See the Riot of 1831 brought to life at Nottingham Castle


On 12th October 1831, an angry mob stormed Nottingham Castle and burned it to the ground. The riot was sparked by a House of Lords decision to reject the Reform Bill, which would have granted more voting rights to people. Now, Nottingham Castle has launched a brand new exhibition called Riot 1831 which includes an augmented reality app to help you picture the events as they unfolded. The Experience Nottinghamshire team and Julie Reader-Sullivan from Newark and Sherwood District Council went along to find out more.


A perennial challenge for Nottingham Castle is how to tell the decades of history and stories hidden inside its historic walls. The Riot 1831 exhibition brings to life the dramatic events which saw the castle burned to the ground, and challenges our perceptions of what happened that night. The content is fantastic, and I loved that it could be viewed as a traditional exhibition, or interacted with using exciting, easy-to-use technology. I especially loved some of the artefacts on display, like the original wall prints from the castle and pieces of tapestry which were stolen by the rioters. Be sure to dress up as someone from the night too; they’ve got some fun fancy dress in the corner – for the young and the young at heart!


Nottingham Castle is, in my opinion, one of the best tourist attractions the city has to offer. It has a rich heritage, with plenty of stories to tell including that of the 1831 Riots when the original castle was burned to the ground. These events form the basis of the Castle’s Riot 1831 exhibition which uses state-of-the art technology to give you a truly interactive experience – and provide an insight into how exhibitions of the future may look.

By using either the iPads provided or by downloading the app for your smart phone or tablet, you can interact with the exhibition in an entirely new way. And for those who are not comfortable with the technology, you can still experience the exhibition the old fashioned way by reading articles and viewing exhibits with the naked eye.

I was blown away with how the stories come to life on my iPhone. Simply hold your phone in front of the exhibits and stories are played out on your device. From firsthand accounts from people of the time, to stories told through imagery and narratives, it’s a clever way to depict what happened during the Riots of 1831. You can interact by touching your screen, and on one exhibit, you can move your device 360 degrees to see what the rooms of the castle once looked like. I would thoroughly recommend a visit to the exhibition, no matter what your age or knowledge of this period in history.

Trying out the new app at Nottingham Castle.

Trying out the new app at Nottingham Castle.


I really enjoyed the Riot 1831 app experience as it’s so different to other parts of the Castle and for me, tells the tales that everyone really wants to know when they visit.  Each interactive point keeps you dying to move onto the next part of the story and the original artefacts which have been collected along the way are so precious; as a Nottingham girl I was so excited to see what had been collected.  I also loved hearing the old Nottingham accents on the audio and relating them to the voices I hear on the streets today.  Wonderful, and I’m looking forward to returning to spend a bit more time there.


For something a little quirky, this is not like any other museum exhibition. With the help of up-to-date technology and historical artefacts, both children and adults alike will learn something new. It’s a great exhibition and I highly recommend for anyone to go along and discover more about the historical events which took place that night in 1831.


The Riot 1831 is a great combination of fun and knowledge. The application is interactive, therefore it gets the visitor involved in the exhibition. It’s a creative way to transform a museum visit into a participatory experience. The iPads, with their visual and sound effects make the visit more memorable and fun. People learn faster and more effectively through stories and the Riot 1831 app takes the visitor back into the past and lets them feel, hear and see the people who lived in Nottingham when the riot took place and the castle burned down.


When it comes to interactive exhibitions it can sometimes be a case of style over substance – but this is certainly not the case at Nottingham Castle. The app, which uses Nottingham voices and vivid imagery to bring the events alive, enhances the traditional exhibition which can also be viewed on its own.

A personal highlight for me was a book of Byron’s poetry which once belonged to his childhood sweetheart Mary Chaworth Musters who lived at Colwick Hall. The hall was partially destroyed by fire during the riots so it is wonderful that the book survived.

Julie Reader-Sullivan (from Newark and Sherwood District Council)

As I walked up to the entrance to the museum part of the castle, the views of Nottingham and the surrounding countryside were breathtaking. Inside the castle I tried out the Riot 1831 app – which proved to be a great way to get a feel for the night the castle was set alight. The app also included a scene in which a mother and her son are unpicking lace and talking about the Reform Act and another which showed you what the castle rooms would have looked like.

Download the Riot 1831 app via Nottingham City Council’s website or take advantage of free WiFi at the castle and download it during your visit. The app is available for both iPhone and Android devices. Alternatively, there are plenty of iPads at the castle which have the app pre-installed. 

Posted on 30 August 2014
Featured author: Catherine Allen Marketing Assistant

Arts fan, runner and cyclist who has been living in Nottingham for more than a decade. Loves real ale, craft beer, good food, travelling and sausage dogs.

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