The widely-anticipated reopening of Nottingham Castle is to take place on June 21st, following £30m of development aimed at attracting more visitors to Nottingham and boosting the local economy.
The exciting moment when the first visitors pass through the gates in two months’ time will bring to fruition an ambitious project that has been years in the planning, involving securing significant funding before designing and carrying out substantial improvement work.
Nottingham City Council’s long-held ambition to transform the visitor experience at Nottingham Castle has been put into action with the help of funding partners the National Lottery Heritage Fund, D2N2 Local Enterprise Partnership and Nottingham Castle Trust.
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 timing of its reopening coinciding with the final stage of the National Roadmap will now mean the Castle also plays a big part in the city bouncing back from the impact of the pandemic.
For the 9.5m people living within 90 minutes’ drive, it will provide an absorbing visit of up to four hours, with an improved cave experience, galleries with interactive exhibits telling Nottingham’s stories of Robin Hood and rebellion, plus a fantastic new outdoor play area and visitor centre.
The renewed Nottingham Castle experience is expected to boost regional, national and international visitor numbers from 222,000 to 400,000 in the first year of opening – with visitors spending a total of over £200m in Nottingham over the next ten years. Around 420 extra jobs a year are expected to be created in the city’s tourism and leisure sectors, along with 270 construction jobs and opportunities for 500 volunteers.
Acting as a major draw for people to come back into the city and enjoy what it has to offer, it will help to support local retail and hospitality businesses as they and their customers emerge from over a year of on-off Covid restrictions on June 21st.
The project is among the £2bn of developments that are currently underway as the Southside of the city in transformed in ways that, according to report by research and policy institute Centre for Cities earlier this year, will help to make Nottingham an appealing post-Covid destination. Streets once choked with traffic are being turned into pleasant public spaces connecting new developments including the new Nottingham College City Hub, the new central library, car park and bus station complex and Nottingham Castle. A vision for the vast Broadmarsh Centre site is being developed while work on another major site, the Island Quarter, gets underway and other new developments such as the new HMRC offices reshape the area.
Nottingham City Council’s Leader, Cllr David Mellen, said: “The significance of the reopening of a rejuvenated Nottingham Castle cannot be over-estimated – especially coming as it does when the whole country is emerging from lockdown.
“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 Councillor Trimble and our dedicated team of officers who have enthusiastically driven this project forward to fruition. 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.”
Nottingham City Council’s Portfolio Holder for Leisure & Culture, Cllr Dave Trimble, said: “I’m delighted that we can now look forward to re-opening the Castle gates this summer. It’s been a challenging few years since we began to transform the site and despite the Covid pandemic, we’ve managed to complete the work on budget and on time. While it’s been frustrating to have had to previously delay the reopening due to the Covid restrictions, we now have a firm date to plan ahead for.
“The transformation of Nottingham Castle will have a lasting impact on our City and its 1,000 years of history. It will bring new opportunities for jobs and volunteering, enhance tourism and boost the local economy as well as spearheading the wider regeneration of Nottingham City centre. As a world-class heritage attraction it will be something Nottingham people can be proud of.”
Sara Blair-Manning, Chief Executive of Nottingham Castle Trust, said: “Nottingham Castle has been transformed into a world-class heritage site; this is a highly-anticipated moment for fans of the Robin Hood legend, as well as for anyone planning to make the most of time with friends and family this summer.”
Sajeeda Rose, Chief Executive of D2N2 said: “We are excited to hear of the reopening of Nottingham Castle, which is a flagship project in the overall Southside redevelopment which we have been proud to support with a total of £62m of funding. The opening of the Castle marks a significant milestone for the local tourism economy as it looks forward to opening up over the coming months.”
Anne Jenkins, Director England Midlands and East, National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “We are proud to have worked in partnership with Nottingham City Council, D2N2 and Nottingham Castle Trust to support Nottingham Castle in realising their ambition to become a first class visitor destination. We are confident Nottingham’s heritage strategy has stood the city in good stead as we look ahead to the role heritage can play in a post Covid-19 recovery.”
- Nottingham City Council set up a project team in 2012 to shape long-held ambitions to improve Nottingham Castle. A Stage 1 bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund was successful in 2014; the project was further developed 2014-2016; a further HLF bid was submitted in 2016, designs were honed and agreed 2016-2018 and work on site was carried out 2018-2020.
- Funded by the National Lottery through the National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF), D2N2, Nottingham Castle Trust and Nottingham City Council, the £30m transformation of Nottingham Castle involved an extension to the Ducal Palace, significant mechanical and electrical works, specialist restoration, improved access to the underground cave network and the construction of the brand-new visitor centre
- Project Lead Nottingham City Council appointed regional contractor G F Tomlinson to carry out the works, due to its established history of delivering heritage sector projects across the region. Works were completed on time and on budget and the site handed back to Nottingham City Council in October 2020
- A summary of the work carried out is available here: https://www.nottinghamcastleproject.co.uk/update/excitement-builds-as-landmark-construction-works-are-completed-at-nottingham-castle/
- Further information about Nottingham Castle is available here: https://www.nottinghamcastle.org.uk/
- The National Lottery Heritage Fund uses money raised by the National Lottery, to inspire, lead and resource the UK’s heritage to create positive and lasting change for people and communities, now and in the future. www.heritagefund.org.uk. Follow @HeritageFundUK on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and use #NationalLotteryHeritageFund
- Further information about the D2N2 LEP: https://d2n2lep.org/
- Further information about Nottingham Castle Trust: https://www.nottinghamcastle.org.uk/about-us/
Photo above by Tracey Whitefoot