On top of a hill overlooking the River Lune stands Lancaster Castle and its distinguished neighbor, the priory church. At one time, this site was occupied by a Roman fort. Lancaster, following the arrival of the Normans, became part of the estate that was granted to Roger de Poitou. The first castle was likely his foundation.
In the year 1265, the Lancaster castle became the main seat of all the powerful lords who came after, including Thomas, who became the ring leader of the opposition towards Edward II; Henry, and John of Gaunt, who became part of the duchy through marriage. After John of Gaunt’s son became Henry IV by seizing the throne in 1399, and the Duchy of Lancaster’s consequent union of the with the Crown, the castle became the administrative center of the Duchy since it began to decline as a home. The castle is still serving as a prison and courthouse, so it is a working castle.
In 1788-1823, Thomas Harrison mostly reconstructed the castle, designing it to meet the ever increasing requirements of the country’s courts. A series of buildings, such as the semi-circle Shire Hall, is on the west side. The towers and the phony curtain enclose an area that corresponds roughly with the bailey of medieval times, except where the prison juts out on the north side in a big arc.
Several important pieces of the medieval castle have fortunately been preserved. John of Gaunt’s Gate is one of the finest, and one of the most majestic English gatehouses of medieval times . It is a rather austere-looking and massive block as any prison entrance should be.
Machicolated parapet is in a continuous pattern around the head of the wall with the portcullis being preserved by the proportioned gateway. Inner turrets are carried by semi-octagonal towers above parapet level and flank it. Part of the Shire Hall complex is formed by the circular Hadrian Tower forms.