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 will engage local volunteers to research over 2000 graffiti inscriptions to build a picture of who was in the building and why. 

The project will develop educational resources for local schools and create a forum for discussion around historical themes linked to the building. Participants will help write interpretation for the English Heritage website, and create an exhibition based around the graffiti stories. Young people will have the opportunity to engage with conservation work and engage in artistic initiatives inspired by the graffiti.

HLF logo

Conserving the Cell Block Graffiti

The thousands of graffiti written and drawn by prisoners and others from the First World War 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 our plans to conserve the graffiti
Graffiti etched onto limewashed wall reading ’E. Badger, Letchworth Herts’

Researching the Graffiti

Although we know something about a very small number of the graffiti, in particular a tiny proportion of those drawn during the First World War, little is known about the cell block and graffiti record as a whole. Layers of limewash inscribed across the nineteenth and twentieth centuries contain numerous untold stories.

New research on the cell block and graffiti it houses will explore the range of sentiment expressed on the cell walls, uncover the stories of those who left their mark, and identify the changing use of the cell block over time.

English Heritage is recruiting volunteers to help conduct in-depth archival and visual research. Volunteers will explore and interrogate the meaning of individual inscriptions, most of which have never been investigated before, and will help to create an archive of thematic, biographical and contextual studies to better understand this unique and remarkable building.

IMAGE: E. Badger's name is inscribed numerous times throughout the cell block. Although nothing is currently known about Badger, new research will hopefully reveal who he was and how he ended up at Richmond Castle

 

Read more about the graffiti
A volunteer in an archive stands on a stepladder and passes a document to another

Get Involved

If you would like the opportunity to help us to uncover the hidden stories behind the graffiti, build your research skills, have fun and explore a unique and nationally important record, please 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.

Read more about the Richmond Castle Graffiti

  • One of the drawings made by a conscientious objector on a cell wall at Richmond Castle

    Cell Block Graffiti Gallery

    Explore in detail some of the inscriptions and drawings pencilled on the walls of the cell block at Richmond Castle by First World War conscientious objectors, including the Richmond Sixteen.

  • Some of the Richmond Sixteen, with other First World War COs, at Dyce labour camp in late 1916

    The Story of the Richmond Sixteen

    Read the full story of how the Richmond Sixteen were taken to France, and sentenced to death for refusing to obey orders.

  • Richmond Castle in the late 19th century

    History of Richmond Castle

    Read an in-depth history of the castle, from its Norman origins to its use as a base of the Non-Combatant Corps during the First World War.

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