As part of my travels in September, I was able to return to Nottingham for a half day adventure to explore the Castle. I set several scenes of For King and Country there, so you can imagine how exciting it was for me to have an opportunity to see it from the perspective of someone with research interests rather than just being a tourist as I had been on my first visit in 2010. And there was an added bonus this time! In addition to hanging out with friends Al, Julie, and Katie, I got to take a fantastic tour of the caves.
Now Nottingham and its Castle today don’t look like Nottingham of 1193-1194. The gatehouse pictured above wasn’t built until the 1250s. (I wrote about my research in an earlier post.) Today I just want to share some photos from my trip.
As you walk toward the gatehouse, there’s a lovely courtyard where Robin Hood is ready to defend the Castle from intruders (or is he planning to rob the rich?) The stone of what would have been been a wall of the outer bailey is visible. But in the 1190s during the reign of Richard I, the Lionheart, this would have been a timber and earthworks palisade.
After you pass through the gatehouse, which back in the 13th-17th centuries was a bit taller, you walk through the outer bailey towards the medieval bridge (above left) into what once housed the middle bailey. The photo on the right shows the view after we’d walked under the bridge and looked back. The stone bridge, which dates back to Henry II’s reign in the 12th century, would have crossed a deep ditch, which you can see in the photo I took of the sign describing the past magnificence of the site (below). The fancy statues weren’t there in Henry’s time but were added later. The bridge is all that is left now.
It is hard to picture the middle and upper baileys of the 12th century castle because nothing really remains of them. The Castle was reduced to rubble during the English Civil War in the 17th century. Much of the original stone was carted off for other building projects, and even the height of the upper bailey was reduced when the ducal palace was built there by William Cavendish in 1674.
According to records, there was a second deep ditch separating the middle and upper baileys, also built by Henry II. The museum has several dioramas, including this one representing the Castle circa 1500:
In the last few years, the caves and tunnels beneath the Castle are being explored and one is open for a guided tour. So we started down the uneven path…
In one area, the sandstone roof no longer exists. The guide said it had been knocked out so defensive weapons could be placed there during the Civil War.
In some places, the tunnel was wider than it appears in the photo above. There were steps carved into the sandstone in many parts of the pathway, but nothing to hold onto except in the one area where the path was extremely steep. The tunnel winds down several hundred feet. I was glad we were going down! Men who brought supplies up from the River Leen in medieval times might have been leading pack animals up through the tunnels.
And after a hard day’s work carting supplies up, the good folk could go round the corner to Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem for an ale.
Charlene Newcomb is the author of the Battle Scars series, 12th century historical fiction filled with war, political intrigue, and a knightly romance of forbidden love set during the reign of Richard the Lionheart.
Char also writes science fiction. Echoes of the Storm was published in July 2020.
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