Lost Castle of Liverpool

A rather belated posting from the weekend of 9 to 12 August when I visited the ‘Lost Castles’ in Liverpool city centre, one of the installations from the first community cultural art project to involve all six boroughs of the Liverpool City Region.  This saw hundreds of volunteers work with renowned French artist Olivier Grossetȇte to create monumental structures based on medieval forts or historic structures which were in the region at one time.  All the structures were made of cardboard, tape and community spirit!  The art installations were another part of Liverpool 2018 celebrating ten years since being European Capital of Culture.

The hundreds of volunteers worked with thousands of cardboard boxes to build monumental castle-inspired structures.  Anyone who signed up to help create these magical structures was able to join in the fun of toppling them at the end of the weekend.

The cardboard buildings were over 20 metres high, with each borough using their own heritage as inspiration.  Creative director Olivier Grossetȇte, researched the history of the six boroughs and came up with designs which he hoped would do the heritage of each area justice.  In interviews he has said that it is rewarding to work on a project which brings together a community in producing a unique piece of art which reflects where they live and then to have the fun of the demolition at the end so that within hours it is like the castles never existed and it was just a ‘wonderful dream’.

In Wirral in Ashton Park West Kirby, a Viking stave church was built to celebrate Wirral’s unique Viking history and Norse connections. The area is thought to have been almost a Viking state with its own borders, customs, trading point and language.  I had hoped to get along here but couldn’t make it and during heavy rains late on Saturday the structure collapsed.  The whole event here was featured on BBC1’s ‘The One Show’ on national television.

In Knowsley Safari Park a structure taking its inspiration from Elsinore Castle which features in William Shakespeare’s Hamlet and celebrating the Elizabethan and Jacobean heritage of Knowsley was built.

In Halton at Norton Priory a construction inspired by Halton Castle, a medieval ruin a mile and a half away in Halton village was built.

In Victoria Square, St Helens saw a partial recreation of Stuttgart Old Castle built to commemorate the 70th twinning anniversary between St Helens and the German city of Stuttgart – which was the first post-war twinning to take place between a British and German town.

In the Borough of Sefton Bootle Castle, also known as Miller’s Castle, was recreated in North Park, along with two nearby Bootle landmarks – the obelisks which in the 1800s acted as a navigation point for ships entering the Mersey.

In Liverpool where I went, a castle was built inspired by Liverpool Castle which stood at the top of modern day Lord Street.  It is thought to have been built early in the 13th Century – around the 1230s.  The re-creation was built in nearby Williamson Square near the centre of the city centre.

During Saturday there was a fairy-tale themed programme with knights in shining armour, juggling and stilt walking jesters, princes, princesses, kings, queens and a dragon to entertain the crowds. There was story-telling throughout the day along with live music supplying a medieval soundtrack to the activities.

On Sunday 12 August communities were encouraged to come together once again to topple the structure.  As an exciting finale, each castle was laid siege, destroyed and then the environmentally-friendly ‘Lost Castle’s’ will be responsibly recycled.

It was interesting to watch shoppers and visitors exploring the cardboard castle in Williamson Square and going about their business on a busy Saturday afternoon.

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Onward to Nottingham Castle

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.