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Bolsover Castle

OS Grid Ref:- SK471707

Romantic Bolsover Castle, situated on the eastern side of the Peak District National Park, was founded in the twelfth century by the Peverel family as a large motte and bailey castle.

The castle and its estates passed to the crown on the death of William Peverel in 1155. The de Ferrers family who were Earls of Derby coveted the Peveril estates, which they claimed through the marriage of Margaret Peverel to Robert de Ferrers, second Earl of Derby.

Bolsover and Peveril Castles was fortified by King Henry II during the revolt of his sons, Henry the Young King, Geoffrey Duke of Brittany, and Prince Richard, Duke of Aquitaine, (later Richard the Lionheart).

William de Ferrers, a favourite of King John, and the head of a family which controlled a large part of Derbyshire, maintained the claim of the Earls of Derby to the Peveril estates, which included Bolsover and paid John 2000 marks for the lordship of the Peak, but the crown retained possession of the castles. They were finally granted to de Ferrers in 1216 to secure his much needed support in a rebellion against the king headed by Prince Louis of France who had invaded England, but the castellan Brian de Lisle refused to hand them over. John's reaction was to gave de Ferrers permission to take possession of the castle by force. John died in the midst of the rebellion to be succeeded by his son, Henry III, then a minor.

William Marshal, 1st Earl of Pembroke and regent during the young King's long minority, gathered his forces, with the aid of de Ferrers, the Earl of Chester and others, defeated the rebels at the siege of Lincoln. Bolsover Castle finally fell to Ferrers' forces in 1217. De Ferrers was allowed to retain the castles until the King's 14th birthday. When Henry reached his fourteenth birthday in 1222 his administration sought to recover the the castle. In 1254 Bolsover Castle was granted to Henry's son, Prince Edward (later Edward I), fuelling de Ferrers' resentment against Edward. Edward attacked de Ferrers at Chartley Castle and in 1269, Robert was captured, attainted of high treason, and imprisoned in Windsor Castle.

The castle were purchased by Sir George Talbot in 1553 and was then sold by Gilbert, 7th Earl of Shrewsbury to Sir Charles Cavendish, son of the formidable Bess of Hardwick in 1608. Sir Charles Cavendish and his son William, later 1st Duke of Newcastle-upon-Tyne (1592 – 1676), rebuilt the castle.

Despite its embattled appearance, it was designed for elegant living rather than for defence. The grand State Apartments were designed by Robert Smythson and his son John, and contained two kitchens and a bakery, a large dining room (originally the Great Hall), a huge Entrance Hall, a 220-foot long Great Gallery, and some elaborate living quarters.

The tower, known today as the 'Little Castle', was completed in around 1621 and the elaborate riding academy with its magnificent roof, was added facing the town of Bolsover. The riding academy was designed for the indoor art of equestrian dressage.

With its superb panoramic views over the Vale of Scarsdale, the castle was designed as a fantasy house for entertainment and pleasure. The Little Castle, which occupies the site of the Norman keep, boasts rich panelling, elaborate fireplaces and painted ceilings. In 1634 he invited King Charles I to the castle to attend 'Love's Welcome to Bolsover', a masque which was written by Ben Jonson to be performed in the Fountain Garden.

Bolsover Castle was taken by the Parliamentarians during the Civil War and was later slighted. Following exile after the Battle of Marston Moor in 1644, William Cavendish was allowed to return to the Bolsover Castle after the Restoration of the Monarchy under Charles II in 1660. He added a new hall and staterooms to the Terrace Range, by the time of his death in 1676, the castle had been restored. It later passed into the Bentinck family and eventually became one of the seats of the Dukes of Portland. The castle was given to the nation by the 7th Duke of Portland in 1945 and is now in the care of English Heritage.

The Discovery Centre, which is housed in the stables has interesting audio-visual displays, and there are also extensive grounds to explore.


The route to the castle is signposted from the M1 motorway - exit at junction 29A and follow signs for the A632 / Bolsover Castle. Follow the A632 to Bolsover, and continue until turning right into Market Place and right again into Castle Street. Bolsover Castle is around 100 metres down the road, parking is provided opposite the entrance.

The Cavendish family

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