Nottingham like Leicester played a very important part in England’s medieval history. Most of our trip today was centred on Nottingham Castle which was started by William the Conqueror in 1068.
The castle saw much action over the years and saw further building additions and improvements in the reigns of most medieval kings. It also saw considerable action and several sieges. One dramatic episode was the capture of Roger Mortimer by the young Edward III in 1330. Whether the ‘secret tunnel’ we were able to explore was the real Mortimer’s Hole in the story is still debated.
Nottingham’s location was very strategic during the reigns of Edward IV and Richard III. During Edward’s reign a new Royal Palace was begun on the northern wall of the Middle Bailey. These new state apartments were built for comfort and featured a large curved range with seven bay windows. Behind them an immensely strong six-sided tower, known as Richard’s Tower, was constructed, and over 60 feet tall was almost a castle in itself.
During his two year reign Richard was at Nottingham a great deal, and it was here that he heard of the death of his son in 1484 – afterwards Nottingham was known as his ‘castle of care’. Richard left Nottingham on 19th August 1485 on his final journey towards Bosworth Field.
The medieval castle was destroyed at the end of the civil war in the 17th century and sold onto the 1st Duke of Newcastle who built a renaissance-style palace. In 1831 it was attacked and burnt by an angry mob during the Reform Act Riots because of the then 5th Duke’s opposition to Reform.
The derelict palace was later acquired by the corporation, repaired and opened as a Museum of Fine Art in 1878. Just after our visit Nottingham Castle was awarded a £13.9million Heritage Lottery Grant to further improve the telling of its many stories. The Society hopes to assist with the re-telling of Richard’s time at the Castle in the second phase of the project.