York Castle Prison

York Castle Museum, Eye of York, York, Yorkshire, YO1 9RY

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York Castle has been a site of justice and incarceration for almost 1,000 years.

William the Conqueror built the first castle here in 1068 as a base to control the North of England – and we know from written references that it had a prison.

The Castle is still a seat of justice today; the 18th century Courthouse is now York Crown Court. It still has holding cells and people accused of serious crimes are still tried there, as they have been for almost 1,000 years.

Life in Georgian England was far harsher than it is today – so you can imagine that life behind bars was even worse.

The Prison was divided into different floors, with the debtors above and the felons in the worst conditions below. They would sleep twelve or fifteen to a cell, “which causes very faint and nauseous smells and violent sicknesses”. The poorest of them would live on bread and water, sleep on bare boards, and wear nothing but rags in the unheated cells.

And the prison was a profit-making business. The staff – the Turnkey and his men, even the Keeper (the equivalent of today’s Governor) – were there to make money.

Prisoners would have to pay for their beds and food. And if the Turnkey forced prisoners to buy their food from him, with a handsome mark-up, he made even more profit.

The Prison was a place to hold men and women awaiting their trial or punishment. If you survived the terrible conditions there were three ways out; be found ‘not guilty’ and released, be transported overseas as convict labour… or the gallows.

Opening Times

Please contact York Castle Prison for the latest opening times.


We are open daily from 9.30am until 5pm, except 25 and 26 December and 1 January. (We open at 10am on Fridays during school term times) We usually close early in the afternoon on 24 December and 31 December.

Kids Go FREE

Children now get free entry to York Castle Museum - which includes the Prison - as long as they are with a paying adult.

Adult - £8.50 (Concessionary Adult - £7.50)
Children - FREE with a paying adult (includes concessionary adults). This special offer does not apply to organised groups such as schools.

Residents with a valid York Card (issued after February 2011) - FREE . Wheelchair users plus one carer - FREE

Come Back For Free

Tickets are valid for 12 months, at no extra charge, so you can come back as many times as you like for a year.

Tickets are personal and not transferable so we just need to take your name and address (this information is not passed on or used for marketing purposes) and you may be asked for ID on your return visit. If, for any reason you don't want to give your name and address, day tickets are available at the same price.

Group admission

Adult - £6.50

Child - £4
Concession (Seniors/Benefits) - £6
Student - £6
Under 5s - free
Residents with a valid York Card (issued after February 2011) - free

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