Art-y Outings

Arty Outings: Nottingham Castle

Perhaps Nottingham’s most famous historical spot, Nottingham Castle occupies ‘Castle Hill’ between The Park and the City Centre. It boasts a wide and varied range of permanent exhibitions based on anything and everything, from the history of Nottingham, to Ancient Greece, to fine art from across the ages and across the world.

The Castle itself dates back to 1067, when a motte-and-bailey wooden structure was built on the site after the Battle of Hastings. This was replaced with a stone structure during the reign of King Henry II, in the 12th century, which served as a strategic base for royalty for centuries. It also came with its own deer park, which would later become The Park.

The Castle became the home of Prince John’s supporters, and the scene of the fabled final showdown between the Sheriff of Nottingham and Robin Hood. In the 14th century, Edward III used the castle as his royal residence, and held Parliament there, but by the 16th century the castle was decaying. The Civil War turned Nottingham Castle into a stronghold for Charles I, and when he was executed in 1649 the castle was razed to the ground to prevent it being used again.

“Nottingham Castle Museum – the first art gallery in the UK outside London”

The present Ducal Mansion was built 1674-9, but was burned down in 1832 during riots opposing the Reform Act 1832 – the same riots which caused the high wall and defensive gates around Wollaton Park to be built. It remained a derelict shell until 1875, when it was restored, then opened in 1878 as Nottingham Castle Museum – the first art gallery in the UK outside London. The collection has grown and developed since then, to form the Museum and Gallery that stands today.

The permanent fine art collection at the Castle includes works by Paul Sandby (founder of the Royal Academy), L.S. Lowry, Grayson Perry and Charles le Brun. Much of the work is on display in the Castle’s Long Gallery, modelled after the Grand Gallery in the Louvre. Temporary exhibitions in the past have included works by Leonardo da Vinci (which was curated in collaboration with students from UoN) and Gordon Cheung, with the current exhibition being the Nottingham Castle Open 2016.

“There are rumours that the ghost of Sir Roger Mortimer haunts the caves”

The labyrinth of caves beneath the Castle are an attraction by themselves, and have been used to help tell the story of Nottingham through the years; tours of the caves now run several times daily, though come with a warning – there are over 300 very steep steps to contend with! There are rumours that the ghost of Sir Roger Mortimer haunts the caves, after being found guilty of helping his lover Queen Isabella murder King Edward II, imprisoned in the castle and ultimately sentenced to death. Other famous parts of the cave include King David’s legendary dungeon, and the Duke of Newcastle’s Wine Cellar.

“An ever-changing and remarkable attraction that many students are yet to take advantage of”

The Castle is an amazing place to discover more about Nottingham’s varied history, and at £5 entry for students, it’s also great value. It has something of interest for everyone, and its huge range of exhibitions and displays make it an ever-changing and remarkable attraction that many students are yet to take advantage of!

Ellen Smithies

Image credits: Ellen Smithies 

For more information on Nottingham Castle, see here

To check out Ellen’s review of the Nottingham Castle Open exhibition, see here.

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