The Castle Hall comprises the former Great Hall of Leicester Castle, which was converted to a County Court in the 19th century. It is a Grade I Listed Building, and is located within the Castle Conservation Area. Adjacent to the Hall is the 'Dungeon' or John of Gaunts cellar. Both the Hall and the Cellar are occasionally open for public tours (more information about tours).
Description of the Castle Hall
The building was originally the Great Hall of Leicester Castle, which was erected in the 11th or 12th century.
According to the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission's (HBMC) notes, "this is said to be one of the finest Norman Halls in England...". Externally it measures 84 feet by 58 feet, and was originally aisled. According to Professor Horn, it is "the oldest surviving aisled and bay-divided hall in Europe". Of the arcade, one Norman scalloped timber capital has been preserved.
The timber roof is possibly 14th century. According to Professor Horn, it is "the earliest residential timber roof of Europe", though it has been substantially restored. The south gable wall has two large Norman windows nook shafted with scalloped capitals, which are clearly mid 12th century. The original stone facing was removed and replaced by brick in the late 17th century, but the basic structure remains early Mediaeval.
The front of ca.1695 is a pleasing red brick single storey and attic range, with early stone plinth, seven windows, the centre breaking forward with two, and double entrance door under a Venetian window, in which the centre has 'Gothic' glazing bars. The remaining windows have flat arches of brick with modern tall two-light mullion/transom casements in heavy moulded frames. A central segmental headed doorway with fanlight and panelled doors. Good heavy modillion eaves cornice and open modillion pediment over centre. Band at sills. Two pedimented dormers. End elevation has large 18th century round-arch window with intersecting glazing bars.
There were substantial alterations during the mid/late 19th century period, including an addition at the rear. when the Hall was converted to courts. The arcade posts were taken down in 1821. HBMC records that "the greatest damage was done (in 1856 by William Parsons) when the hall was divided into 3 parts, a central hall with a court of justice on both sides".
The courts are now unused, but survive in substantially unaltered condition, including cells beneath.