Bolsover Castle

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Bolsover Castle
Bolsover Castle - - 205752.jpg
Bolsover Castle seen from below with the Little Castle protruding above the rest of the castle
Bolsover Castle is located in Derbyshire
Bolsover Castle
General information
Town or city Bolsover, Derbyshire
Country England, United Kingdom
Coordinates 53°13′53″N 1°17′49″W / 53.23139°N 1.29694°W / 53.23139; -1.29694Coordinates: 53°13′53″N 1°17′49″W / 53.23139°N 1.29694°W / 53.23139; -1.29694

Bolsover Castle is a castle in Bolsover, Derbyshire, England (grid reference SK471707). It was built in the early 17th century by the Cavendish family, on the site of a medieval castle founded in the 12th century by the Peverel family. The site is now in the care of English Heritage and is a Grade I listed building and a Scheduled Ancient Monument.



A castle was built by the Peverel family in the 12th century and became Crown property in 1155 when William Peverel the Younger died. The Ferrers family who were Earls of Derby laid claim to the Peveril property.[1]

When a group of barons led by King Henry II's sons – Henry the Young King, Geoffrey Duke of Brittany, and Prince Richard, later Richard the Lionheart – revolted against the king's rule, Henry spent £116 on building at the castles of Bolsover and Peveril in Derbyshire.[2][3] The garrison was increased to a force led by 20 knights and was shared with the castles of Peveril and Nottingham during the revolt.[2] John ascended the throne in 1199 after his brother Richard's death. William de Ferrers maintained the claim of the Earls of Derby to the Peveril estates. He paid John 2000 marks for the lordship of the Peak, but the Crown retained possession of Bolsover and Peveril Castles. John finally gave them to Ferrers in 1216 to secure his support in the face of country-wide rebellion. However, the castellan Brian de Lisle refused to hand them over. Although Lisle and Ferrers were both John's supporters, John gave Ferrers permission to use force to take the castles. The situation was still chaotic when Henry III became king after his father's death in 1216. Bolsover fell to Ferrers' forces in 1217 after a siege.[4]

The castle was returned to crown control in 1223, at which point £33 was spent on repairing the damage the Earl of Derby had caused when capturing the castle six years earlier. Over the next 20 years, four towers were added, the keep was repaired, various parts of the curtain wall were repaired, and a kitchen and barn were built, all at a cost of £181. From 1290 onwards, the castle and its surrounding manor were granted to a series of local farmers. Under their custodianship, the castle gradually fell into a state of disrepair.[5]


The manor and castle were purchased by Sir George Talbot in 1553. They were sold by Gilbert, 7th Earl of Shrewsbury to Sir Charles Cavendish, son of Bess of Hardwick in 1608. Sir Charles set about re-building the castle, a process continued by his son William Cavendish, later 1st Duke of Newcastle upon Tyne.[1] Despite its embattled appearance, the castle was designed for elegant living rather than defence.[6] The tower, known today as the 'Little Castle', was completed around 1621.[7]

During the Civil War Bolsover Castle was taken by the Parliamentarians who slighted it, and it fell into a ruinous state.[1] William Cavendish added a new hall and staterooms to the Terrace Range and, by the time of his death in 1676, the castle had been restored to good order.[7] It passed through the female line into the Bentinck family, and ultimately became one of the seats of the Dukes of Portland. After 1883 the castle was uninhabited and given to the nation by the 7th Duke of Portland in 1945. The castle is now in the care of English Heritage.[7]

Bolsover Castle is a Scheduled Ancient Monument,[8] a "nationally important" historic building and archaeological site which has been given protection against unauthorised change.[9] It is also a Grade I listed building (first listed in 1985)[10] and recognised as an internationally important structure.[11]

Spookiest English Heritage site[edit]

In 2017 the site was voted the spookiest site by English Heritage staff. Mysterious footsteps, a boy holding visitors' hands, muffled voices and unexplained lights are among the events reported to have occurred.[12]


  1. ^ a b c "Bolsover". A Topographical Dictionary of England (1848). British History Online. Retrieved 11 September 2013. 
  2. ^ a b Eales 2006, p. 23
  3. ^ Colvin & Brown 1963, p. 572
  4. ^ Eales 2006, p. 24
  5. ^ Colvin & Brown 1963, p. 573
  6. ^ Hall, George The history of Chesterfield; with particulars of the hamlets contiguous to the town, and descriptive accounts of Chatsworth, Hardwick, and Bolsover Castle (1839) p. 470-471
  7. ^ a b c Fry 1980
  8. ^ "Bolsover Castle", Pastscape, Historic England, retrieved 2012-04-17 
  9. ^ "Scheduled Monuments", Pastscape, Historic England, retrieved 2012-04-17 
  10. ^ Bolsover Castle, Heritage Gateway, retrieved 2012-04-17 
  11. ^ "Frequently asked questions", Images of England, Historic England, retrieved 2012-04-17 
  12. ^ "Ghostly boy seen by staff at 'spookiest' English Heritage site". ITV. 17 October 2017. Retrieved 15 February 2018. 
  • Colvin, H. M.; Brown, R. A. (1963), "The Royal Castles 1066–1485", The History of the King's Works. Volume II: The Middle Ages, London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office, pp. 553–894 
  • Eales, Richard (2006), Peveril Castle, London: English Heritage, ISBN 978-1-85074-982-0 
  • Fry, Plantagenet Somerset (1980), The David & Charles Book of Castles, David & Charles, ISBN 0-7153-7976-3 

Further reading[edit]

  • Worsley, Lucy (2010) [2000], Bolsover Castle (revised ed.), London: English Heritage, ISBN 978-1-85074-762-8 
  • Worsley, Lucy (May 2004). "Changing Notions of Authenticity: Presenting a Castle Over Four Centuries". International Journal of Heritage Studies. 10 (2): 129–149. doi:10.1080/13527250410001692868. 

External links[edit]