Oxford's most important building

Oxford Castle has more than 1,000 years of history to tell from its Saxon beginnings, through the Norman Castle and prison, its 18th – 19th-century prison development to its closure in 1987. The castle was built by Robert D'Oilly, friend to William the Conqueror and has been home to kings, sheriffs, and convicts. For 900 years, Oxford Castle was cut off from the rest of the city. As a Castle, the walls kept people out; later, as a prison, they kept people in, so the site has never been open to the public before, until Oxford Preservation Trust restored it. 

Today, Oxford Castle and Prison is a wonderful attraction to walk in the steps of those 1,000 years before, thanks to the work of Oxford Preservation Trust.

Unlocking Oxford Castle’s past

Conservation, heritage and education were key to the success of the development and we worked together with the County Council to restore the Castle. Unlocking the City’s history for residents, old and young, lies at the heart of OPT's involvement in Oxford Castle redevelopment, and with a vision that every schoolchild in Oxford will visit the Castle at least once in their school life there was a large and important job. The history of the castle and the prison has been used to the full in the OPT heritage visitor attraction and Key Learning (education) centre. Oxford Castle & Prison gives everyone the chance to learn more about the city, outside the university. Together we have created a fascinating and interactive experience for all ages with a great gift shop and welcoming café run by the local, ethical artisan business Jericho Coffee Traders. 

OPT Members enjoy free year-round entry to Oxford Castle and Prison plus a 10% discount in both the gift shop and café.


OPT and Oxford Castle

The Oxford Castle Heritage Project began in 1997 when Oxfordshire County Council purchased the freehold of the castle site from the Home Office, when the Prison closed. The site included several Scheduled Ancient Monuments, Grade I, Grade II* and Grade II listed buildings and structures, and included the two oldest remaining structures in Oxford – St George's Tower and the Castle Mound. 

Involving the Community

Initially, there were concerns from local interest groups about losing the site to commercial interest. Oxford Preservation Trust ensured public access and that the history, architecture and archaeology of the site be understood before changes were made which might damage these and impact the setting and views of the castle mound.

Together, the County Council and Oxford Preservation Trust worked together with various communities in Oxford to help shape this project. A family panel was established to advise and evaluate activities for families in the education centre, which is still used to lectures and educational activities to this day.

Oxford Open Doors at Oxford Castle

Visit the Castle

OPT and Continuum run a range of lectures and talks on an Oxford theme and never miss a chance to share new knowledge and OPT has helped to arrange archaeology days, medieval fairs and family fun days. Look out in our events to see what’s coming next.

And remember OPT members get free access to the Mound and Oxford Castle & Prison and get a 10% in the Shop and in the newly refurbished Castleyard Cafe.

A woman handing balloons to young children at Oxford Castle

The best cafe in Oxford! (if you ask us)

In 2022, we were proud to open the brand-new cafe in the Castleyard, in partnership with the brilliant Jericho Coffee Traders. They serve great coffee and OPT members get a 10% discount, and some of the profits help us make good things happen in Oxford.

4 people holding open the door to the Castle Cafe in Oxford