University of Leicester research student helps reopen Lincoln Castle’s long-closed prison

Posted by pt91 at Jun 10, 2015 12:30 PM |
New visitor experience opened by HRH The Princess Royal on 8 June

Issued by University of Leicester Press Office on 10 June 2015

Contact to request images.

Work by a University of Leicester PhD student that will bring a Victorian Prison back to life has received a royal seal of approval.

On Monday 8 June, HRH The Princess Royal officially opened the new-look Lincoln Castle, which includes the David PJ Ross Magna Carta Vault, a new home for Lincoln Cathedral's copy of the historic document. While there she met key staff who worked on the design of the new visitor experience.

Among the staff who met The Princess Royal was Helen Bates, a PhD student from the University of Leicester School of History. Helen was responsible for researching the content for the new interpretation of the Castle’s Victorian prison - closed to the public for decades - working with the exhibition designers and filmmakers to develop stories based on the archival material about the lives of the prisoners and staff that had lived in the Castle Prison.

Helen said: “I'm delighted that the project is complete and that the Castle is fully open to visitors again. I started working on the research in 2011 so it has been a very long wait to finally see the prisoners that I discovered in the archives brought back to life on film and through other elements of the digital interpretation.

“I was a bit nervous about meeting The Princess Royal! I read the guidelines sent by the Castle staff on the etiquette of greeting The Princess Royal, including how to curtsy.”

Her research at Leicester, which is supervised by Professor Roey Sweet, focuses on the Boughton House estate in Northamptonshire, home to the current Duke of Buccleuch. The Buccleuch Living Heritage Trust are a charity which now looks after Boughton House and are supporting Helen’s AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award (CDA).  The period she is focusing on is the first half of the eighteenth century, specifically the 2nd Duke of Montagu.

She added: “The experience I gained working with previously unresearched archival material at Lincoln Castle has been a huge help in my PhD research.  Also, working at Boughton House has allowed me to continue to develop my professional skills relating to the heritage sector.  Often people think if they go back to studying, they might step off the career ladder.  The CDA however is a great way to continue to develop hands on professional skills and also expand professional networks. I would recommend this route to anyone who is keen to gain a PhD and currently work in a heritage, arts or cultural setting.

“I also have to thank staff from the University such as Professor Peter King who was supportive of my Victorian prison research and who first made me aware of the CDA opportunities at the University of Leicester. Without his encouragement, I don't think I would have been confident enough to apply. I'm extremely grateful to him.”


Notes to editors:

For more information contact Helen Bates at

Share this page: