Its History and Antiquities till it became chartered, or governed by Mayors.
After the Norman conquest Nottinghamshire, as other counties were, was divided
by King William amongst his kindred and those who had shared in his victory; among
whom we find the name of Peverel, who had given him, in this county, 55 lordships
and 48 tradesmen's houses in Nottingham. Thoroton has given us an account of the
consequence of this family which it seems was seated here: it is as follows, under the
"There is no mention at all in this most exact survey," (Doomsday Book) of the
Castle of Nottingham, (fn. 1) which is therefore concluded to be built by William Peverel,
or King William the first, his father, though 'tis supposed there might have been some
old fortress there before. He also builded the monastery at Lenton, as it seems he did
another at, or near Northampton, dedicated to St. James, the registry whereof certifieth
that he died the fifth of the kalends of Febr. 1113. 11 H. 1. and the Lady Adelina his
wife the fourteenth of the kalends of February 1119. 18 H. 1. and that Sir William, son
of the said William Peverel, died 16 kal. May, 1100. 12 William Rufus, (fn. 2) which
cannot be true, except he had another son William, for I find that William Peverell, at
the intreaty of his faithful wife Adelina, gave to the monastery of Lenton at (or nigh)
the very foundation, the churches of Hecham and Randia: (fn. 3) to which deed were witnesses
Robert de Ferrariis, Avenell de Haddon, Robert, son of Drogo, Robert, son of Warner, Raph Hanselin, &c. William Peverell his son, by ill advice, took them away
for a long time, but repenting, he for love of the worship of God, and for the safety of
the fouls of his said father and mother, by the consent of his heir William the younger,
restored them again: (fn. 4) the witnesses to this deed were Hugh de Burun, William Avenell, Adam de Morteyn, Oddo de Boney, Robert de Heriz, Gilbert de Macuinci,
Norman de St. Patricio, &c."
"In the fifth year of King Stephen, William Peverell of Nottingham gave account
of 23l. 6s. 8d. of the pleas of the forest. (fn. 5) And the Sheriff in his account that year of
the dane-geld, faith, that Adelina, the mother of William Peverell of Nottingham, was
pardoned 18l. by the King's writ, which shows there is some error in that said register of
St. James of Northampton, concerning the time of her death, as there is also a manifest
one in the computation of the year of our Lord, and of the King's reign in all the three,
which may justly lessen the credit of that part of it."
"Anno 1155 King Henry the second disinherited William Peverel, because of poyson given to Ranulph (Earl) of Chester." (fn. 6)
"About those times there were three Peverels of great note, viz. Peverel of Dover,
and Peverel of London, and our Peverel of Nottingham, who is certainly intended by the
last noted chronicle, as may further appear by an instrument (yet remaining in Sir John
Cotton's library) sealed by Henry Duke of Normans, &c. (afterwards King Henry the
second) being then at the Divises, to Ranulph Earl of Chester, wherein he gave him,
besides the said Earl's own inheritance in Normandy and England, wholly as his ancestors
ever had it (that in Normandy very particularly recited) the whole honour of Earl Roger
Pictavensis where ever, and all the said Duke Henries honour of Blye, where-ever it
was in England, and the honour of Eye, as Robert Malet, uncle of the said Earl Ranulph's
mother ever had it. Moreover he gave him Stafford and Staffordesir, and the county
(or earldom) of Stafford wholly whatever he had there in fee and inheritance, except the
fee of the Bishop of Chester, and of Earl Robert de Ferrarlis, and of Hugh de Mortuomari, and of Gervas Paganell, and except the forest of Canoc, which he (the said Duke)
then retained in his hand. He gave him the fee of Alan de Lincolne, who was (also)
uncle of the said Earl's mother, and the fee of Ernis de Burun as his own inheritance,
and the fee of Hugh de Scoteiney where-ever it was, and the fee of Robert de Chalz
where-ever it was, and the whole fee of Robert Fitz- (or son of) Odo, and the whole
fee of Norman de Verdun, and the fee of Robert de Stafford where-ever it was, and 30l.
land which the said Duke Henry had in Grimesby he gave him, and Nottingham Castle,
and the borough, and whatever the said Duke had in Nottingham in see and inheritance
he gave to him and his heirs, and the whole fee of William Peverell where-ever it was,
unless he could [dirationare se] clear himself in the said Duke's court of the wickedness
and treason, except Hecham. And if Engelram de Albamarle would not take with the
said Duke, nor Earl Simon, and he the said Duke could take the said Hecham by force,
he would restore it to the said Earl Ranulph if he would have it, and Torchesei and
Dswardehec Wapentac, and Derby, with all the appurtenances, and Maunsfeld with the
Soc, and Roelar with the Socb, and Stanley by Coventre with the Soch, and of Belvar he
would hold him right as soon as he should be able as of the said Earl's inheritance, and
to the said Earl's six Barons he would give each an hundred pound land, which they
should chuse of those which the said Duke should happen to get of his enemies, and to
all the said Earl's friends, [parentibus] he would restore their inheritance, whereof he had
power, &c. Howbeit the said Earl Ranulf of Chester did not enjoy any long possession
of those places in this county, for the sheriffs answered to the King for the profits of the
lands of William Peverell, and the scutages of the tenants of his fee, as in the pipe rolls
of Henry the second, and the succeeding Kings may be seen, and in divers other places of this book for the rest."
"Margaret, the daughter and (at length) heir of William Peverell of Nottingham,
was wife of William Earl of Ferrars and Derby, son of Robert the younger Earl of Ferrars and of Nottingham, and she had a son Robert Earl of Ferrars, who in the time of
King Henry the second, perhaps, because he could not inherit, was the more willing
to burn Nottingham, which he did it seems, together with his son William, grandson of
the said William and Margaret, which said William Earl of Ferrars the grandson was
outed of his earldoms of Nottingham and Derby by King Richard the first, who gave
them to John Earl of Moreton (afterwards King) his brother, who thereupon 'tis like
grew more willing to interest himself in these parts, which he did by granting a charter
to this town of Nottingham, and some way or other pleasing of the gentry of the country
so well, that he led the most of them into rebellion, as in sundry places of this book,
concerning divers particular persons of them, may be observed."
"But of these Peverells I have found no more, saving that there was a fine in the
King's court at Nottingham the Friday after the feast of St. Bartholomew, 4. Joh. before
J. Bishop of Norwic, Hugh Bardulf, John de Gestling, Mr. Roger Arundell, Hugh
de Bobi, the King's Justices, and others, then there present, between William Peverell,
Petent, and Beatrice de Curcon, tenant, of two bovats of land in Palterton, thereby
passed to her and her heirs, paying 6d. per annum, &c."
"'Tis certain then that from the beginning of the reign of Henry the second, this
castle of Nottingham hath for the most part belonged to the crown, neither is there any
place any thing near so far distant from London that I know of in all England, which hath
so often given entertainment and residence to the Kings and Queens of this realm since
the Norman conquest."
"It is said that in the year 1194, King Richard being first loosed from his bonds,
the castles of Nottingham and Tykehull resisted with force, but the castles of Lancaster and
Merleburgh, and Mount Michael rendered themselves." (fn. 7)
"King John in the sixth of his reign commanded Reginald de Clifton, that immediately upon sight of his letters he should deliver to Robert de Veteriponte the castle of
Nottingham, &c. (fn. 8) The like command at that time had Hugh de Nevill for the castle of
the Pec; William de Briewer for that of Bollesour; and Sampson de Straclee (Strelley)
concerning the castle of Harceston."
"Raph Fitz-Nicholas, 10 H. 3. was warden of Nottingham castle (he was steward to
William de Ferrariis Earl of Derby it seems.")
"King Henry the third being at Windsor, 29 April, 32 H. 3. committed to Robert
le Vavassur the counties of Nottingham and Derby to be kept, paying to the King 100l.
per annum at his exchequer for the issues of the said counties, besides fifty marks which
he was to pay every year to the warden [custodi] of Nottingham castle for the keeping
thereof." (fn. 9)
"After the battle at Lewes between King Henry the third, and the Barons, for
determining the strife Edward the King's eldest son was delivered for pledge, and afterterwards was freed from that custody, for the safety of whom, and of the kingdom, the
King, 49 H. 3. committed to his said son the castles of Dovor, of Scardeburgh, of Baumburgh, of Nottingham, and of Corff, as hostage for five years." (fn. 10)
"The same King Henry the third by his precept dated at Westminster, October 18,
56 H. 3. commanded his bayliffs and burgesses of Nottingham, without delay, to make
a posterne in the wall of the said town near the castle towards Lenton, of such a breadth
and height that two armed horsemen, carrying two lances on their shoulders, might go
in and out, where W. Arch-bishop of York had appointed it, who made the King understand that it was expedient for him and his heirs, and for the castle and town."
"Now for that the castle, park, and medows belonging thereunto are not within the
county of the town, I will express what I mean touching them in this place. When
this castle was built I certainly find not, but doubtless it was by Peverell. In the
record of Doomsday there is no mention of a castle, only I find there that William
Peverell had licence from the King to include ten acres ad faciendum pomerium, which
after the forest measure contains above fifty statute acres, and that I conceive to be
near the proportion of the old park of Nottingham, but this is only my conjecture,
which I will be bold to retain till some body tell me where those ten acres do lie after
the measure of that time, which was long before the statute de terris mensurandis." (fn. 11)
"It appears, 1 H. 4. that Thomas Moubray Duke of Norfolk held 20l. rent out of
Nottingham castle, with the stile and title of Earl of Nottingham, granted by King Richard (the second) and that Thomas Moubray, knight, son and heir of the said Duke,
was then fourteen years old."
"The exactest survey I find of this castle, and the appurtenances to it, is the account
of Jeffrey Knyveton, constable of the castle, and clark of the forest, 25 H. 6. First,
twenty four acres of medow called the King's medow; a close called castle appleton;
a close called the constable holme; a piece of medow called the milne damme; a
piece of medow called the milne place; two pieces of medow lying by the King's
bridge, and the roch-yard; the castle hills without the castle walls; the outer ward
within the castle walls; the dove-coat; the pindage of the castle; the castle milnes;
the conygarth which I conceive to be the old park; and the castle it self, which in
that account answered nothing, being the habitation of the constable." (fn. 12)
"The castle and the park of Nottingham were granted to Francis Earl of Rutland, in
the latter end of whose time many of the goodly buildings were pull'd down, and the
iron, and other materials, sold; yet there was left enough at the beginning of the late
rebellion, to make it chosen by King Charles the first, as the fittest place for the setting
up his Royal Standard, which, as I remember, was there erected on Munday, August
22. anno Dom. 1642. but shortly after the King's departure Sir John Digby dismissed
those souldiers of the trained bands of this county which only were left there, and so it
soon became a garrison for the parliament, which it continued till the end of the war,
after which the last governour Captain Thomas Poulton had orders and money given
him to pull it down, yet some parts of it though ruinous were not utterly demolished at
the return of King Charles the second, since when the Duke of Buckingham (whose
mother the Dutchess was only daughter and heir of the said Francis Earl of Rutland) sold
it to the Marquess of Newcastle, now also made Duke, who this present year 1674,
though he be above eighty years of age, hath a great number of men at work pulling
down and clearing the foundations of the old tower that he may build, at least, part of a
new castle there. The park pale he repaired at his first entrance."
"The rectory of the castle of Nottingham was 6l. Now I find nothing of it, but the
brewhouse yard is a constablery, wherein there are many houses, some in the rock,
others out of it, all which, being now of no parish, are a great receptacle for fanaticks,
and other like people, who would not live conformable to the laws."
Deering treats Dr. Thoroton's account of the castle with some degree of asperity.
Some may think that the modest and doubtful account, of the founder of it, which he
has given, is quite as well as the former's positive assertion, that it was built by William
the conqueror "to secure a retreat in case of necessary, and to keep the town in awe."
All writers agree that it was built about the time of the conquest, or an old castle, which
stood on this bold rock, was then much enlarged and repaired. Very great additions both
of strength and beauty it received by Edward the fourth and Richard the third.
Those works done by the conqueror were called the old works those by the latter kings
the new. (fn. 13)
Leland who visited the castle says "The bass court is large and mighty strong, and
there is a stately bridge (with pillars bearing beasts and giants) over the ditch into the
second ward, the front of which at the entrance is exceeding strong, with towers and
port-cullices." (fn. 14) "Within is a fair green court fit for any princely exercise. The
south-east parts of the castle are strong and well towered, within the old tower there is
another court tho' somewhat less than the last mentioned," (fn. 15) "in the midst whereof
there is a stair-case of stone, about six or seven feet above ground, in which there is a
door to enter and steps to lead, (of late much worn) through the main rock to the
foot thereof and the bank of the river Leen; by this passage (the keepers say) Edward the third's band came up through the rock and took Earl Mortimer prisoner.
The dungeon or prison stands by south and east, and is extraordinary strong et natura
loci et opera" (fn. 16) In the first court we go down many steps with a candle lighted into a
vault under ground, and rooms cut and made out of the very stone, in the walls
whereof the story of Christ's passion and other things are engraven, by David King of
Scotland, (as they say) who was kept prisoner there."
In Leland's time it was partly in ruins.
Tradition informs us that there were three wells, three chapels, and a college of secular priests in the castle. In the time of Henry the third there was a chapel dedicated to
St. Mary in the rock under the castle. (fn. 17) Deering has preserved a curious piece of
information from "The accounts of Geffry Knyveton, constable of the castle and clerk
of the forest, the 25th of Henry VI. which I have taken literatim from a forest book
wrote for the use of the mayor of Nottingham, Robert Alvie, by his serjeant at mace
William Marshal, in the year 1588, the 30th of queen Elizabeth, John Nody and Nicholas Sherwin being sheriffs."
"The accompte of Geffry Knyveton from the feast of St. Michaell tharchaungle in the xxvth.
yeare of kinge Henry the sixth, unto the same feaste next followinge by one whole yeare for the
castle of Nottingham."
"Ist. He gives accompte of xiil. 8s. cominge of xxiiii acres of meadow, lying in a meadow belonging to the castle of Nottingham called the king's-meadow. The price
3s. 2d. so letten this yeare."
"And of xivs. the latter agistment of the same meadow betwixt Michallmas and Martlemas happeninge."
"And of liiis. iiiid. of the farme of the close called castle-appleton."
"And of xxxvis. 8d. for the farme of another close called the constable-holme, so letten
to the men of Nottingham."
"And of xxivs. of the farme of a pece of meadow called the milne-dame."
"And xiiis. of the farme of two peces of meadow lyeinge by the king's bridge and the
"And viiis. of the castle-hills without the castle wall."
"And xxs. of the farme of the pindage of the castle so letten to the men of Nottingham."
"And of xs. of the farme of the outward, within the castle walls."
"And of the profit of the dove-cott nothing this year, but it was wont to give 3s. 4d."
"And of for the castle-miln."
"And of the 13s. 4d. of the farme of the coneygarth of the castle this year &c." (fn. 18)
Nottingham old castle it seems was in a ruinous state at the breaking out of the civil
wars; at the restoration it was nearly demolished. A copy of a plan taken by Smithson
in 1617, of Nottingham castle is preserved by Deering. From the present building
was erected in 1683, (fn. 19) it was begun by William Cavendish, Marquis, and afterwards
Duke of Newcastle, who purchased it of George Villiers, second Duke of Buckingham.
It was finished by Henry his son, as appears by an inscription over a back door of the
castle which was not legible in Deering's, but preserved by a servant in the household
of Henry Duke of Newcastle.
"This house was begun by William, Duke of Newcastle, in the year 1674, (who
died in the year 1676,) and according to his appointment by his last will and by the
model he left was finished in the year 1679."
The founder of this noble edifice, it is said, intended it to be one of the most grand
buildings, as a seat, in England, towards the accomplishing of which he devised the income of certain estates out of his domains. Deering says,
"The 1st Duke of Newcastle and founder of the present castle of Nottingham, was
William Cavendish, son of Sir Charles Cavendish, (younger brother of William the first
Earl of Devonshire) and Catherine daughter and heir to Cuthbert baron Ogle, married
to him the 4th of Car. I."
"This William had a brother Sir Charles, who died without issue."
"He was the 8th of James I. made knight of the Bath at the creation of Henry
prince of Wales. King Charles I. made him governor of the Prince his eldest son."
"In the year 1642 upon the great defection of the king's subjects the 18th of Car. I.
he first manned and fortified the town of Newcastle and the castle of Tinmouth for the king's
service, and afterwards levying other forces in the midst of winter, routed the greatest
part of those rebels that had made head in Yorkshire, taking most of the strong holds in
that county. His victories at Gainsborough in com. Linc. Chesterfield in com. Derb.
Piercy-brigg, Secroft, Tankersley, Tadcaster, Sheffield, Rotheram, Yarum, Beverley, Cawood, Selby, Halifax, Leeds, and Bradford, all in Yorkshire, testify'd his courage and
conduct, in the last of which, having vanquished their greatest northern army, (himself
leading on) he took 22 cannons and many colours."
"In 1642 he received the queen at her landing at Bridlington in com. Ebor. who
brought with her supplies of arms and ammunition, and conducted her safely to the King
at Oxford, for which services he was by letters patents bearing date at Oxford the 19th of
Car. I. created Marquis of Newcastle and Baron Cavendish."
"Afterwards he stoutly defended the city of York for three months space against
three powerful armies, and at last upon the depression of the royal interest in England
followed King Charles II. into banishment, during the continuance of the usurpation,
by whom he was created knight of the garter, and soon after the restoration viz. the 17th
of Charles II. anno 1664, advanced to the title of Duke of Newcastle and Earl of Ogle."
"He married two wives, 1st. Elizabeth, daughter and sole heir to William Basset of
Blore in com. Stafford, Esq. widow of Henry Howard, a younger son of Thomas Earl of
Suffolk, by whom he had issue."
"Charles, who married—,daughter to Richard Rogers of Brianston in com. Dorset, and died without issue in his father's life time."
"Henry his successor and three daughters. viz."
"Jane, wedded to Charles Cheney of Chesham-boys, in com. Bucks, Esq."
"Elizabeth, to John Eggerton Earl of Bridgwater; and
"Frances, to Oliver St. John, after Earl of Bolinbroke."
"He married to his second lady Margaret daughter to Thomas Lucas, of St. John's
near Colchester in Essex, Esq. a very learned lady and philosopher, but by her had no
"The second Duke of this family was
"Henry Cavendish, Duke, Marquis and Earl of Newcastle, Earl of Ogle, Viscount
Mansfield, Baron Cavendish of Bolsover, Bothal and Hepple, also Baron Ogle and knight of
the garter. He was in the reign of James II. one of the privy council and governor
of Berwick, and Lord Lieutenant of the counties of Northumberland and Nottingham, and
"He married Frances daughter of William Pierepont, second son of Robert Earl of
Kingston, by her he had issue:
"Henry Cavendish, stiled Earl of Ogle, his only son, (of the privy council to King
Charles II.) who married Elizabeth daughter and heir to Joceline Piercy Earl of Northumberland, whereupon he assumed her title and bore her arms, but died without issue
at London 1680."
"The late Duke thus deprived of male issue, the ducal estate devolved to
"John Holles, fourth Earl of Clare, in right of his wife Margaret, 3d daughter of
Henry Duke of Newcastle, This nobleman appeared with a spirit like his noble ancestors, and that with the earliest, in the just assertion of the liberties of these nations
from the bondage of popery and tyranny; in consideration of which he was in the 6th
year of King William and Queen Mary 1694, advanced to the dignity of Marquis
of Clare and Duke of Newcastle, having been before sworn of their majesties most honourable privy council; also in the 10th of King William III. 1698, instalted knight of the
most noble order of the garter."
"In the year 1700, when the Lords in parliament framed and passed an act: for authorizing certain commissioners to treat of a union with Scotland, his Grace was then
nominated for one of them, but the treaty at that time not having its desired effect, he
was in the 5th year of Queen Anne 1706, by commission under the great seal of England, again appointed or that number, under whole management that great and remarkable work was accomplished. By another act passed in the 4th of Queen Anne as lord
privy seal, he was appointed one of the lords justices, 'till the arrival of a successor, and in
the 7th of Queen Anne, upon the unhappy loss of George Prince of Denmark, was appointed one of the lords commissioners for holding the first parliament of Great - Britain,
having before been constituted lord privy seal, and sworn of her Majesty's most honourable privy council; he was also lord lieutenant of the county, and of the county of the
town of Nottingham, lord warden of the forest of Shirwood, lord lieutenant of the east and
north ridings of the county of York, and governor of the town and fort of Kingston upon
Hull. He had by this lady one only daughter, the lady Henrietta, now countess dowager
of Oxford and countess of Mortimer. This Duke having likewise no issue male, settled
the ducal eftate upon his nephew."
"Thomas Lord Pelham, eldest son of Thomas Lord Pelham and Grace his second
lady, youngest sister of John Duke of Newcastle, was born the 21st of July, 1694. He
had this large estate left him by the last will of his uncle, bearing date July 15th, 1711,
and that he should bear the name and arms of Holles".
"The Pelhams are an ancient and renowned family; they took their name from the
lordship of Pelham in Hartfordshire, and mention is made that the said lordship in the 21st
of Edward I. was part of the possessions of Walter de Pelham; in the reign of King
Edward III. John de Pelham gained great same, being with that King at the battle of
Poictiers, which was sought on Monday September 19, 1356, the 30th of Edward III.
He was competitor with Sir Roger de la Warr in taking John King of France prisoner
in the battle, and tho' above ten other knights challenged the taking of that King, yet
it was found that Sir Roger and Sir John de Pelham were most concerned, wherefore in
memory of so signal an action, and that king's delivering his sword to them, Sir Roger
had the champet or chape of his sword, for a badge of that honour, and John de Pelham
afterwards knighted, had the buckle of a belt as a mark of the same honour, which was
sometimes used as a seal manual, and at others on each side a cage, being the emblem of
captivity of the said King, and was therefore borne for a crest; the buckles were likewise
used by his defendants; and the second coat in his Grace's achievement is charged with
two belts having buckles to them." (fn. 20) .
But to return to the castle. Whatever might be the intention of its noble founder
in erecting this building cannot be certain. If for a family residence its situation is no
ways fitted for that purpose; as an objeft of admiration to the surrounding country, in
union with the rock on which it stands, it falls very short of our wishes and expectation.
Could nature, in all her wanton sports, effected a better fire for a study of architectural
harmony than this? Far and near it strikes the beholder with ideas of the sublime if not
beautiful; when contrasted, at a near view, with the delightful meadows below, it is a
venerable object, delectable from its apparent years. Art should here have been in
effect as bold as nature: a lofty and massy pile towering towards the heavens, with turrets and embattled walls, the taste of ages past, placed on its brow, instead of the present
formal and squat edifice, would have created a scene of splendour, not in seemingly
The views from this rock abound in variety, some are extensive and others beautiful:
The Trent forms a fine curve near Wilford; in its passage towards Cliston it presents a
silvery broad bosom. On the Wollaton side, over the park, are a variety of attractions.
A rich valley, interspersed with woodland, leads your eye into Derbyshire, where distance
appears boundless. A vast space is seen hence between Ruddington hills and Colwick, in
which Belvoir castle appears majestical. The bird's-eye view, over the town of Nottingham, is far from formal; the romantic scenery, just below, and many of the buildings
create a pleasing variety. The town of Nottingham seen from the terrace at the southwardly angle forms a figure, taking in the little river Leen, nearly thus. See fig. 3.
facing page 22.
The architect of this castle was March, a Lincolnshire man, whose name is now of no
celebrity whatever it might have been. It stands on a rustic basement, the order corinthian. You approach the grand apartments over a double flight of steps. An equestrian statue of William Duke of Newcastle is placed over the door of the north east front,
hewn out of a single block of stone, by one Wilson. (fn. 21) The area, or rather the court
yard, is encompassed with a stone wall breast high, where the air blows briskly. "On
the north side there is a spacious green court, much larger than that mentioned in the
old works, because the structures of the new tower took up a great part of this ground,
which is likewise encompassed by a stone wall, not so high as to hinder any prospect; in
this court, facing the middle of the north front, is a wooden door opening into the park;
about twenty odd yards west of this, there was a door leading by a stair-case cut in the
rock, into the great and strong tower built by Edward IV. which tower was half an
octagon, the walls of which were upwards of 12 feet thick; this passage Mr. Paramour
remembred very well; besides the bridge which goes over that part of the ditch where
the ancient fortified bridge once stood, another was built across the mote more directly
opposite to the old gate of the outer ward, after this new palace was finished for the
more convenient driving a coach up to the castle, but the foundation of this was so badly
secured that the north side of it fell down some few years after; this has lately been
made good with earth and is railed on each side and covered with green sods, and is now
become a pleasant way into the green court, between which and the north front of the castle
there are many steps leading from east to west down into a paved yard, by which, when
his Grace and family are here, the trades people who serve the house with provisions can
go into the kitchen and other offices under the main building; at the west end of this
yard there goes a door out of the rock where his Grace the present Duke in the year
1720, caused a convenient slaughter-house to be built, whither oxen, sheep, deer, &c.
were brought immediately from the park, and when dress'd, by the just mentioned door
through this lower yard into the kitchen and store places; at the east end of this yard is
to be seen a place walled up with brick, this opened the way into the dungeon of which
Leland speaks, and also Mr. Camden, where those figures we have spoken of before were
engraven on the walls. His grace when at Nottingham in the year 1720, as I am informed, had this place opened, in order to see whether any thing of them was yet to be found,
but it being almost entirely filled up with rubbish, no discovery could be made." (fn. 22)
That celebrated passage in this rock, called Mortimer's-hole, is now much in the same
condition as in Deering's time. Much credit appears to be due to the circumstantial
account of it by Deering, and some other things appendages to the castle, which he
carefully inspected, and by his industry has thrown much light on that dark tradition,
that the passage noticed was cut as a hiding place for the favorite Mortimer. I therefore think
it but justice due to his care that I insert here his account of it in preference of any relation I might substitute, observing only that this subterraneous passage leads through
the body of the rock to the bank of the little river Leen.
"This vault undoubtedly must have been in a much better condition in Leland's, Camden's, and even in my anonymous author's time, than at present, wherefore I cannot help
wondering at their incurious inspection of it, which has led them into diverse errors concerning the name it bears. This way through the rock was provided with no less than
six gates, besides a side one on the left hand going down; the first was above ground
leading from the turret down to the second, the place where the turret stood is now
covered by part of the modern sabrick, and the passage to the second gate is filled and
the gate itself walled up with stone, to this leads a new passage cut out of the rock since
the building of the present castle, without the wall of the paved yard. The distance
between the first and the second gate I take to have been about 16 yards; from this we
step down 14 yards and meet with the marks of another, and 15 yards lower was a
fourth; about 45 yards below this on the left hand we observed a gate bricked up, which
with seven or eight steps did lead up into some works of the old tower, (as the late Mr.
Jonathan Paramour informed me) in whose time it was bricked up; about eight yards
below this stood a fifth, and the sixth and lowest which opened into the rock yard and is
now also bricked up, is still about nine yards lower, so that the whole length of this once
well secured subterraneous passage from the court of the old tower to the foot of the rock
is 107 yards or 321 feet: This vault is 7 feet high and six wide, had all the way down
broad steps cut in the rock, the which are at this time almost entirely worn out in the
middle, but may plainly be perceived at the sides; there are all the way down till within
15 or 16 yards of the bottom, openings in the side of the rock to convey light into this
passage, and to serve the soldiers to shoot their arrows through upon the enemy, in the
upper part are cut out several regular port-holes, which shew, that during the civil war,
cannons were planted there, which commanded all the meadows; there are besides in
this part of the vault observable, many holes or excavarions about a foot in height,
breadth and depth, these seem to have been made to lodge cannon-balls in, to prevent
their rolling to the bottom."
"By this account taken from the present appearance of this place, it may easily be
judged, that it was contrived for a much weightier purpose than to carry on a love-intrigue, as a certain author will have it, viz. that Mortimer ordered this passage to be cut
out, for a private way to come to the Queen's apartments, and that from thence it got
the name of Mortimer's-hole. A very ill grounded conjecture. What occasion had he
to come privately to the Queen, when the posts and employments the Earl was in, during the minority of the King, not only furnished him with frequent opportunities of
going publickly to her, but the urgency of affairs made it indispensably necessary that he:
should often attend her Majesty".
"Had Mr. Camden been more exact in observing the place we are speaking of, he
would hardly have fallen into the error of imagining that it got its name, "because
Mortimer had it made to hide himself in, being afraid of himself out of a consciousness.
of his own guilt." Is it not reasonable to suppose, if the Earl of March had ordered
this place to be made for his concealment, he would likewise have taken care that it
should have been made convenient for that end, whereas the whole vault is one continued stair-case without so much as one single shelf in the side of the rock for a person to
sit down upon."
"Besides if we lay aside the consideration of the structure of this passage, the opinion,
of Mr. Camden will hardly be approved by any thinking person, that that nobleman,
generally known to live in the castle with the Queen, should chuse to hide himself in a
rocky cave, when at the same time he could be in the royal apartment, and that with
full as much safety, for the Queen had the keys of the castle delivered to her every night,
and laid under her pillow; moreover the Earl of March when the place was surprized,
was not found there but in the apartment of the Queen; in short had the Earl designed
this vault for his security, it must be supposed he would have taken more particular care
that it should be sufficiently guarded against any sudden surprize, whereas it seems no
extraordinary care was taken of it, else it would have been out of the power even of the
governor to have given King Edward the opportunity of coming into the castle that way".
"But there just now comes to my hand a manuscript English chronicle, which by the
language seems to be wrote in the reign of King Henry VI. this positively affirms, that
neither Mortimer nor the Queen knew any thing of this passage; these are the words:
"And in hast ther came unto Kyng Edw. Sir William Montague, that he was in his
castell and pryvelyche told him, that he ne none of his companions shulde not take the
Mortimer without counsaile and helpe of William Eland, constabill of the same castell.
Now certis quod Kyng Edward I leve you full well, and therefor I counsaill you
that ye goo unto the saide constabill, and commaunde him in my name that he be your
frende and your helper for to take the Mortimer, all things left uppon peyne of lyse
and lymmbe. Sir quod Mountague my lorde graunte mercye. Tho went forth the
saide Mountague and come to the constabill of the castell and told him the Kyng's
wille, and he answered, the Kyng's wille shulde be done in all that he myght, and he
wolde not spare for no manner of deth and so he swhore and made his othe. Tho
saide Sir William Mountague to the constabill in herynge of all them that were helpyng
to the quarrel. Now certis dere ffrendes us behoveth for to worche and done by
your Queyntyse to take the Mortimer, fith ye be the keeper of the castell and have the
kayes in your warde. Sir quod the constabill woll ye understonde that the yats of the
castell beth loken with lokys, and Queen Isabell sent hidder by night for the kayes
thereof, and they be layde under the chemsell of her beddis hede unto the morrow,
and so I may not come into the castell by the yats no manner of wyse, but yet I know
another weye by an aley that stretchith oute of the ward under the earthe into the castell
that gooth into the west, which aley Queen Isabell, ne none of her meayne, ne the
Mortimer ne none of his companye knowith it not, and so I shall lede you through the aley,
and soye shall come into the castell without aspyes of any man that beth your enemies, &c."
"It is therefore much more probable, that as the King and his band came up this
passage on purpose to seize Mortimer's person, and as the Earl after he was taken prisoner,
was brought out of the castle through this very same passage, it was in remembrance of
this event called Mortimer's-hole. There is no account when this vault was made which
I have met with, except what Collins in his peerage quotes from Drayton's barons war,
viz. "This wonderful passage had been hued and dug during the Danish invasion by
some of the Saxon Kings for the better security in case of a siege". For my part if I
consider how strongly this place was provided with gates, I cannot help thinking that it
was designed to relieve the castle with men and provisions, in case an enemy should be in
possession of the town, the opening of it being both without the town and castle walls, and
the rock yard being covered with two round bastions, in the outer wall of the castle facing
the south, of which a good part is yet standing, and that after the Norman conquest, it
was made use of in time of peace to convey the meal and beer, which was ground (especially after the Leen was brought to run by the castle) and brewed for the garrison, the
nearest way into the castle".
"The rock-yard into which the last and lowest gate in Mortimer's-hole opens, is called
in old writings the brewhouse of the castle, and indeed it had no other houses in it but
such as served for the conveniency of brewing for the garrison; until King James I. by
a particular grant under the broad seal, separated it from the castle."
"This grant was made to one Edward Ferres, of London, mercer, and Francis
Philips, of London, gent, exemplisy'd to John Mitten, and William Jackson, bearing
date the 18th of King James of England, and the 55th of Scotland, anno dom. 1621; since
which time a pretty many houses have been built in it, especially in the close, which in
the grant is called Dovecoat close. In this yard stood also the mill of the castle, which
used to grind all the corn for the support of the garrison."
"Farther west in the yard within a piece of ground now turned into a kitchen garden,
are to be seen the remains of a stair case, opening to the east and leading up into the
rock, wherein several rooms are formed with pretty even floors. Here formerly was
the malt-office belonging to the castle, as appears plainly by the kiln, which to this day
is to be seen".
"The brewhouse-yard was lately part of the jointure estate of Mrs. Collin, relict of
the late John Collin, Esq; alderman of Nottingham, and mother of Langford Collin,
Esq. one of his Majesty's Justices of the peace for the county of Nottingham; the kitchen
garden and an house on the right hand going into Brewhouse-yard, only excepted, which
house and garden were given by Mr. Peacock, to a society of people who formerly used
to meet here and called themselves the family of love; these premises are at this time in
the possession of master Ring, an infant, and grandson of the late Thomas Smith,
"It is a constablery which Dr. Thoroton with Mss J. M. is pleased to call a receptacle for sanaticks, and other like people, who would not live conformable to the laws.
This censure seems to me too severe, inasmuch as it not only favours of a persecuting
spirit, but is founded on a false supposition, as if this place (being in the county at large)
were any more exempt from the obedience to the laws of the land, than any other place
in the county, and that in a reign where no visible corner of the kingdom could shelter
any number of persons from the rigorous execution of that coercive law the Act of
"From the bastion of the east corner of the Brewhouse-yard, the ruins of the outer
walls of the castle run north, and over against a street called Castlegate are seen the ruins
of the largest round bastion, in the middle between this and the outer gate in the wall
which bends a little westward, a low gate is observed, which I dare venture to say was a
sally-port. The main gate is placed between two bastilles: From hence the wall almost
due west to the park, there, make an angle, and extending itself in a line northward did
join the postern, of which notice has been taken.
"The outer-ward within the outer wall, is spacious, on the right hand of which was
the pindage of the castle, and on the left where now a garden and nursery of trees is
planted was the dove-coat, as I am informed by the above-mentioned Mr. Jonathan
Paramour, who lived with duke William when the foundation of the new castle was laid".
"The ditch round the castle was a dry mote of a considerable depth and breadth, as
may easily be discovered even at this time".
"On the other side of the ditch at the farther end of that part of the rock whereupon
the new tower stood, there was till within these 18 or 20 years, an hole opening somewhat towards the east, called by the common-people James Scot's hole, which as the
tradition goes, did lead across the park, under ground, quite to Lenton, a good mile in
length; this being a vulgar error, I will here take an opportunity of clearing up the
matter. Had such a passage ever been made, it would be hard to find out a use for it
adequate to such an herculean labour, and whosoever considers how low the valley is
between the castle rock and the high hill where Lenton stile is placed, will with much ado
allow it possible to be done, but hardly deem it probable that such a piece of work should
ever have been undertaken: To be short, let the reader but cast an eye upon the plan of
the old castle here annexed, and he will readily be convinced that the truth of the matter
is this: When by order of his Grace William Duke of Newcastle, the old works of the
new tower were clearing, the labourers by flinging some pretty large stones down the
side of the rock, beat in the ground and made accidentally this hole, which shewed the
curious a way into the rock, this turning at first a little to the right and the quantity of
rubbish rendering the going far into the rock very difficult, has made them fancy that
passage went directly west and consequently to Lenton, tho' nobody has ever offered to
shew any opening at Lenton, to answer this pretended subterraneous way, and the above
mentioned plan clearly shews, that the hollow in that place was nothing else but a way into
a range of cellars under the several royal apartments and buildings on the north and west
part of the rock. The name of James Scot's hole proceeded from a mistake of the Scottish
King David II. who is said to have been prisoner in this castle, which moves me to
examine how far the story related of that King is well or ill-grounded".
"The dungeon or prison of the castle was widely distant from the hole we have been
speaking of, for according to Leland it was south from the hole, i. e. under the first steps
which lead up to the paved court of the present castle. That there were such rooms as
Mr. Camden speaks of, many steps deep in the rock, into which persons were obliged to
go with a candle light, and that these steps went from the first court, as also that the
passion of our Saviour Christ and other things were engraven on the walls of those rooms,
we may credit him who relates it as an eye-witness; but that those figures were made by
David King of Scots, is not quite so clear: For that great antiquarian does not assert it
directly, but with these cautionary words, (as they say). I will not deny that that King
might be a prisoner in the castle of Nottingham, tho' Stow takes notice that he was
brought to Westminster the 2d of January 1147, and thence in the sight of all the people
conveyed to the tower, and there lodged in the black nuck near the constable's guard,
and that he was afterwards removed to Oldisham castle, where he remained prisoner till
ransomed; because as he was taken prisoner the 17th of October 1146, according to the
same author, and could not be brought to London with the rest of the prisoners on account of his wounds in the head; it is very probable that he was brought to Nottingham
and remained confined in the castle till he was able to travel: But all this is still so far
from proving that King the author of the above-mentioned figures, that it rather creates
a suspicion to the contrary, because his wounds in the head would not admit of such a
work if they disabled him from travelling."
"On the north-side of the castle without the wall, is a close which takes in the major
part of the castle hills, and went from thence by the name of the hill-close, in the middle
of this on a flat and round spot was set up King Charles the 1st. standard, since which
time it bore for many years the name of standard close, 'till of late some of the Nevil's
having rented it, the town's people call it Nevil's-close; where the standard was fixed
there stood a post for a considerable number of years, in the room of which when pulled
up, the father of John Nevil, Esq. to perpetuate the memory of that remarkable event,
planted several elms successively, none of which escaped the unruliness of the lads of
"It is a commonly received error, that the royal standard was erected on a place
called Derry-mount, a little farther north than the just mentioned close; for it is an artificial hill raised on purpose for a wind mill to stand upon, which formerly was there;
besides this hill is not within the jurisdiction of the castle."
"This our castle when in its glory (says William of Newborough,) was made so strong
both by nature and art, that it was esteemed impregnable except by famine, if it had a
sussicient garrison in it, that it had never undergone the common fate of great castles,
being never taken by downright storm; once it was besieged by Henry Duke of Anjou,
but in vain, at which time the garrison had burnt down all the buildings about it; it was
once also taken by surprize, by Robert count de Ferrariis, in the barons war, who
burnt the town, and deprived the people of all they had."
Within the castle I found nothing to attract; the pictures, which once adorned the
walls of the apartments, are removed, and the chief of the furniture. Here remains only
some starved tapestry, in some of the rooms, that require notice. In the state bed-room
I judge it to be most excellent. I remember being shewn a state bed in this apartment
thirty or forty years ago, said to have been slept on by Queen Anne; but that has
journeyed hence, probably to return no more. Some of the rooms I found occupied
by a Miss Kirkby; lately a part of the castle was used as a boarding school.
Some eventful periods, respecting Nottingham castle, may be found under their
The park belonging to the castle is small, and the surface very uneven, it is a great place
of resort in the summer season. It has now no deer, and scarcely any trees in it. In 1793, the
barracks thereon, was built by a grant from the Duke of Newcastle. Near the rock-holes,
which are mentioned page 4, is a celebrated echo, "which repeats," Deering says, "every
word distinctly, tho' beginning with a consonant, unless it be with an M, N, S, or V."
Nottingham Brindge may next claim our attention for its antiquity.
Gough, from MS Cott: Tit. A. xxiv, says, That it was antiently called Heithehithebridge. It at present consists of 20 irregu ararches apparently repaired at a variety of periods.
This bridge spans the river Trent, which river Stow's chronicle informs us, was dried up in
1110. Knighton, also notices this event. There was a bridge built over the Trent so long
back as the time of the elder Edward, which had stone piers and the rest wood; but it was
in a great measure destroyed by the ice after a very severe frost which began in September, and lasted till the February following. In addition to what is noticed above of the
name it anciently bare, it is spelt in old writings various ways, as Heathhet-bridge,
Heathbethe brigg, Heathbet, and Hebethe-bridge. (fn. 23) Hereafter the reader will perceive
that Thoroton mentions a chapel that formerly stood upon this bridge, an arch of which
was remaining in his time. There have been many gifts and legacies towards the
reparation of this bridge, now called Trent bridge; the crown also, it appears, have, at
divers times, been bountiful in this respect. The corporation of Nottingham has the
sole disposal of the money arising from these benefactions. The bridge now is much
too narrow for the numerous passengers that go to and from Nottingham. (fn. 24)
Of eventful periods the following have been handed down by historians. Nottingham
by Stow's account was nearly destroyed by fire in the year 1140, by the forces under the
Earl of Gloucester, who plundered the town when the inhabitants were incapable of defence,
flew many of them with the sword, and others he burnt in the churches, whither they
had sled for safety. Henry, son of the Empress Maud, afterwards Henry II, in the
year 1153, also besieged and took Nottingham castle, which place continued in the hands
of the crown, till Robert Earl of Ferrers and Darby, being in the service of young
Henry, against his father, came suddenly and drove the King's forces from thence, burnt
the town, slew many of the inhabitants, and divided their goods amongst his soldiers.
Nottingham, after this afflicting circumstance, lay in ruin, until Henry II. was peaceably settled on his throne, by the death of his son. This monarch was exceedingly
bountiful to the inhabitants; he not only made them considerable presents towards the
rebuilding the town, but granted them a new charter, which is shewn in the next section.
In 1179, Henry, for the encouragement of the town, kept his Christmas here with
William King of Scotland.' (fn. 25) John, the 4th son of Henry II. was in possession of the
castle, and had the title of Earl of Nottingham; in which place he resided with regal
dignity in the absence of his brother Richard I, who was gone to the holy wars; but
aspiring to the crown he lost his power in this place. However, in the year 1193 he
recovered it by force of arms (fn. 26) At Richard's return from the holy land he subdued
John and his forces, and retook the castle in person, A. D. 1194. Here Richard
called a parliament, and charged his brother John, and his adherents, with high crimes
against himself and the state, and in consequence demanded immediate judgement against
them. A proclamation being issued forth, that if Earl John and his adherents did not
appear in forty days, that John should forfeit all his possessions, and his adherents should
be subject to such penalties parliament should award against them. John not appearing
he forfeited his possessions, and was judged incapable of succeeding to the crown. (fn. 27) At
this parliament or counsel Eleanor, Queen mother, Henry IIs. widow, sat on the
right hand of the King.
John, after the death of his brother Richard, being King, often honoured Nottingham with his presence. In 1212 he marched to Nottingham, and there hanged some
hostages, which, but the year before, he had received from the Welsh who had offended
him. John, ever timid and suspicious, the same year, shut himself up in the castle,
with an hired armed force, in dread of a plot against him which he had received information of. Nottingham was a favorite place of this prince to which he was a considerable
benefactor. Here he kept his Christmas feast in 1215. When the dauphin of France,
contended with King John for the crown, Nottingham was highly in the King's interest.
Henry III. and Edward I. and II. were frequently at Nottingham; as have been
also many of the prime nobility and distinguished persons of the land, at this early period
of our history.