A Brief History of Nottingham Castle

1067, William the Conqueror built the very first Castle

william the conqueror

The first Norman castle was a motte-and-bailey design, built in 1067, the year after the Battle of Hastings, on the orders of William the Conqueror.

1150-1189, Henry II rebuilt parts of the Castle in stone

henryiiDuring the reign of King Henry II the Castle was extensively rebuilt.  It was imposing and of a complex architectural design, with an upper bailey at the highest point of the castle rock, a middle bailey to the north (which contained the main royal apartments), and a large outer bailey to the east.

1194, The Castle was sieged by Richard the Lionheart

Richard_I_of_EnglandIn March 1194, a  battle took place at Nottingham Castle, part of the returned King Richard’s campaign to put down the rebellion of Prince John. The Castle surrendered after just a few days.

1331, Roger Mortimer, Queen Isabella's lover was dragged out from the Castle to face trial for the murder of Edward II


King Edward III, with the help of a few trusted companions, staged a coup d’état at Nottingham Castle against his mother Isabella of France, and her lover, Roger Mortimer.  In the dark of night on 19 October 1330,  Edward III’s men came into the castle through a secret tunnel, overpowered Mortimer who was then bound and gagged, led out of the tunnel and arrested, along with Queen Mother Isabella.

1346, King David II of Scotland was held prisoner here on his way to London after the Battle of Neville's Cross

nevillescrossKing David II of Scotland invaded England but was wounded, with his army soundly defeated at the Battle of Neville’s Cross on 17 October 1346. David was brought to Nottingham Castle on route to the Tower of London.  He remained captive in England for eleven years.

1485, Richard III left to ride to Bosworth, where he became the last English king to die in battle


Richard III spent a considerable part of his short and turbulent reign in Nottingham Castle, from which he set forth in 1485, where he became the last English king to die in battle.  His remains were discovered in August 2012 in Leicester and were later buried at Leicester cathedral in March 2015.

1642, Charles I raised his Standard to start the English Civil War - a war against his own Parliament

Charles_I_standardIn August 1642 at the start of the Civil War, , Charles I chose Nottingham as the rallying point for his armies, but soon after he departed, the castle rock was made defensible and held by the parliamentarians. Commanded by John Hutchinson, they repulsed several Royalist attacks, and were the last group to hold the Castle.

1651, The remnants of the Castle were demolished on the orders of John Hutchinson

John_and_Lucy_Hutchinson_sAfter the execution of Charles I in 1649 John Hutchinson applied to parliament to have the castle demolished.  This request was granted and the castle was razed to prevent it being used again in war.

1678, a Palace was built on the site by the first Duke of Newcastle

nottingham from the east Nottingham CastleAfter the restoration of Charles II in 1660, the present ‘Ducal Palace’ was built by Henry Cavendish, 2nd Duke of Newcastle. Despite the destruction of the Keep and fortifications of the upper bailey, some rock cut cellars and medieval pointed arches survive beneath the palace, together with a long passage to the bottom of the rock, commonly known as Mortimer’s Hole.

1831, the Ducal Palace was burnt down in the Reform Act Riots.

Nottingham Castle FireIn 1831 the Palace was burnt down by rioters. It is stated that the costly tapestries of the Castle were freely sold after these events by the rioters for 3/- per yard. Terrible damage was done with the whole place reduced to a mere shell. The Duke received £21,000 compensation for the outrage.

1878, the building opened as museum and art gallery

Programme for Opening of Castle Museum 1878The Castle was derelict for over forty years until finally it was let to the Corporation of Nottingham in 1875 on a 500 years’ lease.  The building was remodelled and it opened to the public on 3 July, 1878, as a Museum of Fine Art.