The first Norman castle was a wooden structure and of a motte-and-bailey design, and was built in 1067, the year after the Battle of Hastings, on the orders of William the Conqueror. This wooden structure was replaced by a far more defensible stone castle during the reign of King Henry II, and was imposing and of a complex architectural design, which eventually comprised 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. For centuries the castle served as one of the most important in England for nobles and royalty alike. It was in a strategic position due to its location near a crossing of the River Trent; and it was also known as a place of leisure being close to the royal hunting grounds at Tideswell, which was the "Kings Larder" in the Royal Forest of the Peak, and also the royal forests of Barnsdale and Sherwood Forest. The castle also had its own deer park in the area immediately to the west, which is still known as The Park.
While King Richard I of England (known as "Lionheart") was away on the Third Crusade, along with a great number of English noblemen, Nottingham Castle was occupied by supporters of Prince John, including the Sheriff of Nottingham. In the legends of Robin Hood, Nottingham Castle is the scene of the final showdown between the Sheriff and the hero outlaw. In March 1194, a historic battle took place at Nottingham castle, part of the returned King Richard's campaign to put down the rebellion of Prince John. The castle was the site of a decisive attack when King Richard besieged the castle, after constructing some of the same types of siege machines he had used on the crusade. Richard was aided by Ranulph de Blondeville, 4th Earl of Chester, and David of Scotland, 8th Earl of Huntingdon. The castle surrendered after just a few days.
Shortly before his 18th birthday, King Edward III, with the help of a few trusted companions led by Sir William Montagu, staged a coup d'état at Nottingham Castle (19 October 1330) against his mother Isabella of France, and her lover, Roger Mortimer, 1st Earl of March. Both were acting as Regents during Edward's minority following their murder of his father Edward II at Berkeley Castle. William Montagu and his companions were accompanied by William Eland, castellan and overseer of Mortimer's castle, who knew the location of a secret tunnel which would take them higher up in the castle to a normally locked door. In the dark of night on 19 October 1330, Montagu and his companions entered the tunnel, climbed up to the door, which had now been unlocked either by Edward III or a trusted servant, overpowered Mortimer, killing Mortimer's personal guards. Mortimer was bound and gagged, led out of the tunnel and arrested, along with Queen Mother Isabella. Mortimer was sent to the Tower of London, and hanged a month later. Isabella of France was forced into retirement at Castle Rising Castle. With this dramatic event, the personal reign of Edward began.
Edward III used the castle as a residence and held Parliaments. In 1346 King David II of Scotland was held prisoner. In 1365 Edward III improved the castle with a new tower on the west side of the Middle Bailey and a new prison under the High Tower. In 1376 Peter de la Mare, speaker of the House of Commons was confined in Nottingham Castle for having 'taken unwarrantable liberties with the name of Alice Perrers, mistress of the king'. In 1387 the state council was held in the castle. Richard II held the Lord Mayor of London with Aldermen and Sheriffs in the castle in 1392, and held another state council to humble Londoners. The last visit recorded by Richard II was in 1397 when another council was held here. From 1403 until 1437 it was the main residence of Henry IV's queen, Joan. After the residence of Joan maintenance was reduced. Only upon the Wars of the Roses did Nottingham Castle begin to be used again as a military stronghold. Edward IV proclaimed himself king in Nottingham, and in 1476 he ordered the construction of a new tower and Royal Apartments. During the reign of King Henry VII the castle remained a royal fortress. Henry VIII ordered new tapestries for the castle before he visited Nottingham in August in 1511. By 1536 Henry had the castle reinforced and its garrison increased from a few dozen men to a few hundred.
The castle ceased to be a royal residence by 1600 and was largely rendered obsolete in the 16th century by artillery. Soon after the outbreak of the English Civil War the castle was already in a semi-ruined state after a number of skirmishes occurred on the site. At the start of the Civil War, in August 1642, 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 they were the last group to hold the castle. After the execution of Charles I in 1649, the castle was razed to prevent it being used again. After the restoration of Charles II in 1660, the present 'Ducal Mansion' was built by Henry Cavendish, 2nd Duke of Newcastle between 1674 and 1679 on the foundations of the previous structure. Despite the destruction of the keep and fortifications of the upper bailey, some rock cut cellars and medieval pointed arches survive beneath the mansion, together with a long passage to the bottom of the rock, commonly known as Mortimer's Hole, through which guided tours take place, starting at the Castle and ending at Brewhouse Yard.
The ducal mansion is still in use as a museum and art gallery. It houses most of the City of Nottingham's fine and decorative art collections, galleries on the history and archaeology of Nottingham and the surrounding areas, and the regimental museum of the Sherwood Foresters. Wheelchair access to the building is via a ramp to the right of the main entrance, through self opening doors into the shop. The displays are on five floor levels and approximately 99% of these are accessible to wheelchair users. Regrettably, the Nemi Room is currently inaccessible. A lift gives access to all floors with braille floor numbering and recorded message identification of each floor. There are seats throughout the building, in most galleries and all stairs have handrails. Toilets accessible to wheelchair users are available in the museum shop area. The toilets in the museum have an alarm bell which will alert the attendants in the shop. Baby changing facilities are available. The Castle Grounds only have men’s toilets accessible to wheelchair users.
Guide Dogs are welcome and a water bowl is available on request. Most displays are currently under glass but there are some specially selected tactile exhibits including decorative arts objects. They are happy to arrange sessions for groups using objects which can be handled and thermoform pictures, produced for the museum by the Living Paintings Trust. Labels or laminated information about exhibits in large print have been prepared and there are some Braille labels. The Café has large print menus. There are button activated taped commentaries in the Story of Nottingham gallery and hand held audio units for some exhibits including Every Object Tells A Story. The floors in most rooms have been refurbished specifically to provide strong colour contrasts, with clear markings between carpet and wooden flooring and edge markers on the stairs. Lighting levels are sometimes low because of the sensitive nature of exhibits. However, the levels can be enhanced for short periods of time for visually impaired visitors. The lift has braille floor numbering and recorded message identification of each floor. Ticketing includes the Nottingham Museum of Life.
The Museum of Nottingham Life gives you the opportunity to step back in time. Enter and experience being in a Victorian home and take a realistic glimpse of what everyday domestic life would have been like. Root through the cupboards in the kitchen, imagine the Dining Room set for dinner or consider being one of the five children who had to sleep in a single bedroom! Replica shops that were once based in Nottingham can be found in the museum. Visit the Grocer's and imagine how different your food shopping experience would have been. See the large variety of bottles on display at the Pharmacy or travel back in time to a busy shopping day in the 1920s, with a row of different shops. Peer through the windows of the shopping street and listen to the hustle and bustle of the era, imagining how the city once was. Whilst on site visit the the vibrant, Discovering Toys Gallery and also the latest gallery to open, the Growing up in Nottingham. Both examine what it was like as a child growing up in Nottingham through the ages.
The Museum of Nottingham Life provides a unique visitor experience. In addition to the wonderful reconstructed room settings, shop displays and vibrant galleries, this delightful historic site also enables visitors to discover a system of man-made caves. Built behind the museum, into the base of Castle Rock, the caves provide much insight into the history of the site itself. Visitors are able to wander through the system that were once used for storage by the inhabitants of the cottages. They've also been used as a place for trade, as air raid shelters and even for cooking. As you walk through them you will learn more about the caves and their history. See how they were used to store household items and discover how residents utilised this extra space. There is the opportunity to sit in a reconstructed air shelter and imagine how frightened inhabitants would have been when the air raid siren sounded. Guide dogs are welcomed. There is wheelchair access to the caves and to the ground floor of the museum. Group tours can be booked in advance for £5.00 per person Monday through Friday.
Location : Friar Lane, Off Maid Marian Way, Nottingham NG1 6EL
Transport: Mottingham (National Rail) 10 minutes. Bus Routes : Skylink Nottingham and Y5 stop close by.
Opening Times Castle Museum: Daily 10:00 to 17:00
Opening Times Museum of Life: Saturdays, Sundays, Bank Holidays 10:00 to 16:00
Tickets Castle Museum: Adults £3.50; Children (5 - 16)/Concessions £2.00
Tickets Museum of Life: Per Person £2.50; Children under 5 Free
Tickets Joint Tickets: Adults £6.00; Children (5 - 16)/Concessions £2.50
Tel: 0115 8761 400