Nottingham Castle

Nottingham City Council
  • RICS East Midlands Community Benefit Award 2022

Purcell have led both the conservation management plan and subsequent design that preserves, restores and enhances Nottingham Castle; helping to safeguard its future, and opening it to the public once more.

Funded in part by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the D2N2 Local Enterprise Partnership, Nottingham City Council and Nottingham Castle Trust, the project brings to life the castle’s architecture, heritage and significance, and the role it has played in the United Kingdom.

It will also contribute to the local economy and the environment across the site, and encompass the group of heritage assets, including the caves below the castle.

The Ducal Palace, Nottingham Castle

Restoration works included the refurbishment of the castle’s 17th century Ducal Palace, sprawling cave networks and medieval gatehouse, as well as landscaping and the design of a new visitor centre.

We wanted to ensure the castle, its grounds and the cave system can be enjoyed by everyone. Nottingham Castle has a rich history, spanning over 1,000 years, so for Purcell to have been able maintain that history, whilst bringing the site into the 21st century is a real achievement.

— Sara Blair-Manning, former Chief Executive of Nottingham Castle

The project has increased accessibility and optimised space within the castle, caves and grounds while reflecting the historical wealth of the iconic site.

Conservation has been meticulous and sensitive to the castle's placement within its landscape yet has transformed the site into a vibrant accessible space, contributing to an important cultural role in the city.

The Ducal Palace, Nottingham Castle

From sensitive conservation of the Gatehouse and Ducal Palace to the bold new-build visitor centre, the castle has been restored as a flagship for the city and a catalyst for its regeneration.

The redevelopment works form the next phase in the castle’s inspiring history, preserving this unique site for future generations.

The Visitor Centre

Our design of the new visitor centre provides ticketing, cafe and excellent retail facilities.

It creates a natural place to start the story of the castle and brings a sense of orientation. The building has stylish contemporary cladding on the outside and large airy windows to maximise light and views out across the castle’s grounds, and is designed to sit harmoniously in the foreground of the remodelled landscape.

Energy monitoring, air source heat pumps and efficient lighting have been employed to reduce the overall consumption of the building and to allow occupants to actively monitor and manage their energy usage.

Facade and Textile Gallery restoration

Having conducted modest repair works to the castle’s facade, the former textile gallery (in the Ducal Palace) has been transformed into the Rebellion Gallery. In the 1980s it was divided into two spaces, and we removed the divide and restored the gallery to its original historic proportions.

The work has revealed the grandeur of the space, from which it is used to tell the nationally significant story of
social protest and rebellion in Nottingham which led to increased democratic freedoms.

While also repairing the castle, we have restored the gatehouse and bridge, sensitively conserving the site to ensure the protection of its medieval fabric. Extending the Ducal Palace has created an immersive new ‘Robin Hood Adventures’ in the existing courtyard.

The gallery is designed to delight children and adults alike and tells Robin Hood’s story, through digital screens and mixed-reality gaming.

The Caves

Man-made caves beneath the castle and the bustle of Nottingham city centre tell the rich geological and social stories of the bygone royal and ducal occupants.

New, enhanced lighting have made the caves increasingly visible, accessible and dramatic; transporting visitors back in time.

As some of the few publicly accessible caves in Nottingham, transforming the castle caves is a unique opportunity. A bespoke solution was designed to integrate cabling and lighting into the new handrails. This has greatly improved the accessibility, whilst minimising the interventions into the historic fabric.

— Rachael Roberts, Senior Architect at Purcell


Our team have successfully introduced wheelchair access in the majority of public spaces across the site including inside and outside the castle. A Changing Places facility is included in the gatehouse: a commitment of Nottingham City Council across their cultural projects.

Reinstating the historic motte-and-bailey fields and improving the paths have made the gradients less steep, coupled with improvements both to the main access road and a new accessible route via the original tunnel up into the new gallery, ‘Robin Hood Adventures’.

The reconfigured landscape improves the historic building’s setting, revealing impressive views of the castle from the grounds and emphasising the site’s heritage by highlighting individual archaeological features.

This has included a new adventure play space for families which is located between the upper and outer bailey which will also be used as an educational tool for the castle’s interpretation.

The transformation that Nottingham Castle has undergone is incredible. Purcell have sympathetically restored the 17th century Ducal Palace, plus the historic gatehouse, and caves, making them more accessible than ever before — something that is so important to Nottingham Castle Trust.

— Sara Blair-Manning, former Chief Executive of Nottingham Castle

Awards: People and Place Awards 2021 (Regional Winner)