Photo from the excavations in 1988 showing the windowless chamber in the base of the curtain wall west tower.

The Gaol

Look at the remains of these walls and the small chambers within them. This was the site of the gaol at Eye Castle.

“People climbed the steep wall walk up the side of the motte, without a care for us poor souls in the chambers beneath.”

Can you imagine what it was like to be in a medieval gaol?

No food, water or bedding would have been provided so you would have to depend on friends or bribe the gaoler to get them.

There would be no toilets and no bed. Rats, mice and fleas would have brought typhus and fever.

The gaol at Eye Castle would have held lots of different types of prisoner:
  • Soldiers captured in battle would have had a miserable future, kept in prison until their families paid a ransom.
  • Traitors or rebels who plotted against the crown.
  • Corrupt officials, counterfeiters who made fake coinage, bakers who made lightweight bread, burglars and murderers.
  • There was no welfare system so medieval peasants were often driven to steal food to survive. There were strict rules against poaching from the Deer Park, which is why it was surrounded with such a high fence.

How do we know?

The first mention of the gaol or dungeon at Eye Castle is ‘the king’s prison at Eye’ in 1295.

It was also damaged in the Great Storm of 1315 which also damaged the gate and castle walls.

1556 the ‘Aye Dongeon’ (notice how the spelling changes) held the Protestant martyrs Adam Foster, John Denny, Edmund Pole, Thomas Spicer and Robert Lawson, before they were burnt at the stake.

View the Eye Castle trail route.