Nottingham Castle is located in a commanding position on a promontory known as Castle Rock, with cliffs 130 feet high to the south and west, near the centre of Nottingham, Nottinghamshire.
The castle was built as a motte and bailey in 1068, soon after the Norman Conquest, on the orders of William the Conqueror. King Henry II, replaced the wooden castle with one made of stone.
The castle served as one of the most important in England for nobles and royalty alike. In a strategic position due to its location near a crossing of the River Trent, it was also known as a place of leisure, being close to the royal hunting grounds at Tideswell, the Royal Forest of the Peak, and close to the royal forests of Barnsdale and Sherwood. The castle also had its own deer park in the area immediately to the west, still known as The Park.
During the Wars of the Roses did Nottingham Castle begin to be used again as a military stronghold. Edward IV proclaimed himself king in Nottingham, and in 1476 he ordered the construction of a new tower and Royal Apartments.
By 1600, stopped being used as royal residence and was falling into ruin. At the start of the Civil War, in August 1642, King Charles I, chose Nottingham as the rallying point for his armies, but soon after he departed, the castle rock was made defensible and held by the parliamentarians. Commanded by John Hutchinson, they repulsed several Royalist attacks, and they were the last group to hold the castle. In 1648, the Royalist commander Marmaduke Langdale, fleeing after defeat in the Battle of Preston, was captured and held in Nottingham Castle, but he managed to escape and make his way to Europe. In 1651, two years after the execution of Charles I in 1649, the castle was slighted to prevent it being used again.
In 1660, the present castle was built by Henry Cavendish, 2nd Duke of Newcastle between 1674 and 1679 on the foundations of the previous structure. Despite the destruction of the keep and fortifications of the upper bailey, some rock cut cellars and medieval pointed arches survive beneath the mansion, together with a long passage to the bottom of the rock, commonly known as Mortimer's Hole, through which guided tours take place, starting at the Castle and ending at Brewhouse Yard.
However, it lost its appeal to the later Dukes with the coming of the Industrial Revolution, which left Nottingham with the reputation of having the worst slums in the British Empire outside India. When residents of these slums rioted in 1831, in protest against the Duke of Newcastle's opposition to the Reform Act 1832 they burned down the mansion.
The mansion remained a derelict shell until it was restored in 1875 by Thomas Chambers Hine, and opened in 1878 by the Prince of Wales, as Nottingham Castle Museum, the first municipal art gallery in the UK outside London.