Nottingham’s castle has seen many turbulent events in its 1000 years of history atop castle rock.
Nottingham Castle has been besieged, fought over and captured by kings, lords and empresses, witnessed civil wars and the cries of the people calling for reform.
In 1068 William the Conqueror ordered the building of a castle at Nottingham to cement Norman power in central and northern England. Throughout the Norman period, Nottingham’s Castle is fought over and rebuilt from a basic wooden motte-and-bailey into an imposing stone fortress. In 1194, Prince John’s rebellious supporters are besieged by King Richard the Lionheart at Nottingham, who erects a giant siege catapult or trebuchet. However, the traitorous defenders surrender before he can use it!
By 1330 Nottingham Castle has become a royal palace and is the scene of a bloody coup d’etat when supporters of the young Edward III enter the castle via the hidden caves and capture Queen Isabella, the King’s mother and his regent, and her new lover, Roger Mortimer. Mortimer is later executed as a traitor.
It is also from Nottingham Castle that King Richard III departs for the Battle of Bosworth in 1485 where he will lose both his crown and his life.
King Charles I uses Nottingham Castle to begin the British Civil War by raising his standard here in 1642. Charles’ support in Nottingham is short-lived and the town becomes 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 is transformed by the industrial revolution – the gardens and meadows replaced with factories and overcrowded slums. The town was a hotbed for unrest with Luddites smashing industrial machinery and, by 1831, enough was enough and reform rioters set fire to the castle demanding changes to voting rights.
The castle remains a charred ruin perched above the town for over 45 years until, in 1878, it goes from ashes to art, reopening as the first municipal art gallery outside of London for all the people of Nottingham to enjoy.