Nottingham Castle has seen many turbulent events during its 1000 years of history atop Castle Rock.
It has been besieged, fought over and captured by kings, lords and empresses. It has witnessed civil wars and the cries of people urging reform.
In 1068 William the Conqueror ordered the building of a castle at Nottingham to strengthen Norman power in central and northern England. Throughout the Norman period, Nottingham’s Castle was fought over and rebuilt from a basic wooden motte-and-bailey into an imposing stone fortress. In 1194, Prince John’s rebellious supporters were besieged by King Richard the Lionheart at Nottingham, who erected a giant siege catapult or trebuchet. The traitorous defenders surrendered before he had to use it!
By 1330 Nottingham Castle had become a royal palace and was the scene of a bloody coup when supporters of the young Edward III entered the castle via the hidden caves and captured Queen Isabella, the King’s mother and his regent, and her lover, Roger Mortimer. Mortimer was later executed as a traitor.
It was also from Nottingham Castle that King Richard III departed for the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, when he lost both his crown and his life.
In 1642 King Charles I raised his standard at Nottingham Castle, begining the British Civil War. Charles’ support in Nottingham was short-lived and the town became a Parliamentary stronghold throughout the war, governed by the Hutchinsons, Colonel John and his writer wife, Lucy, whose memoirs are part of our Rebellion gallery.
Nottingham was transformed by the industrial revolution – the gardens and meadows were replaced with factories and overcrowded slums. The town was a hotbed of unrest with Luddites defending their livelihoods and selectively smashing industrial machinery and, in 1831, rioters set fire to the Castle after the Duke of Newcastle voted against extending the right to vote.
The Castle remained a charred ruin perched above the town for over 45 years until, in 1878, it went from ashes to art, reopening as the first municipal art gallery outside London for all the people of Nottingham to enjoy.