Monday, 16 April 2012

Nottingham Castle and the gentle Mortimer.

 A-Z Challenge 2012 - N
Nottingham Castle

In the legends of Robin Hood Nottingham Castle is the scene for the showdown between the Sheriff of Nottingham and the outlaw. However there is much more to the history of the castle than its ‘connection’ to Robin Hood.

Reconstruction of Nottingham Castle - 1896
The castle held a commanding position on a promontory known as “Castle Rock”, with 40m cliffs to the south and west. At various times it has been a major fortress and royal residence. After the execution of Charles I it was largely destroyed. The Ducal Mansion now occupying the site was built in the late 1600s.

Nottingham Castle - 2005
Built by William the Conqueror in 1067, the wooden structure with a motte and bailey design was replaced by a stone castle in 1170 by Henry II. In 1194 Richard the Lionheart regained the castle from Prince John with siege engines Richard had used during the crusades at Jerusalem - the only time that an occupier of Nottingham Castle was defeated.

In 1212 King John held sons of Welsh nobles as hostages in the Castle before ordering their execution. The boys’ cries rang round the Castle as they were taken one by one to the ramparts and hanged. Their ghostly pleas for mercy are still said to be heard within the castle precincts.

More drama occurred on the night of 19th October 1330, when the lovers, Roger Mortimer, 1st Earl of March and Queen Isabella were in residence. The pair were acting as Regents for the young Edward III following their murder of his father Edward II. The young king and his supporters entered the castle by the secret tunnel now known as Mortimer’s Hole and burst into the lovers chamber. Despite Isabella pleading ‘Fair son, have mercy on gentle Mortimer,’ Edward imprisoned him I the castle. Sir Roger was taken to London and executed there as a traitor; hung drawn and quartered on 29th November his remains were stuck on spikes and left to rot on traitors gate at Tyburn.

Ghostly echoes from the time may still be heard in the Ducal Mansion now occupying the sight. Footsteps are heard pacing to and fro in the subterranean chamber where Mortimer was held. Sometimes in the castle a woman’s voice pleads, ‘Bel fitz, eiez pitie du gentil Mortimer!’

Charles I raising his standard at Nottingham Castle 1642
In August 1642 at the start of the Civil War Charles I raised his standard outside the castle walls but for most of the war the castle was held by the parliamentary forces. After the execution of the King in 1649, the castle was razed to the ground.

The site was bought by the 1st Duke of Newcastle in the 1660s; the Ducal Mansion was completed by his son in 1678. The building was attacked and burn down by rioters in 1831. Later a local architect was appointed to adapt the Castle into a building to be used as a museum and art gallery.

The Prince of Wales, later Edward VII, opened Nottingham Castle in 1878 and Nottingham celebrated being the first municipal museum and art gallery outside London.

Nottingham Castle Gatehouse 2005
Manorbier Castle, Pembrokeshire was Hilary Melton-Butcher's castle for M on Saturday.

  • Reconstruction of Nottingham Castle 1896; Source Mackenzie, James D. (1896) The Castles of England: Their Story and Structure, Vol II. New York: Macmillan. Author James Mackenzie (1830-1900) PD
  • Nottingham Castle. Nottingham Castle 2005; author Rob Bradford; Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license
  • Painting by Henry Dawson 1847 of King Charles I raising his standard at Nottingham Castle 24 August 1642 public domain
  • Nottingham Castle's Gatehouse 2005; author Rob Bradford; Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license


Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Bob - snap!

I didn't go down the historical route - and I'm glad I didn't do so - as you've set it out so clearly here.

I changed a few pictures - and yours here are great - and you show the Gatehouse in all its upper story glory ..

I suppose finally we had to do the same castle!!

Cheers - this is a great post - Hilary

David Robinson said...

Passed it many times on visits to Nottingham but never been inside.

Another great and gruesome post, Bob. You really should put these together as e-book. I'd be first in the queue to buy.

MorningAJ said...

Nice bit of history.

Luanne G. Smith said...

Ooh, more hauntings. And so much interesting history behind the castle. Love it.

Rosalind Adam said...

I've never actually been inside this castle but it is in an impressive position. I glad to read that you found another ghostly anecdote. ;-)

p.s. I do know the difference between a robin and a wren but as a child I'd always thought it was a robin on the farthing and so my memory saw a robin. The power of the mind, just like some of those ghost stories I suspect.

Jo said...

I think you meant razed not raised Bob although I liked Hilary's use of slighted in one of her posts. Interesting story though. Didn't know any of the history. Have they ever established whether Robin of Locksley existed or not?

Bish Denham said...

So much death and intrigue. Of course I didn't know Nottingham had so much history. Like most everyone, I only associated it with Robin Hood.

Bob Scotney said...

Jo - I've erased (erazed?) the 'raised'. Robin Hood has one of the longest Wikipedia posts I've seen and there is no definite confirmation, it seems, that Robin existed.

~Sia McKye~ said...

I had forgotten that King John had executed Welsh nobles children there. The castle has had a long and bloody history-no wonder there are hauntings. :-)

Even given artistic license, the castle was quite a sight.

Thank you for the interesting article, Bob.


Heather Murphy said...

WOW, what I rich history! Thanks for the enlightenment

Beth Camp said...

Another interesting post. The photos remind me how much fighting went on, how much betrayal and violence. No wonder people revered Robin Hood as one who would defend those who served the powerful and wealthy.

Little Nell said...

Ah my home city again, thank you Bob. Of course, as I mentioned in my Sepia Saturday post, this week, the castle is also home to WW1 flying ace Albert Ball's records, statue and medals. I've visited that place so nay times over the years, and the present building still doesn't 'feel' like a castle to me. As a child I was always fascinated by 'Mortimer's Hole' - part of the structure of caves below the castle, and where Mortimer was supposed to have hidden.

Mary@GigglesandGuns said...

So much more than Robin Hood.
God job!

Unknown said...

I love the ghost stories related to places like this. Thank you for including a touch of that in your post.


Wendy said...

I didn't realize you were doing A to Z until I saw your comment on Kathy's blog. I am going to enjoy reading about the castles.

scott davidson said...

What an interesting blog, introduced by a thought-provoking photo. The unusual wall painting of the dwellings is also a strangely modern interpretation. Something like this hieroglyphic view of a park by Swiss painter Paul Klee,
The image can be seen at who can supply you with a canvas print of it.

Maria said...

Hi Bob, I was able to dig up your Nottingham Castle post! The Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalme Inn is just beside the castle. It's also built on the castle rock so it's accessible via one of the cave exits if I remember it right.