The Dramatic and Bloody History of Nottingham Castle

Nottingham Castle in the East Midlands of England has seen nearly 1,000 years of battles, revolts and scandals, but it is perhaps best known for its connection with the legendary English outlaw Robin Hood. According to the traditional tales, one of Robin’s greatest adversaries was the Sheriff of Nottingham, a supporter of Prince John, and Nottingham Castle was his stronghold. Whilst the story of Robin Hood has Nottingham Castle as part of its backdrop, it is only a small part (perhaps even a fictional one) of the castle’s long and colorful history.

A view of Nottingham Castle today. ( CC BY-SA 2.0 )

One Thousand Year History

The original Nottingham Castle is believed to have been built in 1067, a year after the Normans emerged victorious at the Battle of Hastings. The new King of England, William the Conqueror, is said to have ordered a castle, which was of the motte-and-bailey design, to be built in Nottingham. The site that was chosen is known as ‘Castle Rock’, a rock promontory overlooking the city of Nottingham.

The castle from The History and Antiquities of Nottingham by James Orange, 1840. ( Public Domain )

Bloody Revolt Leads to Surrender

About a century later, during the reign of Henry II, the castle was extensively rebuilt with stone, thus strengthening it. Not long after Henry’s death, in 1194, a historic battle took place at Nottingham Castle. At that time, the castle was occupied by the supporters of Prince John, who had revolted against his brother, King Richard the Lionheart, whilst the latter was on a crusade in the Holy Land. Despite having been extensively fortified by Henry II, the castle surrendered after just a few days.

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