The Richmond Castle Cell Block Project

English Heritage and the National Lottery Heritage 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 National Lottery Heritage 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.

National Lottery Heritage Fund

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

Researching the Graffiti

Graffiti by 'E. Badger' etched onto lime-washed wall

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.

  • Uncovering hidden messages

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

  • 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.

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 officially mark the completion of the physical conservation works on the cell block.

Two direct descendants of Annie Wainwright visit the cells to see her portrait on the walls of the cell block.

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

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.

Volunteers Marcia Howard and Pam Britt examine original tribunal papers at the County Archive Office, Northallerton.

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

English Heritage Senior Curator Kevin Booth builds the community exhibition ahead of its launch at the Station, Richmond.

The public enjoy watching re-anactors at Richmond Castle being put through their paces on the parade ground during a World War II Weekend.

Young people leave their mark on a graffiti wall at a Conservation Open Day.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.
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