The City & its Castle

The Nottingham Story

Nottingham today is a modern City steeped in history and legend. Situated in the heart of England, its relationship with the Robin Hood story is forever fixed in the hearts of people throughout the world.

The origins of Nottingham go back may years with the first evidence of settlement dating from pre Roman times although it is clear that the Romans too lived in the area. An early name for Nottingham was "tigguo cobauc" which, translated means "a place of cavy dwellings"
however, Nottingham’s name as we know it now derives from later settlements which was built by Anglo-Saxon invaders after 6oo AD These settlements were named after their chieftain who was called Snot and who brought together his people in an area where the historic Lace Market in the City can now be found. Thus, Snot gave his name to Snotingaham - literally, "the town of Snot's people.

In 877AD Nottingham was captured by the Vikings only to be recaptured by the Anglo-Saxons 150 years later.
By 1066 the Anglo-Saxons were engaged in a fight with the invading Normans of William the Conqueror and their spirited resistance led to the establishment of twin settlements, with the Normans encamped on Castle Hill, where they built the Nottingham Castle in 1068, and the Anglo-Saxons taking the area where the Lace market can now be found. The Norman settlement became known as the "French Borough" and the Anglo-Saxon settlement as the "English Borough".

In Nottingham's twin city status which was retained for hundreds of years lies the reason for the town being granted two sheriffs by Henry IV in 1449, one each for the Norman and Anglo-Saxon boroughs, although today Nottingham has only one sheriff who performs a ceremonial role in the Civic affairs of the City

Nottingham is mentioned in The Domesday Book as a place of 173 burgesses and 19 villagers. The record reveals that Hugh, who was the son of Baldric, the sheriff, built 13 new houses there. The start of cunning plan perhaps!

As the settlements grew, Nottingham became an important market town and regional centre. By the 11th. Century, it had the status of a Royal "burh" and had huge defences constructed which ran around the area of what is today the Lace Market.

By 1086 Nottingham had a population of around 1000 which rose to around 3000 in 1300. After dipping back to around 2000 in 1400 the population continued to rise, reaching a figure of roughly 286,000 today.

The buildings in medieval Nottingham were mainly constructed of wood, the exceptions being stone constructions like the Castle, churches including St. Mary’s, St. Peter’s and St. Nicholas’s and a handful of other important buildings. The town hosted two markets trading mainly leather, wool, cloth and pottery – a large affair on Saturdays in the market place and a weekday market at Weekday Cross near where the present Lace market now stands.

Through the years Nottingham grew from a thriving agricultural centre, to an area of traditional trades based on both rich natural resources and the developing skills of local people. The soft water supply, filtered through the sandstone which forms the foundation of the city, was ideal for the industries of, tanning, wool-dying and brewing.

Despite the demise of Nottingham castle in the 17th century, the city continued to grow, and life for Nottingham citizens moved on into the approaching boom period of the Industrial Revolution.

Whilst this was a period of industrial achievement it was also a time of industrial unrest through the emergence of the Luddites or machine breakers who feared the loss of their livelihood to the advance of new technology. Even the famous Lord Byron was moved to speak out on this subject as destruction and conflict gripped the Country.

However, time moved on and Nottingham in the following century became a centre of industrial achievement. Innovation gave a boost to the lace trade and engineering, spinning, dying and beer making continued to provide Nottingham people with a prosperous livelihood.
The Sheriff of Nottingham

The City of Nottingham and its Sheriff are inextricably bound together by over 1,000 years of history.

According to the legend, Robin and the Sheriff are bitter enemies playing out the roles of good and evil set against the background of the City of Nottingham and the Royal forest of Sherwood.

To this day Nottingham still has its' Sheriff who embodies the spirit of the Robin Hood story throughout the world. Today's Sheriff though is purely a ceremonial figure who is elected yearly for his or her term of office.

The King

There is controversy over just who was the King of the Robin Hood stories. In the legend of today, the King is often portrayed as Richard the Lionheart to whom Robin pledged his allegiance against the evil plots of Prince John. However, some scholars have identified the true King as Edward the second. The debate goes on to this day.


Before 1066 castles were pretty much unknown in England. Within five years of the battle of Hastings, William the conqueror had built more than thirty castles to preserve his grip over the English.

One of these castles was the fortification of legend. - Nottingham Castle.

The original castle was not built of stone but was of earth banks topped by palisading built atop the castle rock with its collection of caves and passages. Over the years it progressed to a massive, self-contained stone fortress.

Sadly, following the end of the English Civil War, the year 1651 marked the destruction of the Castle to the general dismay of Oliver Cromwell.

Around 20 years later the first Duke of Newcastle built a Renaissance-style palace on the site of the castle remains. But the turbulent history of Nottingham Castle was to continue as, 150 years later, the palace was gutted by the Luddites angry at the Dukes opposition to Parliamentary reform.

Nottingham Castle remained a gutted shell for nearly 50 years until it was bought by the Nottingham City fathers in 1875 and restored as the first Provincial Museum of fine Art.

Click here to read a report about future plans for Nottingham Castle

Nottingham as a City

Nottingham was made a city in 1897 by Queen Victoria whose statue can be seen at the Victoria Embankment on the north bank of the River Trent.

Nottingham City today covers 7470 hectares of land and includes six markets, 138 parks and open spaces,and three parliamentary constituencies.

Robin Hood Activities and Experience breaks in Nottingham and Nottinghamshire Please browse the growing range of approved Robin Hood Activities and Robin Hood Experiences listed on