Lincoln Castle Revealed – Prison Visitor Centre & Magna Carta Exhibition

In 2009 the Practice was appointed as architect for major works to Lincoln Castle – a site of national and international significance, which provides an opportunity to explore and enjoy almost 1000 years of built history in the context of one of England’s most important historic cities.

Prior to the commencement of the scheme, the existing elements of the castle included the ancient walls and towers, eighteenth and nineteenth century prison buildings and an original of Magna Carta. This Heritage Lottery funded project sought to improve both physical and intellectual access to all areas of the castle and dramatically improve its visitor status within the town and beyond, thus securing a sustainable future for the castle. The works were collectively known as Lincoln Castle Revealed, with The Prison and Magna Carta projects at the centrepiece of the £22m HLF scheme.

The Prison buildings were identified for development into a major visitor attraction, with the inclusion of a new shop, cafe, visitor facilities and a substantial education suite.  The majority of these requirements were housed in the 18th Century Front Range and the Rear Range became the main focus of the visitor attraction, involving very careful conservation and insertion of a major new exhibition and interpretive design.  All parts of the building required changes to allow them to be made fully accessible with new stairways and lifts that were carefully integrated with the Prison interior, and the existing fabric also required extensive repair and conservation.

In addition to the new educational facilities, a key element of the project was to provide long term display and interpretation of Lincoln Cathedral’s copy of Magna Carta which had previously been on show in poor quality surroundings in the Front Range of the old Prison.

It was decided to include the Magna Carta visitor experience within the “ticket price” of a visit to the Prison, but the location for the Magna Carta had to have its own identity and distinct location.  The solution was to create a purpose designed new build suite of exhibition buildings inserted into the eastern rear exercise yard of the old Prison.  This new building uses distinctive corten steel for its external cladding and incorporates an underground cinema which presents a series of short films about Magna Carta.  Magna Carta and the Charter of the Forest are displayed in a purpose designed secure vault.