Chapter VI.
Nottingham Castle and the historical events associated with it.

Nottingham Castle.
Nottingham Castle.

NOTTINGHAM was probably known to the Romans, who had a station at Basford; and the Fosse-Way extending from Leicester to Lincoln is still in existence. The excavations in the rock in the grounds of Mrs. J. W. Leavers are supposed by some antiquarians to be a Roman Crematorium. In 874, the DANES conquered Mercia from the Saxons and established themselves in the fortified towns of Notting­ham, Lincoln, Stamford, Derby, and Leicester. They have left their trace on the town by giving a name to Beck Street, from the Danish word for a river. Edward the Elder drove them out of Nottingham in 919, and built a bridge over the Trent at Bridgford, fortified with a tower on the south side. Edward also repaired and strengthened the town wall.

William the Conqueror built the Castle (or greatly added to a previous one) on the precipitous rock overhanging the Trent. The custody of the fortress was given over to William Peverel, said to be his son, who also erected Peak Castle, Derbyshire (Castleton), and whose descendants figure in Walter Scott's Peveril of the Peak. Nottingham at this time was divided into two boroughs, the old part being that already existing, while the new was occupied by French settlers. The Market Place was divided by a wall, which existed until 1713, for the convenience of the two populations. The same Peverel founded the great Lenton Monastery (see page 65) about 1100, which obtained the patronage of the three Nottingham parishes and vast ecclesiastical influence.

William Peverel's family did not long hold the Castle, but were driven out by King Henry II., who rebuilt the town wall and probably the Castle also. From this time forward the building was frequently the residence of the Kings of England. It was kept in good repair until the sixteenth century; but when Colonel Hutchinson took measures about 1640 for its defence against the Royalists, he found the structure much dilapidated. The Colonel afterwards demolished what was left, and thereby incurred the censure of Cromwell.

At an earlier date, Richard I. gave the Castle to his unfaithful brother John (King John of unhappy memory), who used the privilege to excite rebellion against the King during his absence in Palestine. Richard's successors frequently held Parliaments in Nottingham; and the town being thus favoured by the presence of the reigning monarch, early received the privileges of self-government and power to elect its own Mayor and Council. Charters were granted by Henry III., IV., V., and VI. The Castle Rock is honeycombed by subterranean passages, and visitors are shown one of these, known as Mortimer's Hole. This is said to have been the secret means of communication employed by Edward III., when eighteen years of age, to surprise and arrest Roger Mortimer, who was carrying on an intrigue with his mother, Queen Isabella. In 1455 began the Wars of the Roses, and Nottingham from its central position and strategic importance, was the frequent scene of the operations of both parties. Warwick, the "King-Maker," was here in 1464; he was slain at Barnet, 1471; and the victorious Edward IV. marshalled his forces at Nottingham on his way to the field of battle. The tyrannical Richard III. appears to have been particularly fond of the Castle as a residence, and some of his dark schemes may have been hatched here. The beautiful old gabled Guild Hall at Weekday Cross had lately been built, and Richard greatly extended the Castle, which was now "one of the most commodious and magnificent in the Kingdom."* Here the Scotch Commissioners met the King in 1484, for the purpose of concluding peace with the northern country. Henry of Richmond, the Lancastrian champion, landed at Milford Haven, August 7th, 1485. Richard was at Nottingham, and having marshalled a noble army either in the Market Place or the Meadows, crossed the Trent for the Leicester Road. "Three Richmonds" fought at Bosworth Field, and the late King was among the slain. It does not appear that the victorious Henry  VII. spent very much time at Nottingham. In 1534, Henry  VIII. created the town a "City" and the seat of a Suffragan Bishop, an institution which formed part of his new scheme of Church Government. "After 1597 the office lapsed for nearly three centuries, Nottingham being the first place to revive it in 1870, again in connection with St Mary's Church, where the throne yet remains."+ On the creation in 1884, of the Diocese of Southwell, the Nottingham Suffraganship was abolished. In 1530, Cardinal Wolsey passed through Nottingham on his way to Leicester Abbey, where he died.

The Castle.
The Castle.

James I. and the Prince of Wales were frequently in Nottingham, making Thurland Hall, Pelham Street, which was the residence of Sir John Holles, Earl of Clare, his place of residence. In 1603, the Castle was granted to Francis, Earl of Rutland, and his heirs. The building shortly afterwards was allowed to lapse into the state of decay in which Colonel Hutchinson found it.

Charles I. visited Nottingham several times before the troublous times began. In 1842 the Mayor presented the Prince of Wales with fifty pounds, and had the honour of kissing the King's hand. But when the King arrived on the 19th August of the same year, accompanied by the Royal Princes and a considerable body of cavalry, although he was greeted by "loud shouts as he passed on towards Thurland House,"# the middle classes were for the most part favourable to the Parliament. On August 23rd the King took the decisive step of Raising the Standard and calling his supporters around him. This event took place on the hill, now known as Standard Hill, on which the General Hospital stands. The rally to the standard was not equal to Royalist expectations, and his Majesty, with his supporters, left the town towards the middle of September. For the story of the subsequent Siege of the Castle by the Royalists and its defence by Colonel Hutchinson, the reader should peruse the graphic pages of the Life of the Colonel, by his wife. "Mortimer's Hole" was found very useful in enabling recruits to reach the fortress without the knowledge of the enemy. Repeated fights during the space of two years took place between the rival factions. In 1645 the King visited Welbeck (in the Dukeries), and the, following year surrendered to the Scottish Commissioners at Southwell, about fourteen miles east of Nottingham. Shortly afterwards the Royal prisoner passed once more through Nottingham in charge of General Fairfax.

So concludes the history of the Castle as a Fortress and Royal Residence. Little remains to-day of the original building except a portion of the outer wall and the Barbican Gateway through which we enter the grounds. Doubtless the strongest part of the edifice was at the summit of the rock where its massive walls would be built to form one continuous drop with the precipitous face of the cliff. The buildings were more extensive than those now existing and covered the wide grass plateau which we pass on our way to the summit. In Charles II.'s time the Castle passed into the hands of the Cavendish family, whose representative became the Duke of Newcastle. The title, however, lapsed for a time, but was afterwards renewed in behalf of the Pelham-Clintons, who still hold it, their principal residence being Clumber House, in the Dukeries, which the visitor to Nottingham must make a point of inspecting.

In 1674 the remains of the old Castle were cleared away, and the Renaissance Palace, which occupied five years in building, erected as a ducal residence. It was constantly used by the family until about 1800, after which date it does not appear to have been so much in favour, perhaps in consequence of the building of Clumber, 1773.

The new palace witnessed at least one historic event, and that again in relation to the hapless race of Stuart Kings. This was a meeting in 1688, convened by the Earl of Devonshire and other noblemen, for the purpose of dethroning James II. and installing William of Orange. The King's daughter, Princess Anne, was here too, having been persuaded to desert her father by the influence of her intriguing friend, Sarah Jennings, Duchess of Marlboro'.

Anne, before she became Queen, resided for some time at the Castle—on one occasion borrowing the Corporation set of Pewter Plate, which got lost and never found its way back!

In 1831 16-Feb-2010 rioted by the rejection of the Reform Bill by the House of Lords. The fire consumed the splendid contents of the mansion, but could not destroy the solid walls, which were left much as we see them to-day. The rioters also did much damage to Colwick Hall, on the Trent, near Nottingham. This was the abode of Mrs. Chaworth-Musters (Mary Chaworth), once the friend of the Poet Byron, and immortalised in "The Dream."

* Brown, History of Nottinghamshire.
+ The Churches and Monasteries of Nottingham, by Alfred Stapleton.
# Nottingham Castle, T. C. Hine, 1876.