Council hands over operation of its “shining jewel” as Nottingham Castle prepares to reopen

The operation of Nottingham Castle was formally handed over to Nottingham Castle Trust today (Tuesday 1st June), after three years of construction and renovation works led by Nottingham City Council.

To mark the occasion, later in the day the stunning new lighting of the Ducal Palace will be switched on at 9pm to shine out over the city from atop Castle Rock.

This landmark event marks the completion of the challenging and technically complex construction phase of the £31m transformation project which, despite Covid, has remained on time and on budget.

Nottingham Castle Trust will operate the Castle when it reopens to visitors on 21st June revealing new galleries, Robin Hood Adventures, new never-seen-before exhibits, a new visitor centre, unique Paul Smith temporary exhibition and adventure playground, Hood’s Hideout, for visitors to enjoy and explore.

It’s a project that was always at the heart of the City Council’s vision for the wider regeneration of the city, with £2bn of redevelopments currently underway transforming the city’s Southside and further significant plans in the pipeline such as reimagining the Broadmarsh site, to help put Nottingham on the map.

The Castle project has been jointly funded by the National Lottery through the National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF), D2N2, Nottingham Castle Trust and Nottingham City Council with contributions from Arts Council and numerous fundraising efforts undertaken to help contribute towards the construction work.

Highlights from the three years of works on the historic site include:

  • A new vision for the Castle as a site of national importance
  • Bringing to life 1,000 years of Nottingham’s heritage and our City’s rebellious history
  • The Castle as a Scheduled Ancient Monument conserved, protected and enhanced
  • Expanding and enhancing the Castle’s ancient protected cave network
  • Housing and improving 12 significant Collections
  • A Grade 1 Listed Building brought into sustainable high profile use
  • Archaeological finds including monkey bones, uncovering of a medieval chapel and remains of a “Sherwood nobleman”
  • Development of new cutting-edge digital technology for the archery and quarterstaff games in Robin Hood Adventures
  • The largest free-standing scaffold assembly in the country for repairs to the Ducal Palace roof
  • Improved access to the Castle caves with new handrails and lighting
  • Display of the Castle’s nationally significant Alabaster collection
  • Working closely with Historic England, stonework and lime plaster restoration brought the building back to its former glory.

The transformation of the Castle into a world-class heritage attraction has major benefits for Nottingham and its people including:

  • 500 volunteers recruited
  • 563 people trained
  • 16,000 schoolchildren visit per annum
  • 87 activities developed and delivered
  • Expected to boost regional, national and international visitor numbers from 222,000 to 400,000 in the first full year of opening
  • Visitors spending a total of over £200m in Nottingham over the next ten years – boosting the local economy
  • Around 420 extra jobs a year expected to be created in the city’s tourism and leisure sectors
  • 270 construction jobs and opportunities for 500 volunteers.

The transformed Castle will bring footfall into the city to help support local retail including national and international visitors, putting Nottingham back on the map as a destination including for overnight stays.

Nottingham City Council’s Leader, Cllr David Mellen, said:

“I’m delighted that, after three years of extraordinary work led by the City Council, we can now hand over this shining jewel to its new operators.

“It’s an incredible achievement for the council to have taken what was a well-loved but underwhelming heritage site and turn it into something that’s truly world class – and despite Covid, delivering the project on time and on budget.

“I’d like to thank everyone who has contributed to this transformation work, particularly Councillor Trimble and our amazing talented and dedicated team of officers who have enthusiastically driven this project forward to fruition. I would also like to pay tribute to the vital contribution of the Nottingham Castle Trust Board members who have worked tirelessly over many years to help turn the vision for the Castle into a reality. I have no doubt that like me, Nottingham people will feel incredibly proud of this significant moment in Nottingham Castle’s long history.

“This achievement is absolutely central to and symbolic of our vision for Nottingham’s future – a city where there are jobs and opportunities for local people as well as somewhere that increasing numbers of people will want to come and visit, boosting our standing and our economy.

“The Castle’s redevelopment and reopening is a cornerstone of the city’s regeneration, which makes Nottingham well placed to recover strongly as a city post-Covid. Those regeneration efforts are already well underway, with huge potential still to unlock such as at Broad Marsh, and will set a fresh, ambitious direction for Nottingham for generations to come.”

Ted Cantle, Chairman of the Board of Trustees at Nottingham Castle Trust said:

“The Castle Trust has worked alongside the City Council for more than ten years to create an entirely new Castle experience that will attract people from the local community and from around the world. It will make us all proud to live in Nottingham and celebrate our heritage and create jobs for local people in restaurants, shops, hotels and the wider economy.

“The Trust is a charity, run by local people for the benefit of the local community and we will continue to invest and upgrade over the years, to make sure that the Castle remains a top attraction in this country. The legendary Robin Hood story provides an inspirational start to the city’s rebellious history and shows how the events in this city shaped our nation’s democracy and ideas about citizenship.

“Our new galleries for lace and mediaeval alabasters celebrate the periods when Nottingham was known throughout the world for its creativity and industry – these will be a revelation to many visitors. Most of all it will be a great day out with fantastic new facilities for all the family to enjoy.”

Anne Jenkins, Director Midlands and East, National Lottery Heritage Fund says:

“The official handover from Nottingham City Council to the Nottingham Castle Trust marks another important milestone along the road to reopening the beautifully restored Nottingham Castle for local people and visitors to the city.

“We have been working in partnership with the City Council for many years and we are delighted to get to this stage of the project together. Thanks to National Lottery players, we have been able to contribute towards such a significant heritage project and one that supports the wider regeneration of Nottingham.”

Sajeeda Rose, chief executive of D2N2 LEP said:

“The handover marks the end of three years of works at the Castle. D2N2 are proud to have supported the redevelopment with £7m of funding to help transform the historical site into a world-class attraction, supporting the regeneration of Nottingham City Centre and a must-visit destination for those in the East Midlands and beyond.”

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