bottom here it says,
"Leonard Cheatham, James Cheatham,

"they are to be severally hanged,
by the neck,

"until they be dead."

Well, on the following Wednesday,
the judge wrote a recommendation

to the region in counsel,
for their death sentences to be commuted,

they were separately loaded
onto different boats,

and sent to the colony of New South Wales,
both of them arriving there in 1818.

How long were they sentenced
to be in Australia for?

-For life.

-So they never came back to England?

What did they do?

They worked as convict servants,
eventually getting their ticket of leave.

And then, some years later,

they moved right out further,

as the colony had expanded, they gained
on to the front phase and beyond

the known boundaries of the colony
and there they raised sheep

and they raised lots and lots of sheep
and they became famous for their wool.

What do you think about this courtroom
and its importance in Australian history?

This is probably the most important
courtroom in Australian history

so far as the numbers of people
who were processed

through this assize, from that dock.

And a very large proportion
of the New South Wales population

to this day are descendants from convicts
who came through this room.

JONES: Through this very room,
in this very castle.

What are you thinking
when you look out at this court?

I think it's truly remarkable
that it's still here and I can be here.

JONES: Many lives were destroyed here
at Lancaster Castle.

But it seems to me
it's also being the starting point

for countless new stories.

The last execution took place in 1910,

not in public,
but in a purpose built private shed.

The prison closed six years later but was
then reopened for category C offenders,

low security risk.

And in 2011, after eight centuries
of locking people up,

Lancaster Prison finally
closed its doors for good.

And then opened them, to the public.

But the Crown Court still operates here,

so the castle is still fulfilling
one of its original purposes,

maintaining the rule of law
in the mighty Duchy of Lancaster.

And thats why there has been a prison here
for the best part of 850 years,

because as long as you've got crime,
you need punishment.

And Lancaster Castle
is very good at punishment.

Okay, guys, you can let me out now.

JONES: Guys?