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Nottingham Castle - Museum & Art Gallery (Nottingham)

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6 Reviews

After the restoration of Charles II in 1660, the present 'Castle Mansion' was built by Henry Cavendish, 2nd Duke of Newcastle on the foundations of the previous structure. However, it lost its appeal to the later Dukes with the coming of the Industrial Revolution, which left Nottingham with the reputation of having the worst slums in the British Empire outside India. When residents of these slums rioted in 1831, they torched the mansion. The mansion remained a derelict shell until 1878, as a reminder to the people of Nottingham of what they had done. Eventually it was restored as the Nottingham Castle Museum in 1875, then opened in 1878 by the then Prince of Wales, King Edward VII. The Castle Mansion was the first municipal art gallery to open in the UK outside London. It is still used as a museum today.

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      06.04.2009 15:33

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      Nottingham Castle, in fact not legend.

      Nottingham Castle sitting high on it's rock overlooking the city is I am afraid nothing like people imagine from seeing Robin Hood on television or at the cinema.
      Once you are over the shock of a large mansion perched on the best spot in the whole of Nottingham then you have to look at it for what it is. That is the city museum and art gallery.
      It is a steep climb from the gatehouse entrance to the museum but on a clear day you can see for miles from the terrace.
      It is nothing out of the ordinary for a museum, it's setting is the best part about it.
      There is a cafe leading on to the terrace and a large grassed, but steep play area in the grounds.
      The only sign of Robin Hood is a large bronze statue of him outside the castle grounds on a grassed area, a place where all visitors must have their photographs taken.
      It is a disapointment to first time visitors, but then who believes in what Hollywood shows us?

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      30.07.2008 16:48
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      Worth a visit if you find yourself in Nottingham.

      I have lived in Nottingham for over 2 years now and it took until this week to get and visit the Castle with my kids, oh the shame!

      Opening times and Prices
      --------------------------------
      Mon-Sun (March - September) 10am - 5pm
      Mon-Sun (October - February) 10am - 4pm

      Adults £3.20, children £2.00

      Cave tours on throughout the week priced at £2.50 per adult £1.50 per child, times are subject to change.

      The best part is, if you are a city resident with either a City card, or you take a council tax bill in, it is completely free!

      There is no car park provided so you will need to either park in town somewhere or use one of the great park and ride/park and tram services available.

      What's there?
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      I will start with the outside as that is where we spent most of our time. At you walk through the castle gates you can currently see some lovely displays of flowers, on the side of a bank are 3 specially designed pictures made from flowers with information printed by them to tell you the story behind them. There is also a small shop at the gates selling drinks, ice-creams and souvenirs.

      A you walk up the slope towards the castle (which looks more like a house, but more on that later) you will notice a grassed area towards the right hand side. This is great for picnics, lots of room for the kids to run around...however there are notices asking for no ball games. There is also a tiny play park and sand box for the kids to play on, based around the castle theme and made from lots of lovely looking wood. There is a small seating area that provides some shade in the summer but only moderate protection in the wetter weather.

      If you walk towards the end of the grassed area there is a disabled/pushchair access to the castle, the entrance at the front requires you to climb quite a few steps. The rear entrance also gives you a great view of the city on a clear day.

      As you enter the castle you realise that it is not actually much of a castle. Being dragged around various ruins and castles as a child for educational purposes I wouldn't class this as a castle. It is more like a manor house, it has windows, floors and ceilings and no battle holes. IN fact it has been that damaged and then restored that it doesn't really have much of a castle feel to it apart from maybe the gates at the beginning of the grounds.

      There are 4 floors of exhibitions, to be honest on this visit we didn't look around the entire castle. We looked in the children's gallery which is on the top floor (at busy times waiting to use the 1 lift was annoying, however we did manage to fit in 3 pushchairs 4 adults and 3 extra children at a squeeze!). The gallery currently has a sea theme with lots of toys to the keep the children amused but not really a huge amount of information about the sea was readily available.

      The other displays are changed every so often so check online to see what they are currently displaying. One word of warning is not to expect too much of the history of Robin Hood, although all the merchandising was in the castle shop there did not seem to be anything of the history on display.

      There is a shop as mentioned above to purchase castle and Robin Hood trinkets such as pens, pencils, dressing up, bows and arrows etc. These items are reasonably priced, you could pick up something for about £1-£2 and not be disappointed.

      There are toilets located next to the shop which have baby changing facilities. The toilets were clean and well stocked even on a hot busy day.

      There are lots of paths leading around the castle that take you on some lovely walks through trees and flowers and a great way to wear out the kids.

      What are the staff like?
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      The only staff we saw were a girl on the til at the shop and a man who told us we had too many pushchairs in the children's gallery (it is limited to 2 pushchairs for some reason), after we had moved the pushchairs out he skulked around for 10 minutes to make sure we didn't sneak them back in, but apart from that there was no need to speak to the staff. The girl on the til was very pleasant even when it got quite busy.

      Would you recommend it?
      ---------------------------------
      As a cheap day out I think this is great. The next time we go I intend to take the kids around a few more of the exhibitions, as it's free it's a great way to build up their tolerance for walking around museums.

      The park, although small, was adequate to keep my 3 year old happy for an hour. And in the bad weather you can take them into the castle to look at the exhibits, with the children's gallery you know there is at least one area that will keep them amused for 10 minuets, although why they had to put it on the top floor I don't know!

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        08.12.2003 03:35
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        Nottingham castle sits high on it's hill, proudly welcoming travellers who happen to glance out of their windows as they enter, what we here consider, the world best city. Although the Romans had originally built a fortress on the land that the castle now stands on, it was William the Conquerer who ordered that a castle and moat be built on the top of the 133ft cliff that overlooks the centre of Nottingham. From the battlements of Nottingham castle, enemies could be seen approaching from miles away as the view stretched as far as the River Trent, which at the time linked the main road between London and the North. Nottingham Castle became a royal fortress for the next five centuries. Well as you can imagine over the years, the enemies of the crown threw everything they had at Nottingham castle. It was burned down twice, mind you it was made of wood back then, and when cannons and artillery were introduced it was battered from all sides. The castle was the stage for many a historic event. Edward IV proclaimed himself king in Nottingham in1460 and many years later in 1642, King Charles I raised the royal standard that marked the beginning of the English civil war, which led to his execution and the demolishing of the castle. After the restoration of King Charles II the rubble of the old castle was removed and the land was given to the then, Duke of Newcastle who had it rebuilt. Although it was still called 'castle' it now resembled a palace in design and it is this structure that is visible to visitors of our great city today. Nottingham is home to many museums. Nottingham Castle appears the most impressive of all. The castle is surrounded by what once would have been a moat and entrance is via a large and impressive gate house. The grounds of the castle are immaculately manicured. The grass couldn't be greener, the view couldn't be any more majestic. There is a gentle slope that leads you upward, to the base
        of a set of huge stone steps that lead you to one of the best viewpoints in the city. From here you really can see as far as the River Trent and it is easy to see why this position made for such a great fortress, many years ago. The entrance to the museum is at the top of these steps. The museum itself has undergone some major modernisation lately. Doors are wider and more accessible and there is a café that has been incorporated for the convenience of the many visitors. There are better toilet facilities, with disabled access and a gift shop, many of the things that are needed to make this a major tourist attraction. Access for the disabled is good. There is a lift and ramps in all required areas. The café is new and modern, if a tad expensive. The gift shop is typical of most museums, expensive and full of toys that have nothing in common with the museum itself. So what do you think? It sounds regal, doesn't it? It sounds majestic. It sounds beautiful. I can't argue with that. Nottingham Castle is a very beautiful, very ornate building. Its high ceilings and huge oak doors are a treat to the eye, but it is a great museum? Let me tell you what I look for in a museum. I love history. I love to be able to talk to the children about the objects on display and their many uses. I like information to be clearly displayed along with many of the little anecdotes or silly stories that accompany many objects, stories I can share with the children. I love to be able to interact with the things that are on show. I love to see and feel the atmosphere of a display or exhibition. I like to let the children touch and probe and feel some of the things on display. I like interactive areas, where the children have the opportunity to experience history and understand the uses and the significance of the items on display. I like to leave knowing that we have all learnt something but had fun too. On a recent visit to Nottingham Castle, th
        e first time we had been since the refurbishment I have to say we were disappointed. Speaking for myself, I think the problem was that there was no theme to each room. I 'm not saying that I wanted to walk into, let's say and Egyptian room, or a Roman experience. What I mean is that nothing seemed to tie together. It felt like a group of objects that had nothing in common with each other had been huddled together behind glass display cases. The museum felt clinical, the rooms cold and uninviting. The glass cabinets made the exhibits feel distant and detached. There were interactive opportunities for the children. They had no visible purpose though. They didn't seem to relate to the objects on display and they were targeted towards the tiny children, pre-school maybe, not the teenagers that I had shuffling their feet behind me, moaning and groaning that it was boring and asking how long before we could head off for MacDonald's. I remember as a child, my favourite room in the castle had been the Long Gallery. This was a room that had been dedicated to art and housed a really impressive range of huge oil paintings that I found fascinating. The Long Gallery still houses an art collection, but now it is more modern and the old favourites that I remember well have been banished to the halls of this mighty fortress, where they can be easily missed. Nottingham Castle is home to some beautiful china, crockery and jugs. There are exhibits of national costume and many more of the more modern items that will be the history of the future, if you know what I mean. There is an excellent exhibit about the history of Nottingham. Unfortunately much of this is also behind glass and felt very distant too. As I have said earlier in this piece, the children were thoroughly bored and I have to say that their father and I weren't much happier either. Things were that bad that we didn't even wait around for a tour of th
        e caves that run under the castle and are available for a couple of pounds. The tours are half hourly and very interesting, much more so than the castle itself. They have built a play park on the castle grounds, in the style of a medieval tournament ground, again this is aimed at the younger children and for us it just served to highlight the huge hole in the provision for families that seems to exist here. Entrance is free during the week but you will have to pay a fiver for a family pass if you come visiting of a weekend or during the bank holiday. Is there enough to keep you entertained for a day? No, but many of the better museums in Nottingham are situated nearby and also The trip to Jerusalem, reputedly the oldest pub in the country, is a few minutes down the road and is actually built into the side of the cliff that the castle sits upon. If you are not from Nottingham then I would say the castle is definitely worth a look, especially at the times it is free to enter. If it is a really good museum you are looking for and you have children with you, I would suggest you visit The Galleries Of Justice, a five minute walk across town. This is an excellent day out and the kind of experience I would definitely recommend. In my opinion Nottingham Castle has to take a leaf out of their book and the books of many of the new museums that are opening now. It is not enough to just show the past to our children and expect them to understand it and learn from it. They have to be able to touch, taste and experience it. This is how lessons are learnt and remembered. I do wish the curators of Nottingham Castle had put as much thought into what was on offer to their visitors, as they obviously have to their comfort. Thanks for reading.

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          12.07.2001 20:50
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          The legend of Robin Hood, the Sheriff of Nottingham and Sherwood Forest has made Nottingham Castle very famous. However, when the tourists flock to see the castle they are often disappointed as the current building is not a castle at all, but a 17th century mansion house. But, Nottingham Castle is not a place of disappointment, it is a wonderful centre with a 1000 years of real English history, standing proudly on a sandstone hill overlooking the city and the surrounding area. The first castle built on this spot was a wooden castle built by William the Conqueror in 1067 and the first stone castle was built by Henry II in 1170. When you walk around the outside of the castle you will notice how windy it is, even on what seems a still day. The castle buildings were very exposed on top of the hill and the wind and natural elements have been responsible for the demise of many of the castles built on the rock. The stone castles were all built from the local soft Bunter Sandstone which was eroded almost as quickly as the castles were being built, but the natural defences of three vertical cliffs around the castle still made it an ideal spot to defend against marauding natives. For 800 years many different royals and dignitaries resided in the castle because of its predominance over the area and the important bridge over the River Trent, until it fell into disrepair in the 1600’s. In 1663 William Cavendish (First Duke of Newcastle) bought the derelict site from the king and removed about 50 feet of rock from the top of the mound and built the current building. During the riots against the Reform Bill in 1831 the house was gutted by fire. In 1878 the building was restored and opened as the first Municipal Museum and Art Gallery outside of London and it is still used for this purpose today. You approach the castle from the centre of Nottingham along cobbled streets to an imposing stone gatehouse. Du
          ring the week admission to the castle and its grounds is free, but at weekends it is £2 for adults and £1 for children. The castle is open from 10.00am to 5.00pm. At the gatehouse there is also a small shop selling souvenirs and gifts. The grounds of the castle take in the three Baileys (different levels) leading up to the castle building. These grounds are very spacious with plenty of seating to relax and admire the spectacular view over the city, have a picnic, or just enjoy the peace. On the Middle Bailey there is large children’s play area, where the youngsters can let off steam without disturbing people in the other parts of the grounds. In the main building there are about a dozen different areas with varied displays and exhibitions to suit all age groups and interests. If you do go during the week in school term time then do expect to come across 3 or 4 school parties, as this is a popular venue for school trips. For art lovers there is the Long Gallery on the top floor. This is an enormous room with painting hung on the walls. This is always a very quiet room. I am not a great lover of paintings, but I am sure this would be very interesting to anybody who is. Also on the top floor are the temporary exhibition galleries. During my latest visit the exhibition here was called The Next Place. This was all to do with journeys into the afterlife and the main part of the display was a collection of about 40 full size coffins, but of very unusual designs. These included a narrow boat, a rubbish skip, a motor boat and an aircraft. This was a very unusual exhibition and very entertaining. The coffins reflected people’s achievements and interests in their lives and I liked that. On the lower floors of the museum is an enormous display of life in Nottingham. The story of the city is displayed in great detail and this is a very popular area with local people, with many stories and memorabilia of the area.
          In the other areas of the castle there is the Sherwood Foresters Regimental Collection, the Circle of Life, the Study Gallery, a Greek display and other various displays. Throughout all of the display areas there are audio and visual tapes to give further information and many fact sheets for each display. Also in the castle there is a large craft shop with some unusual souvenirs and a very pleasant cafe. Every day there are guided tours through Mortimer’s Hole. This is a secret medieval passageway that was carved through the sandstone from the top of the castle to the base of the hill. I can highly recommend these tours. The cost is £2 for adults and £1 for children. There are about 4 or 5 trips per day (well advertised) and they normally take about 45 minutes each. The guides on these tours are extremely knowledgeable and will give you a complete insight into the whole history of the castle, its residents and how it has changed over the years. The walk through the sandstone passage is totally fascinating and gives you an insight into what life was like in medieval times. This tour also takes you around the outside of the castle and points out places that are easy to miss. One part I found particularly interesting is a set of four wooden black, studded doors that I must have walked past lots of times but never taken any notice of. These doors are sealed and were the entrances to the plague wards that were used during the Bubonic Plague. They are believed to lead to large sealed chambers carved out in the rock under the castle. To this day these chambers are still sealed because of the risk of infection, but the current management of the castle are trying to negotiate permission to enter these chambers as they expect to find many valuable relics and information about life at the time of the plague. If you a bit unsteady on your feet then I would not suggest the Mortimer’s Hole tour, but for everybody e
          lse if you are visiting the castle then you really must add this tour to your day as it will so enrich your whole experience. There is so much history associated with Nottingham Castle that it makes you realise what an important town Nottingham was during medieval times. If you can forget about legends and Robin Hood and concentrate on real English history then you will really enjoy a visit to Nottingham Castle. I have lost count of how many times I have been to the castle, but I know I will keep going back and every time I learn something new about the castle or the history of this great city. If you are visiting Nottingham then a visit to the castle must be high on your list of things to do.

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            29.09.2000 23:39

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            As a bit of a "Robin Hood" nut I found Nottingham Castle to be a bit of a disappointment. It has plenty on the history of Nottingham, but went off on what I found were some strange tangents not directly relating to Nottingham; for example when I went there was a large display on the history of fashion, but not much on lace making. Robin Hood is prominent by his absence, which I found strange as Nottingham Castle (in its original form - the current building was built after the "castle" burnt down) is so deeply entwined in the legend. If memory serves me right, there is one room with a small display in it about Robin Hood. I would have liked to see some history about the Sheriff of Nottingham, his role and what surviving records there are of who served and when. It is a pleasant building though, with nice grounds to walk around in, and the price is not excessive. There are usually lots of people about, mostly foreigners I noticed, which I found slightly sad. Its certainly well worth a visit, but don't expect a lot on Robin Hood otherewise you will be sadly disappointed.

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            20.09.2000 21:09
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            I went to Nottingham this weekend and decided that having travelled all that way we should look around furthur than the bars! We opted for Nottingham Castle & it's caves - though if you take a tour the guide will say it actually hasn't actually been a castle for a long time and since then has been a duchal palace and is now a museum. It cost £2 to get in as it was the weekend, though I must say I was very impressed to learn that during the week it is free. The grounds are nice - plenty of grass to sit on in summer and a playground for the children! The best bit though has to be the museum - it is really interesting. There is plenty of information about Nottingham and it's castle through the ages with displays and videos to watch. There's a section more designed for children with plenty of things for them to interact with and also various art exhibitions with the work of many local artists displayed. All this for free (during the week) - pretty impressive in this day and age. An optional extra which would cost £3.50 in the week but is just £1 at weekends is the tour of the caves below the castle. The tour guides are volunteers from the local civic society (if memory serves me well) and certainly know their stuff. The tour took about 45 minutes and involves a lot of walking up and down stairs, but you definately learn a lot about the history of the place. The only down side about the whole place was the cafe - the service was poor and very slow and the cutlery was dirty. Putting that aside, if you're in Nottingham and have a few hours to spare give it a look, you'll definately learn something and may even enjoy it!

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