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.
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 Castle began life as a wooden motte-and-bailey, before being developed into an imposing stone fortress. The structure has been destroyed and rebuilt throughout its tumultuous history.
By 1330, Nottingham Castle had become a royal palace and was the scene of a bloody coup by supporters of the young Edward III. They made clever use of the network of caves underneath the castle. Sneaking in undetected, they captured Queen Isabella and her lover, Roger Mortimer. Mortimer was later 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 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, governed by Colonel John Hutchinson and his wife, Lucy. You can read Lucy’s memoirs in the Rebellion gallery.
Rebellion and resistance against injustice have never been far away, and as the Industrial Revolution took hold, Nottingham was transformed into a darkening dystopia of poverty-ridden slums and brutal factories. The Luddites fought back, selectively smashing industrial machinery to defend their livelihoods. In 1831, rioters torched the Castle 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 London for all the people of Nottingham to enjoy.