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1000 years of History.
Nottingham Castle - Museum & Art Gallery (Nottingham)
Member Name: daseaford
Nottingham Castle - Museum & Art Gallery (Nottingham)
Date: 12/07/01, updated on 12/07/01 (196 review reads)
Advantages: So much history., Cave visit a must.
The legend of Robin Hood, the Sheriff of Nottingham and Sherwood Forest has made Nottingham Castle very famous.
However, when the tourists flock to see the castle they are often disappointed as the current building is not a castle at all, but a 17th century mansion house.
But, Nottingham Castle is not a place of disappointment, it is a wonderful centre with a 1000 years of real English history, standing proudly on a sandstone hill overlooking the city and the surrounding area.
The first castle built on this spot was a wooden castle built by William the Conqueror in 1067 and the first stone castle was built by Henry II in 1170. When you walk around the outside of the castle you will notice how windy it is, even on what seems a still day. The castle buildings were very exposed on top of the hill and the wind and natural elements have been responsible for the demise of many of the castles built on the rock.
The stone castles were all built from the local soft Bunter Sandstone which was eroded almost as quickly as the castles were being built, but the natural defences of three vertical cliffs around the castle still made it an ideal spot to defend against marauding natives.
For 800 years many different royals and dignitaries resided in the castle because of its predominance over the area and the important bridge over the River Trent, until it fell into disrepair in the 1600’s.
In 1663 William Cavendish (First Duke of Newcastle) bought the derelict site from the king and removed about 50 feet of rock from the top of the mound and built the current building. During the riots against the Reform Bill in 1831 the house was gutted by fire.
In 1878 the building was restored and opened as the first Municipal Museum and Art Gallery outside of London and it is still used for this purpose today.
You approach the castle from the centre of Nottingham along cobbled streets to an imposing stone gatehouse. Du
ring the week admission to the castle and its grounds is free, but at weekends it is £2 for adults and £1 for children. The castle is open from 10.00am to 5.00pm. At the gatehouse there is also a small shop selling souvenirs and gifts.
The grounds of the castle take in the three Baileys (different levels) leading up to the castle building. These grounds are very spacious with plenty of seating to relax and admire the spectacular view over the city, have a picnic, or just enjoy the peace.
On the Middle Bailey there is large children’s play area, where the youngsters can let off steam without disturbing people in the other parts of the grounds.
In the main building there are about a dozen different areas with varied displays and exhibitions to suit all age groups and interests. If you do go during the week in school term time then do expect to come across 3 or 4 school parties, as this is a popular venue for school trips.
For art lovers there is the Long Gallery on the top floor. This is an enormous room with painting hung on the walls. This is always a very quiet room. I am not a great lover of paintings, but I am sure this would be very interesting to anybody who is.
Also on the top floor are the temporary exhibition galleries. During my latest visit the exhibition here was called The Next Place. This was all to do with journeys into the afterlife and the main part of the display was a collection of about 40 full size coffins, but of very unusual designs. These included a narrow boat, a rubbish skip, a motor boat and an aircraft. This was a very unusual exhibition and very entertaining. The coffins reflected people’s achievements and interests in their lives and I liked that.
On the lower floors of the museum is an enormous display of life in Nottingham. The story of the city is displayed in great detail and this is a very popular area with local people, with many stories and memorabilia of the area.
In the other areas of the castle there is the Sherwood Foresters Regimental Collection, the Circle of Life, the Study Gallery, a Greek display and other various displays. Throughout all of the display areas there are audio and visual tapes to give further information and many fact sheets for each display.
Also in the castle there is a large craft shop with some unusual souvenirs and a very pleasant cafe.
Every day there are guided tours through Mortimer’s Hole. This is a secret medieval passageway that was carved through the sandstone from the top of the castle to the base of the hill. I can highly recommend these tours. The cost is £2 for adults and £1 for children. There are about 4 or 5 trips per day (well advertised) and they normally take about 45 minutes each.
The guides on these tours are extremely knowledgeable and will give you a complete insight into the whole history of the castle, its residents and how it has changed over the years. The walk through the sandstone passage is totally fascinating and gives you an insight into what life was like in medieval times.
This tour also takes you around the outside of the castle and points out places that are easy to miss. One part I found particularly interesting is a set of four wooden black, studded doors that I must have walked past lots of times but never taken any notice of. These doors are sealed and were the entrances to the plague wards that were used during the Bubonic Plague. They are believed to lead to large sealed chambers carved out in the rock under the castle. To this day these chambers are still sealed because of the risk of infection, but the current management of the castle are trying to negotiate permission to enter these chambers as they expect to find many valuable relics and information about life at the time of the plague.
If you a bit unsteady on your feet then I would not suggest the Mortimer’s Hole tour, but for everybody e
lse if you are visiting the castle then you really must add this tour to your day as it will so enrich your whole experience.
There is so much history associated with Nottingham Castle that it makes you realise what an important town Nottingham was during medieval times. If you can forget about legends and Robin Hood and concentrate on real English history then you will really enjoy a visit to Nottingham Castle.
I have lost count of how many times I have been to the castle, but I know I will keep going back and every time I learn something new about the castle or the history of this great city.
If you are visiting Nottingham then a visit to the castle must be high on your list of things to do.
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