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Nottingham Castle Front

The Castle

Rebellions, riots and royal rows have all played out across the dramatic stage of Castle Rock – the dominating jut of rock that Nottingham Castle perches upon.

Towering over the streets of legendary Nottingham, the hand of history has never strayed far from this enduring landmark, which is visible for miles around.

Civil War flared here, revolts roared here, and rebels roused the masses in the name of social justice.

And, of course, the Castle was famously tussled over by Robin Hood and the villainous Sheriff of Nottingham in countless films and retellings of the legend.

Nottingham Castle’s story began in 1068, when William the Conqueror ordered the construction of a castle at Nottingham, as he aimed to fortify Norman power over central and northern England.

The structure has been destroyed and rebuilt countless times throughout its tumultuous history. It began life as a basic wooden motte-and-bailey, before being developed into an imposing stone fortress.

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.

They made deviously clever use of the network of hidden caves underneath the castle. Sneaking in undetected, they captured Queen Isabella and her lover, Roger Mortimer. Mortimer would later be executed as a traitor, while Queen Isabella’s ghost is said to haunt Mortimer’s Hole, the secret cave route into the Castle.

It was from Nottingham Castle that King Richard III departed for the Battle of Bosworth in 1485 – an ill-fated mission that would cost him the crown and his life.

In 1642, King Charles I hoisted his standard flag into the air at Nottingham Castle, rallying an army and triggering the beginning of the bloody English 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 wife, Lucy. You can read Lucy’s memoirs in our Rebellion gallery.

Rebellion and resistance against injustice have never been far away, and as the Industrial Revolution took hold, Nottingham was transformed from a green and pleasant land into a darkening dystopia of poverty-riddled slums and brutal factories.

The Luddites fought back – selectively smashing industrial machinery to defend their livelihoods. In 1831, the Castle was aglow with flames, as rioters torched it following the Duke of Newcastle’s vote against extending the right to vote.

The charred remains were left for half a century before creativity blossomed, and an art gallery rose from the ashes. The Castle was rebuilt in its current form and reopened as the first municipal art gallery outside of London for all the people of Nottingham to enjoy.

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