The 19th-century cell block at Richmond Castle

The Richmond Castle Cell Block Project

English Heritage and the Heritage Lottery Fund are working together to conserve the 19th-century cell block at Richmond Castle, helping to provide a stable environment for the long term preservation of the graffiti etched onto its walls. 

Working within the local community the project will research and explore the incredible archive of personal experience inscribed on the building.

The Norman keep and 19th-century cell block of Richmond Castle

The Project

Richmond Castle: Cell Block is a £550,000 investment to investigate, identify and resolve the risks facing the building and its graffiti. Supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, the project is working with local volunteers to research over 2,000 graffiti inscriptions to build a picture of who was in the building and why. 

The project is developing educational resources for local schools and prompting discussion around historical themes linked to the building. Participants have helped to write interpretation for the English Heritage website, and helped to create a travelling exhibition based around the graffiti stories. Young people have engaged with conservation work and responded to the graffiti and its stories through music, film and performance art.

HLF logo

The National Lottery Awards 2018

Our project to conserve the Richmond cell block graffiti has been shortlisted for the 2018 National Lottery Awards. Now in their 15th year, the awards recognise the UK’s favourite Lottery-funded projects.

 

Voting is now open. You can vote for the project by tweeting #NLARichmondCastle or by clicking on the link below.

Read more about the awards and vote

Conserving the Cell Block Graffiti

The thousands of graffiti written and drawn by prisoners and others from the 19th century onwards on the walls of the cell block at Richmond Castle form a unique and remarkable record. But the graffiti are extremely fragile – they line the walls of a 19th-century building that wasn’t designed to last.

This short video explains why it’s so important to preserve the cell block and graffiti, and how we plan to protect them for the long term.

read more about how we are conserving the graffiti

Researching the Graffiti

Graffiti etched onto limewashed wall reading 'E. Badger, Letchworth Herts'

E. Badger's name is inscribed numerous times throughout the cell block. New research is revealing who he was and how he ended up at Richmond Castle

Although we know something about a very small number of the graffiti, little is known about the cell block and graffiti record as a whole. Layers of limewash inscribed across the 19th and 20th centuries contain numerous untold stories.

New research on the cell block and graffiti it houses is exploring the range of sentiment expressed on the cell walls, uncovering the stories of those who left their mark, and identifying the changing use of the cell block over time.

English Heritage has recruited volunteers to help conduct in-depth archival and visual research. Volunteers are exploring and interrogating the meaning of individual inscriptions, most of which have never been investigated before, and are helping to create an archive of thematic, biographical and contextual studies to better understand this unique and remarkable building.

  • Pencil grafifti

    Research Appeals

    Did you write on the walls of the Richmond Castle cell block? Was a friend or relative held in cells? Our research project needs your help.

  • Pencil graffiti of a letter

    Uncovering hidden messages

    We caught up with two of the project's volunteers to talk about their experience and their recent findings.

  • Pencil graffiti of Newcastle

    Graffiti Gallery

    Explore in detail some of the inscriptions and drawings pencilled on the walls of the cell block and the stories behind them, including some of our latest research.

A volunteer gives directions to members of the public

Get Involved

If you would like the chance to help us share the hidden stories behind the graffiti by becoming a Richmond Castle tour guide contact our Community Participation Officer Angela Hobson: Angela.Hobson@english-heritage.org.uk

We are also working on a range of community engagement activities to bring to life the history of the Richmond graffiti and the conservation of the cells. We would like to work with schools, youth groups and the wider community to develop educational and historical resources to use throughout the project and beyond.

If you know of a group or school within the Richmond district or at Catterick Garrison that might like to be involved in the project, we would love to hear from you. Please contact Angela with your details.

Volunteer with English Heritage

The Project in the Community

The Richmond Castle Cell Block project is working with volunteers and the local community to discover more about the cell block and graffiti, and to share this with as wide an audience as possible. Click on the pictures below to see what we have been up to.

The Mayor and Mayoress of Richmond stand with reenactors in uniform in front of the cell block

The Mayor and Mayoress of Richmond officially mark the completion of the physical conservation works on the cell block.
Members of the public watch a reenactment

The public enjoy watching re-anactors at Richmond Castle being put through their paces on the parade ground during a World War II Weekend.
Two women stand in front of a wall of graffiti

Two direct descendants of Annie Wainwright visit the cells to see her portrait on the walls of the cell block.
A man being photographed in a studio

Students from the Creative & Media studio School in Huddersfield in the process of creating a short film highlighting the conscientious objectors' stories. Behind the camera, script writer and film editor Taome Hanson, in front of the camera drama student Umer Sajjad.
Young boy with science experiment

Where does all the water go? Getting hands on with scientific experiments at a Conservation Open Day. This one illustrates how water travelled through the cell block prior to conservation works.
A young girl drawing on a long piece of paper

Young people leave their mark on a graffiti wall at a Conservation Open Day.
A book outline containing a child's drawing of Richmond Castle with the caption 'Richmond Castle is on a hill'

A sample of the work created by local primary school children about the castle as part of the Richmond Book Festival. Two events were held at the castle: Echoes of the past scratched in lime and A March through Richmond Castle's Military Past.
A small group in safety gear is shown conservation work

As part of our Conservation Open Day our contractors Historic Properties Restoration gave group tours of the physical conservation works. Site manager Kevin Dunn led the tour.
Two women look at an old document in an archive

Volunteers Marcia Howard and Pam Britt examine original tribunal papers at the County Archive Office, Northallerton.
Two men looking at a computer

Volunteer Brian Jefferson (right) has some personal tuition from trainer John Hanson to support his ongoing research of the graffiti record.
An audience watching a lecture

English Heritage Senior Properties Historian Megan Leyland gives a talk on conscientious objection and the cell block project at the Bowes Museum in Barnard Castle.
A line of marching soldiers in the grounds of Richmond Castle.

300 military personnel march into the castle celebrating the military ties to the town of Richmond and the castle.
A man drilling

English Heritage Senior Curator Kevin Booth builds the community exhibition ahead of its launch at the Station, Richmond.
A woman stands next to an exhibition display

Research volunteer Dawn Price stands proudly next to her research on display in the community exhibition. It is entitled ‘George and his glamour girls’.
Richmond Cells logo

Host the Touring Exhibition

The Cell Block project is offering organisations the opportunity to host a small exhibition about the building and graffiti. It includes a range of content, from historical research to conservation science. Visitors can explore the cells, come face-to-face with the graffiti and uncover the stories of its creators.

The display is flexible to work in different sized venues and includes digital and hands-on interactive activities.

Download the exhibition leaflet (PDF)
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