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Nottingham Castle's History
Nottingham Castle has a rich and varied history. A stunning Ducal Palace stands proudly on the site where a medieval castle once stood. Whilst it may not be a traditional castle, this fabulous building is still every bit as precious.
Standing high on Castle Rock overlooking the city, Nottingham Castle is visited by over 270,000 visitors each year!
Many visitors question where the castle is, as they expect to find a traditional English castle. Instead they find the first Duke of Newcastle's Ducal Palace. However, the prospect house that remains is as precious as any historic structure in the country and is unique and enchanting in its own right. The building is protected by Grade One listed status, whilst Castle Rock and the cave system within it, is a Scheduled Ancient Monument.
The History of Nottingham Castle
1067 - William the Conqueror builds the first Castle on the site, a wooden structure built upon the vantage point of the Castle rock.
1170 - The Castle is rebuilt in stone by Henry II. It is now the principal royal fortress in the Midlands.
1194 - Richard The Lionheart reclaims Nottingham Castle from his brother John using siege tactics. This is the only time in the Castle's history that an occupier is defeated in such a way.
1330 - Roger Mortimer, lover of Queen Isabella, is captured by supporters of her son, King Edward III who enter the castle through a tunnel cut through the rock. The cave is known as Mortimer's Hole to this day and is a favourite spot with visitors.
1485 - Richard III leaves Nottingham Castle to ride to Bosworth where he dies in battle at the hands of Henry Tudor who claims the throne, becoming Henry VII.
1622 - James I sells Nottingham Castle to the Earl of Rutland.
1642 - Charles I raises his standard outside the castle walls, here beginning the Civil War. Ironically for most of the war the site is held by the opposing parliamentary forces under the command of Colonel Hutchinson.
1651 - Permission is given for Hutchinson to demolish Nottingham Castle.
1663 - William Cavendish, First Duke of Newcastle ,purchases the site. He begins work on a prospect house high on Castle Rock but dies before its completion. His son completes the work on this unique building in 1678.
1831 - The building is attacked and looted by rioters following the Duke of Newcastle's opposition to parliamentary reform. The Ducal Palace is gutted internally when arsonists vent their anger at the Duke. As a silent rebuke to the people of Nottingham the Duke leaves the ruined building un-repaired for 45 years.
1875 - Thomas Chambers Hine, a local architect, is appointed to adapt the Castle into a building suitable for use as a museum and art gallery.
1878 - Nottingham Castle is opened by the Prince of Wales who later becomes Edward VII. Nottingham celebrates the first municipal museum and art gallery outside London.
Hauntings at the Castle
Throughout the centuries Nottingham Castle has experienced both drama and mystery aplenty, so it's probably not that surprising to hear that tales of hauntings are rife.
The famous tunnel known as Mortimer's Hole is carved into the sandstone outcrop on which the Castle stands. The passage way is eerie enough but is made all the more so by the reputed presence of the ghost of Sir Roger Mortimer himself.
Mortimer, the Earl of March and lover of Queen Isobel, was probably her accomplice in the murder of Edward II. On the night of October 19 1330 the Queen and her lover Mortimer were staying at Nottingham Castle. Seeking to bring his father's killer to justice and expose his feckless mother, the young King Edward III entered a network of secret tunnels that led ultimately into the Castle itself.
With a band of loyal supporters the King burst into his mother's bedroom and surprised the lovers. Edward himself is said to have seized Mortimer. The now doomed monarch killer was led away, so legend has it, to Isobel's mournful cries of "Fair son, have pity on the gentle Mortimer."
Sir Roger was imprisoned in the Castle, taken to London and executed as a traitor. He was hung, drawn and quartered on the 29 November 1330 and his wretched remains skewered on spikes and left to rot on traitors gate 'Tyburn'.
The tunnel that led to Sir Roger's downfall became known after him and is still called "Mortimer Hole" today.
Ghostly pleas for mercy
There are other ghosts connected with the Castle...
In 1212 King John held some 28 sons of Welsh noble families hostage in the castle. The boys, some as young as 12, lived at the castle for some time, and were allowed free rein within the walls. Then one day, the precise date is unknown, King John ordered all the hostages executed.
A chronicler states that the boys pitiful cries rang around the Castle as one after the other they were taken up on the ramparts and hanged in a row. Their ghostly pleas for mercy are still said to be heard within the Castle precincts.