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Nottingham Castle exterior

The Big Picture: A new-look Nottingham Castle

Nottingham Castle is a place which will live in all our memories; whether it's getting your photo taken at the Robin Hood statue, attending the Beer Festival or wandering around its galleries on a day off from lectures. Perhaps maligned in its past, it has now had a much-needed shot in the arm thanks to a three-year, £30m refurbishment, reopening to the public this month.

Richard Gaunt
Dr Richard Gaunt

Part of the refurbishment sees a brand new gallery telling the fascinating story of Nottingham’s history of rebellion and for the University of Nottingham’s historian Dr Richard Gaunt, it’s the culmination of a dream role as Curator of Rebellion – an aspect of local history that is very close to his heart.

Richard was invited to take the lead on developing the content for the new gallery because of his expertise in this area of history. The Rebellion Gallery will take visitors back in time on a journey through three riotous historical episodes – the Civil War, the Luddite movement and parliamentary reform protests which saw the burning of the Castle in October 1831.

 

As we present photos of the reimagined castle, Richard reflects on how he and the team at Nottingham Castle set about this huge labour of love. All images courtesy of Nottingham Castle/Tracey Whitefoot

Nottingham Castle exterior grounds
One of the new exterior interpretation panels

"Nottingham has been synonymous with its Castle for nearly a millennium, and the University of Nottingham has identified itself with a blue castle logo for decades. The Castle on the logo looks rather more like a traditional turreted castle than the modern Castle site. This has frequently been the source of disappointment to visitors, but it is innately tied up with the Castle’s history – and its success – as a defensive fortification."

Nottingham Castle cave entrance
Access for visitors to the famous caves  has been enhanced

"Getting involved with the transformation and reshaping of the Castle presented a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for an academic who spends most of his time researching the historical roots of authority and rebellion. It was too good an offer to resist. So it was that I was seconded from my academic duties as a historian at the University of Nottingham to become the ‘Curator of Rebellion’ with Nottingham Castle’s transformation programme from 2015-18."

Nottingham Castle Hoods Hideout adventure play
Hood’s Hideout Adventure Play is a new attraction set within the dry moat of the Castle

"As a historian, I was conscious of the tremendous responsibility which this entailed; nothing on this scale has been attempted since the Castle was converted into a museum and art gallery between 1875 and 1878. 

Nottingham Castle art gallery
The Castle's famous Long Gallery has been given a thorough makeover

"Telling the historical story in a way which acknowledges its complexity without neglecting the known evidence has been one of the biggest challenges I have faced on the project. Every possible effort has been made to ensure historical accuracy whilst engaging visitors who may come to the gallery with a range of prior knowledge – or none at all."

Nottingham Castle quarterstaff game
Train with Robin's 'Merrie Band' deep in the bowels of the Castle

"Perched high on its promontory rock since 1068, the Castle has been expanded, fortified, laid siege to, and, after the British Civil Wars ended in 1660, finally slighted (or dismantled), so that no-one could again take advantage of its strategic capabilities as a military site. Re-fashioned as an Italianate ducal palace thereafter, it retained the name of Nottingham Castle to maintain its historic association with its pre-Civil War past as a site of royal governance, medieval parliaments, and military fortification."

Nottingham Castle Rebellion Gallery
The new Rebellion Gallery, curated by Dr. Gaunt

"I am proud to have played my part in the history of the Castle as well as the way in which the Castle approaches its own history. Undoubtedly, the Rebellion Gallery, like the newly transformed Castle as a whole, will evoke a range of responses from visitors far and wide. This is only to be expected at a site which has witnessed nearly a thousand years of history. And as the ‘Curator of Rebellion’ on the transformation programme, the expression and debating of different viewpoints is something I am bound to support."

 Pay a visit to Richard's Rebellion Gallery and the rest of the Castle: https://www.nottinghamcastle.org.uk

 

Alumni Engagement

University of Nottingham
Portland Building
University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

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