Museum of Nottingham Life

Useful Information

Inside the Museum Of Nottingham Life, exhibition about the usage of the caves as air raid shelter.
The walls of the caves show remains of the digging work. And they show the typical layers of flint stones which formed along chemical borders in the ground water.
Location: Brewhouse Yard, Castle Blvd, Nottingham NG7 1FB
(52.949215, -1.152980)
Open: closed for redevelopment until 2021.
MAR to OCT daily 10-16.
NOV to FEB Sat-Thu 10-16
Closed 24-DEC, 01-JAN.
Fee: closed for redevelopment until 2021.
Adults GBP 2.50, Children (0-4) free. [2021]
Classification: SubterraneaCellar sandstone
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Dimension: T=10 °C.
Guided tours: self guided
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Address: Museum of Nottingham Life, Brewhouse Yard, Castle Blvd, Nottingham NG7 1FB, +44-115-8761400.
Nottingham Castle Trust, Lenton Road. Nottingham NG1 6EL, Tel: +44-115-876-1450. E-mail:
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.


17th century cottages erected.
08-MAY-1941 caves used as air raid shelter.
1972 purchased by Nottingham City Council.
1977 Museum of Nottingham Life opened.
02-JUL-2018 museum closed for renovation.
Fall 2021 museum reopened.


The caves were built long ago and rebuilt, modified and widened several times. Brickstone walls closed parts that wer not used any more.
An air vent which was necessay only for the air raid, as this was the only usage in history with many people staying some time inside the cave.

The Museum Of Nottingham Life is located at the Brewhouse Yard, right beneath the famous pub. The nice red brick house with its white windows and the black doors looks like a typical British building from victorian times. In front is the Brewhouse Yard, today a park, but once the plain at the foot of the castle, and well outside the walls of the city. There were watermills which provided the Castle with flour, an invoice dated 1217 for repairs to the mill was found in the papers of King Henry III. In 1403 King Henry IV, gifted Nottingham Castle to his wife, Queen Joan, who named the four mills at Brewhouse Yard: Sparrow, Donne, Dosse and Gloff. But the nearby river had obvious drawbacks, swampy ground and frequent floods. Traditionally such places were home to the poor, but also cutthroats and thieves.

And of course there was a brewery, which dug cellars into the rock for the beer. The building was erected at the foot of the cliff and used the caves behind as a part of the building and to store beer from the brewery. Nearby was the pub, where you could buy your ale, outside the city limits and outside the strict laws of the city. The Brewhouse Yard was "an extra-parochial liberty", which placed it outside the jurisdiction of the town’s parishes for law and order. More important even, it was also officially tax-free, a boost for the rise of brewing in the rock caves.

Brewhouse Yard was owned by the royalty for centuries, but in 1611 James I sold it. In the 1670s the earliest parts of the cottages were built, the first reference to ‘Brewhouse Yard’ was recorded in 1680. Samuel and Tobias Wildboare and their families lived here, attracted by its extra-parochial status. They were members of an independent church. The Wildboares were stocking dyeing pioneers, and became wealthy through cloth dyeing. They erected the cottages and lived here until the early 18th century. William Elliot and his family moved into the Brewhouse Yard cottages in 1732. His occupation was originally listed as a stocking trimmer and dyer. But this trade was quite profitable, and he changed his occupation to "gentleman" in 1750.

In the 19th century the land and buildings were owned by the wealthy Norton family. The cottages were rented by the Ley family, who were framework knitters. At this time this occupation steadily became less and less profitable because of the industrial revolution. The Luddites vandalised and broke the frames that were devaluing their jobs. Nevertheless, at the end of the Victorian age the knitting frames were gone and replaced by Nottingham’s great lace factories. At this time the Websters were living in the cottages. William Webster was an ironworker and his daughter Lucy worked in the finish line at one of the lace factories. In 1908 the Waterworks took control of the area and the Webster family left Brewhouse Yard.

During the World War II the caves of Brewhouse Yard were the emergency headquarters for the Air Raid Precautions. The caves were equipped with desks and telephone lines, and bunk beds were also provided, so the volunteers could get some rest during extended bombing raids. The museum has an extensive Air Raid Shelter exhibition, which shows many details about World War II, for this reason.

It seems after the war the building became rather obsolete. It was finally purchased by Nottingham City Council in 1972 and after extensive repairs and restoration the Museum of Nottingham Life was opened in 1977. The museum shows many aspects of Nottingham's daily life in the last 300 years. It depicts the social history of Nottingham with a mixture of reconstructed rooms, shop settings, and gallery displays. The museum is visited self guided, but guided tours are offered for groups after reservation. Nottingham Castle and The Museum of Nottingham Life at Brewhouse Yard were granted a £29.8 m Heritage Lottery fund. Both were closed for renovation since 2018 and reopened in 2021.