Events and excursions, Spring 2007

10 March: The Maurice Barley Lecture

The Castles of Nottinghamshire by James Wright

Since January 2004 James Wright [pictured] has been organizing the Nottinghamshire Castles Project. A graduate of the University of Nottingham’s Department of Archaeology, and an Archaeological and Historic Buildings Assistant with the County Council, he appropriately gave this year’s Maurice Barley lecture, when the packed hall experienced a most entertaining and informative afternoon. Firstly James defined a castle as a military defensive structure, which has a private residential function and which must belong to an aristocrat. The proposed list of 21 castles in the county is probably too many. The castles (and for this afternoon Nottingham and Newark were excluded) flourished from post-conquest times to the middle of the Middle Ages, when they declined and fell out of use, and the fortified manor house became fashionable.

The earliest castle examined was at Bothamsall.  Thereafter came descriptions of remains at Annesley, Lowdham and Greasley among others. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries some of the greater dwellings fell into decay and ruin. Gradually ridge and furrow agricultural methods all but obliterated what ruined foundations remained of the smaller castles.

James shared with us his tremendous enthusiasm for all aspects of castles and castle life, demonstrating how he and his teams of helpers set about opening up the hidden secrets of these minor castles and in some cases how they interacted. In their time they were important and influential parts of our county’s early mediaeval history. James effortlessly packed rather a lot into little more than an hour. In a way this was a taster for his forthcoming book on the Castles of Nottinghamshire. I am sure many of those attending this meeting will eagerly await its publication. See also ‘News from the County Council’ last year’s Transactions (109) pp13/14
Ken Brand