Nottingham in the Middle Ages (600 – 1499)

Return to the introduction and contents page

Reconstruction of the likely appearance of Nottingham Castle in the late medieval period
Reconstruction of the likely appearance of Nottingham Castle in the late medieval period.


Nottingham was called Tig Guocobauc, meaning a place or house of cave dwellings, and formed part of the Kingdom of Mercia, later coming under the rule of a Saxon (English) chieftain named Snot who called it Snotingaham, meaning the home, dwelling or homestead (the ham) of Snot’s people.


Nottingham was captured by Danish Vikings and later became one of the Five Burghs (fortified towns) of The Danelaw.


As a legacy of the Danish occupation, some street names in Nottingham include ‘Gate’ from the Danish word for ‘Street’. Examples, many created centuries later, are; Barker Gate, Bridlesmith Gate, Castle Gate, Fletcher Gate, French Gate, Hounds Gate, Lister Gate and Pilcher Gate.


Records first suggest the existence of caves in Nottingham, thanks to a Welsh monk called Asser.


King Edward the Elder recaptured Nottingham for the English.


The first bridge was built over the River Trent at Nottingham; ordered by King Edward the Elder.


William the Conqueror ordered the first wooden Castle to be built on Castle Rock.


Nottingham’s French Borough and Saturday Market were established.


The Domesday Book refers to Nottingham as Snotingeham and Snotingham.


A church was mentioned in the Domesday Survey of Nottingham, probably St Mary’s, with the Priest named as Aitard.


The approximate construction date of the original St Peter’s Church.


St Mary’s Church was mentioned by name when it featured in the foundation charter of Lenton Priory.


The Cluniac Priory of Lenton was founded.


Robert of Gloucester and the army of the Empress Matilda attacked Nottingham Castle, held by King Stephen, they set fire to the town and massacred the parishioners of St Peter’s who had taken refuge in the church.


Much of Nottingham was destroyed by fire.


A Royal Charter granted by Henry II confirmed Nottingham’s rights and liberties.


Henry II replaced the old bridge over the River Trent with a new one, called the Heth Beth Bridge.


Nottingham Castle was rebuilt in stone as a principal royal fortress by Henry II and from this point onwards was the foremost royal castle in the Midlands. The King and court would stay for a week or more and national parliaments were held within the grounds.


Newstead Abbey was probably founded in 1170 by Henry II in atonement for the murder of Thomas a Becket.


Nottingham’s St Peter’s Church shows traces of construction from about this date; the original church of around 1100 was destroyed by fire.


Nottingham was the first place in England to record an earthquake.


The approximate establishment date of Nottingham’s Ye Olde Trip To Jerusalem public house.

25 March 1194

King Richard I, the Lionheart, arrived with great fanfare in Nottingham to start the siege of the castle, held by supporters of his younger brother John.

28 March 1194

King Richard I, the Lionheart, captured Nottingham Castle from his younger brother John after a three day siege.


During an uprising by the Welsh Prince Llewellyn, King John ordered the execution of 28 Welsh boy hostages, who were hanged on the walls of Nottingham Castle.

15 June 1215

Magna Carta was signed by King John at Runnymede; the first document forced onto an English King by a group of his subjects in an attempt to limit his powers by law and protect their privileges. The charter was an important part of the process that led to the rule of constitutional law in the English speaking world.


The approximate establishment date of Nottingham’s Ye Olde Salutation Inn public house.


Henry lll ordered improvements to Nottingham Castle, including a twin towered gatehouse.


Nottingham’s Carmelite Friary (White Friary) was founded on land between Friar Lane and St James’ Street known as Friar Yard.

12 February 1284

The Royal Charter of Edward I granted the office of Mayor to Nottingham; the first appointment was Roger de Crophill.


The earliest mention of Nottingham’s Bridge Estate for the maintenance of bridges over the River Trent.


Oak panelling was used in a building in the original Shambles; a group of shops near the Market Place, this panelling is still in use in the present day Council House that was later built on the site.

19 October 1330

Roger Mortimer, the lover of Queen Isabella, was captured by supporters of her son, King Edward III, who entered the castle through the system of caves in Castle Rock.


Goose Fair (or Goods Fair as it was originally known) was cancelled because of the Black Death.


About half of Nottingham’s population of around 3,000 people died during the Black Death.


The first written record of the Shire Hall site in the Lace Market being used as a law court.


A capitation tax roll of Edward III showed the population of Nottingham to be 2,300.


The south aisle wall was the first part of the Church of St Mary the Virgin to be constructed, the church is mentioned in the Domesday Book and is believed to have been on the site since the early Saxon period, the main body of the present building is at least the third on the site.


The Mayor of Nottingham, John de Plumptre, founded Plumptre Hospital.


The unallocated common well providing water to Nottingham had its hauling equipment repaired.


Pope Boniface IX granted a ten year Indulgence for alms to be used for the fabric, conservation or repair of St Mary’s Church.


The approximate establishment date of Nottingham’s Bell Inn, a Grade II listed public house.


The first written reference to the Shire Hall site in the Lace Market being used as a prison.

28 June 1449

The Charter of King Henry VI separated the borough of Nottingham from the county and approved the appointment of Sheriffs for the two Boroughs of Nottingham; the first incumbents were William Sadler and Thomas Lyng.


Wealthy local merchant Thomas Thurland built the historic mansion Thurland Hall, the building and grounds covering about eight and a half acres near the centre of Nottingham.


New building and refurbishment of Nottingham Castle was completed for Edward lV.


The Mayor and other local notables welcomed Richard Duke of Gloucester (later Richard III) on his visit to Nottingham.

11 August 1485

King Richard III was hunting in Bestwood, Sherwood Forest, when he received news that Henry Tudor had landed in Pembrokeshire with an army. Richard withdrew to Nottingham Castle and summoned his supporters.

20 August 1485

King Richard III rallied his troops at Nottingham Castle ready to depart for the Battle of Bosworth. This led him to become the last English king to die in battle.

22 August 1485

King Richard III left Nottingham Castle and rode to meet Henry Tudor at Bosworth, where he died in battle.

16 June 1487

7,000 men were killed at the battle of Stoke Field, between Nottingham and Newark; it was the last major engagement of the Wars of the Roses and the bloodiest battle ever fought in Nottinghamshire.

12 October 1492

The first sighting of land (the Bahamas) on the first voyage to the New World by Christopher Columbus.

Continue to ‘Early Modern Nottingham (1500 – 1799)’

Return to the introduction and contents page

Go to the top of this page

For other information about Nottingham click here

If you want to know more about Nottingham’s past there is further information in ‘Events and dates in Nottingham’s history’ and through these websites:

The Nottinghamshire Heritage Gateway

The Thoroton Society of Nottinghamshire

Nottingham Local Studies Library

2 thoughts on “Nottingham in the Middle Ages (600 – 1499)

    1. Very few I’m afraid, as I mentioned in the intro to the post:

      “One thing I didn’t do when I originally compiled the list, and now regret, is to cite source material. I will gradually address this, but due to the huge variety of sources it will take a very long time.

      I’ve put the sources of information I can remember in the References section and hope that I’ve not made too many mistakes in writing the lists. I’ve also inserted one or two events that were external to Nottingham, just to give a little context.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s