Nottingham Castle is one of the city's most prominent and attractive features. A day out is easily spent exploring the early medieval foundations to present day art on display in the gallery, as well as everything in between. The Castle has a long and fascinating history, which may not be readily apparent from the modern elements of the current building on the site.
The Castle Rock is a natural promontory - an attractive defensive position for William the Conqueror and later medieval castle builders. During the medieval period, the Castle was a significant royal residence and military fortress. It was occupied by the evil Sheriff of Nottingham in the Robin Hood legends and besieged in 1194 by Richard the Lionheart to quell King John's rebellion. Richard III also happened to be staying at the Castle before he rode out to meet Henry Tudor at Bosworth Field in 1485. Due to the Castle's destruction after the English Civil War, only the foundation, cave passages, and a pub dating to the First Crusade ('the oldest English Inn') remain from the medieval structure.
Medieval Castle Foundation. Photo by Erin Connelly
There is a plaque in the gardens marking the area where Charles I rallied his troops at the outset of the English Civil War. After the king's execution in 1649, the medieval structure was totally demolished to prevent it from being used as a royal stronghold again. William Cavendish, First Duke of Newcastle, and his son constructed a new building on the site in 1663. This building remained a ducal residence until it was burned out and looted by rioters in 1831 in reaction to the appalling working conditions of the industrial revolution. The present building was restored in the late nineteenth century and opened as an art gallery and museum.
The gardens are the first attraction upon entering the Castle grounds. There is a floral tribute to the city's most famous resident, Robin Hood, as well as various statues and memorials commemorating the World Wars.
The Castle Rock is over 100 feet and towers well above the surrounding city. From the edge of the gardens it is possible to look down into the seventeenth century Brewhouse Yard and the twelfth century Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem pub. There are also panoramic views of the city and Trent Valley on clear days.
Museum and Art Gallery
The museum does a good job of incorporating the major highlights of fifteen centuries of Nottingham's history, including early origins, Robin Hood and the medieval period, manufacturing history (with collections of ceramics, glass, silver, textiles), regimental history, and the riot of 1831. There is also a special family gallery tailored to families with young children.
Medieval Alabaster Carving. Photo by Erin Connelly
The permanent art collection includes British and European art from the eleventh century to the present day. Particular emphasis is given to local artists and twentieth century collections. The space is also used for a variety of temporary exhibitions. Previous displays have included Andy Warhol and the pre-Raphaelite masters. The current exhibition, Cornish Light, is a revisiting of an exhibition of Cornish artists that occurred in 1894. The current exhibition will be open until 7 June 2015.
The 549 sandstone caves under Nottingham have recently been completely surveyed by Trent & Peak Archaeology. The caves have a thousand year history. They have been used as shelter, secret escapes from the Castle, medieval places of industry (tannery and pottery), and air raid shelters during World War II.