Now you can learn all about the fascinating history of Lancaster castle

The Castle, one of Lancaster's magnificent landmarks. Photograph reproduced by kind permission of the Duchy of Lancaster
The Castle, one of Lancaster's magnificent landmarks. Photograph reproduced by kind permission of the Duchy of Lancaster
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Lancaster Castle, the majestic landmark on the city’s skyline, is a familiar sight to local people.

It represents a rich tapestry of history including Roman forts, a medieval stronghold, a harsh legal system – and 
now it provides an intriguing 21st Century tourist attraction.

Lancaster Castle in the days when it was a prison ' the photograph shows what was A-wing. Photograph reproduced by kind permission of the Duchy of Lancaster.

Lancaster Castle in the days when it was a prison ' the photograph shows what was A-wing. Photograph reproduced by kind permission of the Duchy of Lancaster.

But did you know just quite how fascinating Lancaster Castle really is?

It is home to a myriad of amazing tales…

lIn 1322, the army of the Scottish king Robert the Bruce ventured across the sands of Morecambe Bay and attacked the castle

lIn August 1612, Lancaster Castle was the site of a famous trial of ‘witches’.

The magnificent Shire Hall at Lancaster Castle. Photograph reproduced by kind permission of the Duchy of Lancaster

The magnificent Shire Hall at Lancaster Castle. Photograph reproduced by kind permission of the Duchy of Lancaster

But are you aware that was the first time in England that people were found guilty of being in league with the devil?

*Convicts who were sentenced to transportation had to walk in chains all the way to the Channel Ports

*The castle still has a panopticon, an architectural feature that allowed a small number of warders to monitor many prisoners.

*Three German Prisoners of War who died at the castle were granted funerals with military honours when they died in the flu epidemic of 1919.

C-wing which was also the female penitentiary at Lancaster Castle. The last major extension to Lancaster Castle was the Female Penitentiary built in 1821. Designed by Joseph Gandy, it drew heavily on Jeremy Bentham's 'panopticon' concept for the labour-saving supervision of prisoners. The panopticon is semi-circular and contains five tiers of cells, each with a window. These cells lead off curved internal galleries and are visible across an open space from the central control room. Photograph reproduced by kind permission of the Duchy of Lancaster

C-wing which was also the female penitentiary at Lancaster Castle. The last major extension to Lancaster Castle was the Female Penitentiary built in 1821. Designed by Joseph Gandy, it drew heavily on Jeremy Bentham's 'panopticon' concept for the labour-saving supervision of prisoners. The panopticon is semi-circular and contains five tiers of cells, each with a window. These cells lead off curved internal galleries and are visible across an open space from the central control room. Photograph reproduced by kind permission of the Duchy of Lancaster

These are just some of the captivating stories that are explored in ‘Lancaster Castle and Northern English History: the View from the Stronghold’, a free online course available on FutureLearn, the social learning platform.

Created by the Regional Heritage Centre in Lancaster University’s History Department, this Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) is attracting attention from around the world.

It takes an innovative approach to studying northern English history, using Lancaster Castle as a microcosm of broader trends in regional history across two millennia – from the Romans to the 21st Century.

Registration is open now, and the course starts on Monday October 29.

C-wing which was also the female penitentiary at Lancaster Castle. The last major extension to Lancaster Castle was the Female Penitentiary built in 1821. Designed by Joseph Gandy, it drew heavily on Jeremy Bentham's 'panopticon' concept for the labour-saving supervision of prisoners. The panopticon is semi-circular and contains five tiers of cells, each with a window. These cells lead off curved internal galleries and are visible across an open space from the central control room. Photograph reproduced by kind permission of the Duchy of Lancaster

C-wing which was also the female penitentiary at Lancaster Castle. The last major extension to Lancaster Castle was the Female Penitentiary built in 1821. Designed by Joseph Gandy, it drew heavily on Jeremy Bentham's 'panopticon' concept for the labour-saving supervision of prisoners. The panopticon is semi-circular and contains five tiers of cells, each with a window. These cells lead off curved internal galleries and are visible across an open space from the central control room. Photograph reproduced by kind permission of the Duchy of Lancaster

The creation of the course has been supported and facilitated by the Duchy of Lancaster, the owner of Lancaster Castle.

Other organisations have also been involved, notably Lancashire Museums Service, who operate daily tours at the castle.

There is no need for prior experience or formal qualifications to undertake the course. For free registration please go to: www.futurelearn.com/courses/lancaster-castle/