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