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Historic England Research Records

Nottingham Castle

Hob Uid: 317521
Location :
City of Nottingham
Non Civil Parish
Grid Ref : SK5690039500
Summary : Medieval motte and bailey castle. Built in 1068, excavations indicate that it was strengthed with a curtain wall 1184-7 and that a round tower was constructed circa 1250. It became one of the four principal English castles, and the main castle in the North Midlands. Extensive restoration was carried out from 1560-70 but it fell into disrepair during the reign of James 1 (1603-25). In 1651 all fortifications were demolished bar the gatehouse and the base of Edward IVs tower, and the site was cleared in 1674. A mansion was built on the site and is now used as a museum and art gallery. It is believed to be on the site of a possible Iron Age promontory fort. Scheduled.
More information : (SK 56903945) Nottingham Castle (NR). (1)

In 1068 William I built a motte and bailey (at SK 569-394) on a
promontory with a precipitous south face. A stone castle (centred at SK 569395). Strengthening the earlier work was commenced in the early 12th century and completed with the walling of the outer bailey, circa 1186. Owing to its ruinous condition extensive restoration was carried out from 1560-1570. During the reign of James I (1603-1625) the castle again fell into ruins, some of the buildings being dismantled and sold. A plan by Smithson shows the keep and inner bailey as it was in 1617 (see plan). In 1651, after the Civil War, all the fortifications were demolished.
The site was completely cleared of its ruins in 1674 and a mansion built (at SK 56913944), which is now used as a Museum and Art Gallery.

General opinion that the perimeter ditch to the castle area (see plan) is pre-Conquest, and the sub-dividing ditches post-Conquest, is unsupported by evidence. (2)

Motte and bailey built 1068; rebuilt (no date); outer bailey added
1212-3. (3)

A much restored 14th century gateway, (SK 56953958 - `A' on plan), is all that remains of the medieval castle. The later mansion was fired in the Reform Bill Riots of 1831, restored and converted into a Museum in 1875-8.

Mortimer's Hole (SK 56943941 - `C' on plan) is a rock passage traditionally connected with Roger Mortimer's capture in 1330. (4)

On 22nd August, 1642, Charles I raised his standard on open rising ground behind the northern outer wall, now known as Standard Hill (SK 568396). (The General Hospital buildings now occupy Standard Hill - `B', on the map, can only be conjectural). (5)

Possibly Promontory fort. (6)

Remains of the castle are confined to the immediate area and gardens about the present museum, bounded on the north by the modern Lenton Road which cuts off the old north enclosure. Considerable landscaping has taken place within the gardens and only small fragments of early masonry survive and these have been assimilated into the modern walls and heavily restored.
Whilst no identifiable traces of a promontory fort could be seen the topographical situation is ideal, having a cliff on its south and west sides and strong slopes on the east. (7)

Nottingham Castle. Excavations of the north defences of the Middle Bailey were completed in 1979. The earliest defence was a rampart of sand and sandstone rubble extending 40.0 metres east-west, 9.70 metres wide and 4.0 metres high. Identified with the Norman defences of 1068, it was strengthened in 1184-7 by a stone curtain wall. About 1250, a round tower was constructed at the north-west corner of the bailey cutting through the rampart, and a hexagonal tower with a rectangular northern extension was added to the north-east corner in the late 15th century. (8)

The Castle (Museum and Art Gallery). Late C17. Burnt and reconstructed in C19.

Castle Gateway. Retains some part of C14 masonry, restored in early C20.

Enclosing Walls at The Castle. Mediaeval, late C17 and later. Partly rock - cut and largely retaining walls.

Pair of Gate Piers at The Castle. Late C17; stone. Now standing in isolation and partly buried.

Pair of gatepiers at The Castle. Late C17/early C18. Stone with rusticated pilasters, cornice and urns. (9)

SK 569 395. Nottingham Castle. Scheduled no. NT/175. (10)

History, account of excavations, full report.
From its construction in 1067-8, Nottingham Castle was one of the most important English castles, both as a military stronghold and as a royal palace. It controlled Trent Bridge, a major crossing point of the river, and was the base of the king's power in the Midlands. Although most English royal urban castles declined in the 13th century, Nottingham was supported from the royal coffers.

The Mediaeval castle consisted of 4 distinct baileys, the Upper, Middle, Outer and Northern. The earliest castle consisted of a motte, Upper and Middle baileys, and a single large outer enclosure which later became the Outer and Northern baileys. In Henry II's reign, a curtain wall was constructed, a Great Hall built in stone in the Middle bailey, and a keep built in the Upper bailey. The outer enclosure was subdivided in King John's reign, however, it was not replaced by a stone wall until Henry III's reign, complete with mural towers and gatehouse.

The excavations between 1976-84 recovered evidence of the northern defences of the Middle bailey dating from the 11th century rampart throught the 12th century curtain wall to the 13th and 15th century towers. Elsewhere in the Middle bailey, excavation located the middle bridge, eastern bailey defences, domestic buildings, and mid-13th century outer gate. (11)

Survey of gatehouse. (12)

Listed by Cathcart King. (13)

As the most important castle in the Midlands, and one of the four principle castles of England, Nottingham Castle was always in Royal hands. Rebuilt in stone and enlarged under Henry II, it was repaired and maintained in good order by successive Kings. It remained the principal royal fortress in the North Midlands, but was not adapted to changes in warfare in the period. A survey of 1607 shows that many of the buildings, including the great hall, had been demolished, and when Charles I arrived in Nottingham in 1642, it was decayed and militarily obsolete. In 1651 the Council of State ordered its demolition, which was complete but for the gatehouse and the base of Edward IV's tower. (14,15)

Sources :
Source Number : 1
Source : Ordnance Survey Map (Scale / Date)
Source details : OS 6" 1920
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 2
Source : Thoroton Society of Nottinghamshire annual report
Source details : (F W C Gregory)
Page(s) : Jan-31
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 48 - 1944
Source Number : 11
Source : Transactions of the Thoroton Society of Nottinghamshire
Source details : Entire volume
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 93, 1989
Source Number : 12
Source : Transactions of the Thoroton Society of Nottinghamshire
Source details :
Page(s) : 48-55
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 85, 1981
Source Number : 13
Source : Castellarium anglicanum : an index and bibliography of the castles in England, Wales and the Islands. Volume II : Norfolk-Yorkshire and the islands
Source details :
Page(s) : 380,382
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 14
Source : The history of the King's Works, volume 2 : the Middle Ages
Source details :
Page(s) : 755-65
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 15
Source : The history of the King's Works, volume 3 : 1485-1660 (part 1)
Source details :
Page(s) : 283-6
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 3
Source : Norman Castles in Britain
Source details :
Page(s) : 262
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 1968
Source Number : 4
Source : Nottinghamshire
Source details :
Page(s) : 130-1
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 1951
Source Number : 5
Source : VIRTUAL CATALOGUE ENTRY TO SUPPORT NAR MIGRATION
Source details : Hist of Notts 1947 174 (A C Wood)
Page(s) :
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Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 6
Source : The Victoria history of the county of Nottingham: volume one
Source details : (W Stevenson)
Page(s) : 291-3
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 1906
Source Number : 7
Source : Field Investigators Comments
Source details : F1 BHS 14-MAR-75
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Vol(s) :
Source Number : 8
Source : VIRTUAL CATALOGUE ENTRY TO SUPPORT NAR MIGRATION
Source details : CBA N/L 3/9 Jan/Feb 1980 136 (C J Drage)
Page(s) :
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Source Number : 9
Source : List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest
Source details : DOE(HHR)Nottingham, Notts, JUly 1972, 15
Page(s) :
Figs. :
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Vol(s) :
Source Number : 10
Source : Scheduled Monument Notification
Source details : English Heritage, SAM List, Nottinghamshire, March 1994, p 13
Page(s) :
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Monument Types:
Monument Period Name : Iron Age
Display Date : Iron Age
Monument End Date : 43
Monument Start Date : -800
Monument Type : Promontory Fort
Evidence : Conjectural Evidence
Monument Period Name : Medieval
Display Date : built 1068
Monument End Date : 1068
Monument Start Date : 1068
Monument Type : Motte And Bailey, Castle, Royal Palace
Evidence : Documentary Evidence
Monument Period Name : Medieval
Display Date : strengthened 1184-7
Monument End Date : 1187
Monument Start Date : 1184
Monument Type : Castle, Curtain Wall, Great Hall, Keep, Royal Palace
Evidence : Documentary Evidence
Monument Period Name : Medieval
Display Date : tower built circa 1250
Monument End Date : 1260
Monument Start Date : 1240
Monument Type : Angle Tower, Curtain Wall, Interval Tower, Gatehouse
Evidence : Sub Surface Deposit
Monument Period Name : Medieval
Display Date : C14
Monument End Date : 1399
Monument Start Date : 1300
Monument Type : Gatehouse
Evidence : Extant Building
Monument Period Name : Post Medieval
Display Date : Post Medieval
Monument End Date : 1901
Monument Start Date : 1540
Monument Type : Castle, Royal Palace, Country House
Evidence : Documentary Evidence, Building

Components and Objects:
Related Records from other datasets:
External Cross Reference Source : Scheduled Monument Legacy (County No.)
External Cross Reference Number : NG 175
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : National Monuments Record Number
External Cross Reference Number : SK 53 NE 2
External Cross Reference Notes :

Related Warden Records :
Related Activities :
Associated Activities : Primary, RICHARD'S TOWER,NOTTINGHAM CASTLE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1903-01-01
End Date : 1904-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, NOTTINGHAM CASTLE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1950-01-01
End Date : 1950-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, NOTTINGHAM CASTLE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1950-01-01
End Date : 1950-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, FIELD OBSERVATION ON SK 53 NE 2
Activity type : FIELD OBSERVATION (VISUAL ASSESSMENT)
Start Date : 1975-03-14
End Date : 1975-03-14
Associated Activities : Primary, NOTTINGHAM CASTLE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1976-01-01
End Date : 1981-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, NOTTINGHAM CASTLE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1994-01-01
End Date : 1994-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, STANDARD HILL
Activity type : EVALUATION
Start Date : 1996-01-01
End Date : 1997-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, NOTTINGHAM CASTLE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 2000-01-01
End Date : 2000-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, ARENA SITE, STANDARD HILL
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 2001-01-01
End Date : 2001-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, OUTER BAILEY GATEHOUSE, NOTTINGHAM CASTLE
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 2001-01-01
End Date : 2001-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, WESTERN TERRACE, NOTTINGHAM CASTLE
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 2001-01-01
End Date : 2001-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, HART'S HOTEL SITE, STANDARD HILL
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 2002-01-01
End Date : 2002-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, NOTTINGHAM CASTLE UPPER BAILEY
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 2005-01-01
End Date : 2005-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, CITY OF NOTTINGHAM CHARACTERISATION
Activity type : DESK BASED ASSESSMENT
Start Date : 2007-01-01
End Date : 2009-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, OUTER BAILEY, NOTTINGHAM CASTLE
Activity type : GEOPHYSICAL SURVEY
Start Date : 2014-01-01
End Date : 2014-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, MIDDLE BAILEY, NOTTINGHAM CASTLE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 2016-01-01
End Date : 2016-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, NOTTINGHAM CASTLE GROUNDS
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 2016-01-01
End Date : 2016-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, NOTTINGHAM CASTLE GATEHOUSE BRIDGE
Activity type : EVALUATION
Start Date : 2017-01-01
End Date : 2017-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, MIDDLE BAILEY, NOTTINGHAM CASTLE
Activity type : EVALUATION
Start Date : 2018-01-01
End Date : 2018-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, NOTTINGHAM CASTLE VISITOR CENTRE
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 2018-01-01
End Date : 2018-12-31