Nottingham Castle – When Was it Built and Who Lived There?
If you’re planning on visiting Nottingham, it’s absolutely worth making time for a trip to Nottingham Castle. It’s one of the most famous landmarks in the city, and as well as being a beautiful building, it also has quite a lot to offer visitors of all ages.
In this post we’ll take a quick look at the history of Nottingham Castle, before exploring some of the things you can see and do there today.
When Was Nottingham Castle Built?
William The Conqueror first ordered the castle’s construction in 1068 but Nottingham Castle didn’t always look like it does today. In fact, you might not think it looks much like a castle at all these days.
Nottingham Castle was originally a wooden structure with the classic motte-and-bailey design – a wall surrounding a mound, with a fortified keep on top.
During the reign of Henry II (1154-1189), the castle’s wooden structure was converted into a much stronger, and much more complex, stone fortress.
Who Lived at Nottingham Castle?
Throughout the later Medieval period and the Middle Ages, Nottingham Castle was an important fortification for both royalty and the nobility. As it was built near several royal forests and hunting crowds, as well as its own deer park (which survives today as The Park), it was a renowned palace of pleasure.
Perhaps the most famous resident of Nottingham Castle was the Sherriff of Nottingham. Though many men have held this office, one was a supporter of Prince John, who occupied the place when King Richard The Lionheart was fighting the Third Crusade towards the end of the twelfth century. The legendary Sherriff of Nottingham who appears in the Robin Hood legends may indeed have been based on a real individual.
Edward III (1327 – 1377) later took residence at Nottingham Castle. Richard II (1377 – 1399) held the state council at Nottingham Castle on numerous occasions. And between 1403 and 1437, Nottingham Castle was the main residence of Joan of Navarre, Henry IV’s queen.
In 1461, Edward IV declared himself to be king while residing in Nottingham Castle. Henry VII (1485-1509) continued to use the castle as a royal fortress, and Henry VIII (1509 – 1547) had the place decorated with new tapestries. But by the end of the 16th century, the castle was in a state of serious disrepair that would see its days as a royal residence numbered.
The Civil War and The Castle’s Decline
Numerous battles took place around the castle during the English Civil War (1643-1651). Though by this time, due to advances in artillery, the castle wasn’t as strong as it used to be. Nonetheless, both Charles I and Cromwell’s Parliamentarians, led by John Hutchinson, used Nottingham Castle as a military stronghold.
In 1651, following the Parliamentarian victory and Charles I’s execution, Nottingham Castle was razed to the ground, to prevent it from ever being used as a military fortress again.
But Castle Rock wouldn’t remain unoccupied for long. By 1660 England had a king again, and as part of Charles II’s restoration, William Cavendish began restoring the site. He started construction of a “Ducal Mansion”, which would ultimately be completed by his son, Henry Cavendish.
This “Ducal Mansion” – an “Italianate” palace – isn’t quite the “castle” you can visit in Nottingham today. Rioters burned down the mansion in 1831. It was a derelict shell until 1875, when it was restored by local architect Thomas Chambers Hine. The castle was finally reopened in 1878 by Edward VII – not as a military fortress or a royal residence, but as the Nottingham Castle Museum.
The castle was closed between 2018 and 2021 to undergo further redevelopments. But it is now open to the public once more.
What Can You See and Do at Nottingham Castle?
The beautifully restored Ducal Mansion is worth seeing alone, and it’s still possible to see relics of the castle’s original Medieval stone fortifications.
But beyond this, there’s loads to do at Nottingham Castle. You can explore the network of caves that lie beneath, or take part in a virtual archery contest as part of the Robin Hood Adventures experience. The castle also hosts both permanent and temporary exhibitions, and you’ll find a gift shop and a cafe onsite.
For more information, and to plan your visit, head to Nottingham Castle’s website.
Your Essential Guide to All Things Nottingham!
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