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History

   
   

"A dynamic mix of medieval and modern"

“Linked forever to Robin Hood and his merry band of men in Lincoln green, Nottingham today is a dynamic mix of medieval and modern…”
Lonely Planet

History 

 
 

Nottingham has a long history shrouded in drama, mystery and myth. From the world-famous outlaw, Robin Hood, to three literary giants - Lord Byron, DH Lawrence and Alan Silitoe - the city's heritage is literally made of legends.   

It is difficult to pinpoint when the town first began to emerge, but we can say that Neolithic, Bronze Age and Iron Age artifacts have all been found in the River Trent and Britain's only known Ice Age rock art was discovered at Creswell Crags near Worksop ─ a significant archaeological find.  

The Place of Caves

Nottingham's remarkable network of Anglo-Saxon tunnels and caves indicate that people inhabited the area as far back as the medieval period. The area that makes up what it is now Nottingham city centre was even once known as Tiggua Cobaucc ─ Place of Caves.

The caves were carved out of the sandstone upon which most of the city is based and used across the centuries for a variety of reasons:

  • storage and industry, such as a medieval tannery  
  • 19th century slums
  • World War II bombing shelters
  • beer cellars beneath the city's pubs

Many of the caves remained inhabited until 1845 when the St Mary's Enclosure Act banned the rental of cellars and caves as homes for the poor.

Snotengaham

During the Anglo-Saxon occupation the town fell under the rule of a Saxon Chief called Snot, when it became known as Snotengaham ─ "the homestead of Snot's people." In 867 the Danish Vikings occupied the town and then in 1086 the Normans took control, dropping the 's' from the town's name. 

Image by Nottingham City Council 

 

Nottingham Castle

Nottingham Castle has a turbulent history and the castle we see today is one of many that have stood on the site. 

William the Conqueror

The original Norman castle was a wooden structure built on on the orders of William the Conqueror in 1067, a year after the Battle of Hastings. Located on Castle Rock it provided the ideal place from which to fortify the settlement and offers spectacular views across the city and far beyond.

Royal battles

Over 100 years later, in 1170, Henry II rebuilt the castle in stone and it became the main royal fortress in the East Midlands. It was only a couple of decades later in 1194 when the castle became the site of a famous historical battle: Richard the Lionhart (King Richard I) returned from his third crusade and reclaimed the castle from his brother, Prince John. It was also from Nottingham Castle that Richard III rode to the Battle of Bosworth in 1485 where he lost his life at the hands of Henry VII.

Ruins and riots

The castle was adapted over the years by the many monarchs that followed, but eventually fell out of use by the 17th century, due to damage caused by artillery in the English Civil War, after which, in 1651, it was dismantled and an English mansion built in its place. This mansion was burned down during riots in 1831, but was finally restored and opened to the public in 1878 as the museum which stands there today, becoming Britain's first provincial museum and art gallery.

Image by Nottingham City Council 

 

Lace industry

Nottingham was a leader in the field of lace making, an industry that was particularly prominent in the 19th century when lace was a symbol of high-fashion and style in clothing and in the home. Two key inventions originating from Nottinghamshire gave rise to the thriving local industry:

  • in 1589 local inventor, William Lee, developed a framework knitting machine which enabled the manufacture of large volumes of lace
  • in 1808 John Heathcoate developed a hand operated machine which marked the beginning of the local lace industry   

There were over 130 lace factories in Nottingham's Lace Market before changing fashions marked the decline of the industry. Today the Lace Market is a fashionable area of the city centre which provides stunning examples of 19th century industrial architecture.

Innovation

The city has seen many of the worlds well known brands, technologies and achievements emerge from its workshops, factories and laboratories:

  • Boots the chemists
  • Ibuprofen
  • MRI scanner
  • HP sauce
  • Raleigh Chopper
 

Famous names

The following people were all born or lived in Nottingham.

  • Lord Byron, author
  • DH Lawrence, author
  • Alan Silitoe, author
  • Graham Greene, author
  • Shane Meadows, film director
  • Samantha Morton, actor
  • Robert Lyndsay, actor
  • Mathew Horne, actor
  • Su Pollard, actor
  • Sir Paul Smith, fashion designer
  • William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army
  • Torvill and Dean, Olympic ice skating champions
  • Kenneth Clarke, MP
 

 

 

The University of Nottingham

University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

telephone: +44 (0) 115 951 5151
fax: +44 (0) 115 951 3666
email: enquiries@nottingham.ac.uk