This site returns to the origins of the town
Formerly known as the “bourg” from the Flemish word for castle, this was the very first castle around which the town was built. It was founded by the first Flemish counts in the 10th century. It is a rare example of a motte-and-bailey castle, or a fortified mound of earth, preserved in an urban environment. It previously housed a wooden keep before archeologists uncovered the old stone keep that had been recorded in some old engravings in the thick stone wall that surrounded it.
It was the home of the castellan, or chatelain, of Saint Omer who watched over the lands of the castellany on behalf of the count. The keep was later used as a prison, and at the start of the 18th century, it was destroyed and replaced some decades later by a prison in Vauban design. This robust brick and stone three story edifice is remarkably well preserved and has just undergone restoration.
Its jail cells are now open to visitors who are definitely in for some surprises. It also contains a series of exhibitions on the role of the town as the British Army Headquarters during the Great War.
Gardens extend out from the building and provide a beautiful vantage point over the surrounding area, offering a particularly good view of the cathedral and a stunning panorama of the town and its districts.