The Eerie Dungeons & Caves of Nottingham Castle

nottingham-castle-rock (Image: Happy A, cc-nc-sa-3.0)

Nottingham is well known for its links with Robin Hood – but it has many other darker links.

Set on a high sandstone cliff, Nottingham Castle does not bear much resemblance to the medieval world Robin Hood would have known. It was totally rebuilt in the seventeenth century. Yet the reminders of the past are all around. There are statues of Robin Hood and even topiary versions of the famous outlaw.

robin-hood-statue-notthingham-castle (Image: Soerfm, cc-sa-3.0)

It is the maze of sandstone caves underneath the castle which hold the real secrets of Nottingham. These are eerie, chilly places in which it would be easy to get lost. Access is only available on guided tours.

Some of the caves were used as wine cellars as they have a constant temperature of 14 degrees Celsius making them ideal for storing wine and beer, but most have more gory stories to tell.

During the English Civil War, soldiers stationed at the castle had to sleep in the caves. It was so cold, that their first duty on waking was to check the soldier on their right to make sure he was still alive – and hadn’t frozen to death during the night.

nottingham-castle-caves-dungeons (Image: Angela Youngman, all rights reserved)

King David’s Dungeon is a dark, dismal place. If you look closely you can see pictures carved into the walls. These are believed to have been made by King David of Scotland after the battle of Neville’s Cross. He and his captors stayed here for 12 days while he recovered from an arrow wound to the face. All that time, he spent sitting in this cold cave.

It is easy to believe in ghosts when you walk through these uneven tunnels. One of the most famous is Roger Mortimer, the lover of the medieval Queen Isabella. Mortimer and Isabella are said to have plotted the death of her husband and his male lover. By 1330, Mortimer and Isabella were living at the castle in regal splendour. Her son, the young King Edward III accompanied by a group of nobles entered the castle via the tunnels, burst into his mother’s bedroom and arrested Mortimer. The doomed killer was imprisoned in the cave now known as Mortimer’s Hole, before being taken to a gruesome traitors’ death in London.

nottingham-castle-caves (Image: Angela Youngman, all rights reserved)

Robin Hood is said to have made good use of the caves, sneaking in and out of the castle. On one occasion when he had been temporarily captured by the Sheriff and placed in the dungeons, he would quietly slip out via the tunnel network for a few pints of beer with his friends before slipping back into the dungeon before dawn.

The caves were in use until quite recently. During the Second World War, many of the caves were used as Air Raid Shelters. One of the oldest caves was even used to store radium!

ye-olde-trip-to-jerusalem-nottingham-castle-rock (Image: Roy Hughes, cc-sa-3.0)

It is not just at Castle Rock that such caves can be found. There are similar caves throughout the city. Many breweries cut out their own caves, while in Victorian times, caves were created as follies within gardens. Wealthy industrialists in the Park Estate area even carved tunnels complete with staircases to link their houses to their allotted garden area.

For more information on Robin Hood locations try the e-book In the Footsteps of Robin Hood by Angela Youngman available from Amazon.

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