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Nottingham Castle - Museum & Art Gallery (Nottingham)
Member Name: MandyMinx
Nottingham Castle - Museum & Art Gallery (Nottingham)
Date: 08/12/03, updated on 08/12/03 (136 review reads)
Advantages: Picturesque, Great views
Disadvantages: Out dated, Boring
Although the Romans had originally built a fortress on the land that the castle now stands on, it was William the Conquerer who ordered that a castle and moat be built on the top of the 133ft cliff that overlooks the centre of Nottingham.
From the battlements of Nottingham castle, enemies could be seen approaching from miles away as the view stretched as far as the River Trent, which at the time linked the main road between London and the North. Nottingham Castle became a royal fortress for the next five centuries.
Well as you can imagine over the years, the enemies of the crown threw everything they had at Nottingham castle. It was burned down twice, mind you it was made of wood back then, and when cannons and artillery were introduced it was battered from all sides.
The castle was the stage for many a historic event. Edward IV proclaimed himself king in Nottingham in1460 and many years later in 1642, King Charles I raised the royal standard that marked the beginning of the English civil war, which led to his execution and the demolishing of the castle. After the restoration of King Charles II the rubble of the old castle was removed and the land was given to the then, Duke of Newcastle who had it rebuilt. Although it was still called 'castle' it now resembled a palace in design and it is this structure that is visible to visitors of our great city today.
Nottingham is home to many museums. Nottingham Castle appears the most impressive of all. The castle is surrounded by what once would have been a moat and entrance is via a large and impressive gate house. The grounds of the castle are immaculately manicured. The grass couldn't be greener, the view couldn't be any more majestic.
There is a gentle slope that leads you upward, to the base
of a set of huge stone steps that lead you to one of the best viewpoints in the city. From here you really can see as far as the River Trent and it is easy to see why this position made for such a great fortress, many years ago.
The entrance to the museum is at the top of these steps. The museum itself has undergone some major modernisation lately. Doors are wider and more accessible and there is a café that has been incorporated for the convenience of the many visitors. There are better toilet facilities, with disabled access and a gift shop, many of the things that are needed to make this a major tourist attraction. Access for the disabled is good. There is a lift and ramps in all required areas. The café is new and modern, if a tad expensive. The gift shop is typical of most museums, expensive and full of toys that have nothing in common with the museum itself.
So what do you think? It sounds regal, doesn't it? It sounds majestic. It sounds beautiful. I can't argue with that. Nottingham Castle is a very beautiful, very ornate building. Its high ceilings and huge oak doors are a treat to the eye, but it is a great museum?
Let me tell you what I look for in a museum.
I love history. I love to be able to talk to the children about the objects on display and their many uses. I like information to be clearly displayed along with many of the little anecdotes or silly stories that accompany many objects, stories I can share with the children. I love to be able to interact with the things that are on show. I love to see and feel the atmosphere of a display or exhibition. I like to let the children touch and probe and feel some of the things on display. I like interactive areas, where the children have the opportunity to experience history and understand the uses and the significance of the items on display. I like to leave knowing that we have all learnt something but had fun too.
On a recent visit to Nottingham Castle, th
e first time we had been since the refurbishment I have to say we were disappointed.
Speaking for myself, I think the problem was that there was no theme to each room. I 'm not saying that I wanted to walk into, let's say and Egyptian room, or a Roman experience. What I mean is that nothing seemed to tie together. It felt like a group of objects that had nothing in common with each other had been huddled together behind glass display cases. The museum felt clinical, the rooms cold and uninviting. The glass cabinets made the exhibits feel distant and detached.
There were interactive opportunities for the children. They had no visible purpose though. They didn't seem to relate to the objects on display and they were targeted towards the tiny children, pre-school maybe, not the teenagers that I had shuffling their feet behind me, moaning and groaning that it was boring and asking how long before we could head off for MacDonald's.
I remember as a child, my favourite room in the castle had been the Long Gallery. This was a room that had been dedicated to art and housed a really impressive range of huge oil paintings that I found fascinating.
The Long Gallery still houses an art collection, but now it is more modern and the old favourites that I remember well have been banished to the halls of this mighty fortress, where they can be easily missed.
Nottingham Castle is home to some beautiful china, crockery and jugs. There are exhibits of national costume and many more of the more modern items that will be the history of the future, if you know what I mean.
There is an excellent exhibit about the history of Nottingham. Unfortunately much of this is also behind glass and felt very distant too.
As I have said earlier in this piece, the children were thoroughly bored and I have to say that their father and I weren't much happier either. Things were that bad that we didn't even wait around for a tour of th
e caves that run under the castle and are available for a couple of pounds. The tours are half hourly and very interesting, much more so than the castle itself.
They have built a play park on the castle grounds, in the style of a medieval tournament ground, again this is aimed at the younger children and for us it just served to highlight the huge hole in the provision for families that seems to exist here.
Entrance is free during the week but you will have to pay a fiver for a family pass if you come visiting of a weekend or during the bank holiday.
Is there enough to keep you entertained for a day? No, but many of the better museums in Nottingham are situated nearby and also The trip to Jerusalem, reputedly the oldest pub in the country, is a few minutes down the road and is actually built into the side of the cliff that the castle sits upon.
If you are not from Nottingham then I would say the castle is definitely worth a look, especially at the times it is free to enter. If it is a really good museum you are looking for and you have children with you, I would suggest you visit The Galleries Of Justice, a five minute walk across town. This is an excellent day out and the kind of experience I would definitely recommend.
In my opinion Nottingham Castle has to take a leaf out of their book and the books of many of the new museums that are opening now. It is not enough to just show the past to our children and expect them to understand it and learn from it. They have to be able to touch, taste and experience it. This is how lessons are learnt and remembered.
I do wish the curators of Nottingham Castle had put as much thought into what was on offer to their visitors, as they obviously have to their comfort.
Thanks for reading.