After visiting Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem I walked up the hill to the castle.
Today’s castle is a disappointment if you are expecting to see a medieval fortress. Whilst the castle has a colourful history unfortunately its ancient fortifications did not survive through to modern times. Today inside a sandstone wall and gatehouse lies what looks like a large mansion house.
Nottingham Castle occupies a commanding position on the natural promontory known as “Castle Rock”. In the Middle Ages it was a major fortress and occasional royal residence. In 1067 William the Conqueror built a wooden castle to guard Nottingham. A stone castle was first built here during the reign of Henry II. For centuries the castle was one of the most important in England due to its strategic position as well as being close to the royal hunting grounds in the Peak District 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 which is now an exclusive ‘gated’ community containing many up market homes and Victorian mansions.
Whilst Richard the Lionheart was away on the Third Crusade it was said that Nottingham Castle was left derelict. In 1194, a historic battle took place at the castle when the supporters of Prince John captured it and the castle was occupied by the Sheriff of Nottingham and the famous Robin Hood stories grew up around these events. The castle was the site of a decisive siege when King Richard I returned to England and besieged the castle with the siege machines he had used at Jerusalem. There are bronze statues of Robin Hood and what look like his not so merry men outside the ramparts as you walk up Castle Road.
The castle was used by successive kings of England and from 1403 until 1437 it was the main residence of Henry IV’s queen, Joan but after her residence maintenance was reduced and it became dilapidated. With the Wars of the Roses the Castle was again used 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 at the castle. However by the 16th century the castle had declined and was largely demolished by 1649. A duke’s mansion was built on the site but this was burnt down by rioters in 1831. The mansion remained a derelict shell until it was restored in 1875 by Thomas Chambers Hine and opened in 1878 by the Prince of Wales, (later King Edward VII) as Nottingham Castle Museum, the first municipal art gallery in the UK outside London.
The gatehouse of the medieval castle and much of the walling of the outer bailey was retained as a garden wall for the Ducal mansion. However, the northernmost part of the outer bailey was lost when an approach road was constructed in the 1830s for the development of The Park Estate on the former deer park, and this part of the castle site was later used for the expansion of Nottingham General Hospital. Most of the stonework of the outer fortifications which is now visible dates from an Edwardian reconstruction.