Multi-million pound plan for York Castle Museum unveiled. What do you think?

The two buildings which make up York Castle Museum, lit up for Illuminating York. Photograph © Allan Harris on Flickr
18 Jan 2017 @ 12.13 pm
| Environment, History

The people behind one of York’s best-loved attractions have announced big plans for its redevelopment.

And they want to know what you think.

York Castle Museum, home to the world-famous Victorian street Kirkgate, could expand with a brand new building and feature ambitious immersive displays.

That’s the vision unveiled today (Wednesday) by owners the York Museums Trust.

The trust is in the early stages of developing a scheme, priced at between £14m and £18m, to redevelop the Castle Museum and do justice to the site and its world class collections.

A bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund is planned for December 2018, and would account for “a large proportion” of this investment.

The redevelopment ties in to City of York Council’s plans for the Castle Gateway, outlined in a new report.

Telling the story

Photograph © Nilfanion on Wikimedia
The plans in brief

Estimated project completion: 2026

Estimated cost: £14m-£18m

Want to comment? Email the trust here

Plans include a new link building between the two former prison buildings which house the museum.

They also include a second entrance and other access improvements to allow everyone to access all of the museum for the first time.

New immersive experiences and displays would use historical objects to tell the story of the Castle site and its impact on the North of England.

The trust says it is at the very early stages of the development, and would welcome initial feedback – you can email your comments here.

Huge potential

The famous Victorian street, Kirkgate. Photograph: York Museums Trust /

Chief executive of York Museums Trust Reyahn King said the Castle Museum is part of one of York’s most historically significant sites.

She said: “We believe there is huge potential for this whole area to be transformed into a much more inviting and usable public space which will help attract hundreds of thousands of extra visitors to this part of the city.”

The trust would be working closely with the council on the redevelopment. Ms King added:

A key part of this will be the redevelopment of York Castle Museum. We are beginning to work on ambitious and exciting plans that would see the museum offer a high quality experience where visitors choose how to enjoy, and explore the site and collections.

The atmospheric immersive nature of Kirkgate, our Victorian Street, will be extended in 21st-century ways and new displays will bring out the personal stories and historic events that make both the site and the collections so relevant and intriguing to this day.

A six-part vision

Eye of York Cliffords Tower
An aerial view of the Eye of York. Photograph © Bing Maps

1. A new link building would provide a much more inviting welcome to the museum improving the visitor experience and allowing everyone to access all areas of the museum for the first time. This would replace the current 1970s building which is not fit for purpose.

2. A new second entrance would be created at the north end of the Female Prison building, nearest the current car park. This would improve visitor flow and the appearance of this part of the building.

Both new additions to be of a high quality architectural standard to would attract the eye from Castlegate and the Piccadilly side of the river respectively.

3. The history of York Castle site would be told in depth for the first time. This area has been a significant site since Roman times. After the redevelopment visitors will leave knowing why this history is important, locally, nationally and internationally.

4. New immersive experiences and displays will be created in keeping with Dr Kirk’s original vision for the museum. This will see the nationally designated collections displayed in interactive ways to show how extraordinary the everyday, ordinary lives of people become when seen through the lens of time.

5. New exhibition spaces will enable more of the large history collections held by the city to be seen as part of a changing temporary exhibition programme. These will include community-led exhibitions co-produced with community groups.

6. A riverside walk As part of the City of York Council’s vision for the Castle Gateway York Museums Trust is looking at ways to create a new riverside walkway, connecting Tower Street with Castlegate. This would include walking through the recently developed Castle gardens and by Raindale watermill and original Castle walls.