TV presenter, former politician and Nottingham Castle Trust patron, Gyles Brandreth, will speak about his personal connection to rebellion and revolution in Nottingham at a reception at the Castle on Wednesday 13 May.
Gyles’ ancestor, Jeremiah Brandreth – an out-of-work stocking maker from Wilford – was a Pentrich revolutionary and one of the last men to be beheaded with an axe for treason in Britain.
The actual execution block that was used for Jeremiah Brandreth has been borrowed from Derby Museum and will be on display at Nottingham Castle for Gyles’ talk. In 1811 Jeremiah agreed to cooperate in a plan to join 50,000 men in London to overthrow the government and end poverty once and for all. On 9th June 1811, Brandreth led 300 men on a march to Nottingham. Armed with a few pistols and pikes, Brandreth expected others to join him on the way to the city. This didn’t happen and the authorities had little difficulty dispersing the proposed insurrection. Brandreth was arrested. The then Home Secretary, Lord Sidmouth, took severe measures against Luddite rioters. Thirty-five of the men were charged with high treason. Brandreth and two others were sentenced to death and another eleven men were transported for life. The men were originally sentenced to being hanged, drawn and quartered, but the quartering was remitted.
Nottingham gained a reputation as a centre for riotous behaviour associated with political radicalism. The town authorities were in favour of parliamentary reform from the 1780s, and this had an impact on the way elections were conducted at least until the 1880s. The Luddite disturbances in 1831 saw some of the worst riots in the country. These led to the burning down of the Ducal Palace on the Castle site. This building was restored and forms the focal point of the Castle site today.
However, it is the events of 1811 that inspired Gyles Brandreth to become a patron of Nottingham Castle Trust which has a remit to raise £3 million towards a £24 million project to transform the castle site into a leading visitor destination. The themes of rebellion, social protest and freedom are central to the redevelopment. A new Rebellion Gallery will take visitors on a journey of Nottingham’s turbulent history.
The project will also open up access to the unique cave network beneath the Castle allowing visitors to travel through the caves and ride in a new elevator from the foot of Castle Rock. A brand-new visitor centre is also proposed. The project has recently taken a major step forward with the appointments of an architect and exhibition designer. Detailed final plans need to be assessed by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) before it awards a contribution of £12.9 million towards the overall cost of the project.
Heather Mayfield, Nottingham Castle Trust chief executive, said ‘Gyles Brandreth is a familiar personality to TV audiences and radio listeners and is renowned for his sharp wit and intellect. We’re very proud to have him as a patron and we’re extremely delighted that he has agreed to share an insight into his ancestral heritage that has helped shaped Nottingham’s important history.’