Bolsover Castle in Derbyshire is a spectacular and grand Stuart mansion that was built strictly to impress any and all who see it. It offers amazing views of Derbyshire and the surrounding areas and it also plays home to a deep and insightful history, so for this castle, it isn’t just the looks that make it so popular. Though the exterior of the castle is truly a magnificent sight.
It is perched ever so beautifully on a ridge above the Vale of Scarsdale and even one glimpse at the castle makes you feel like you’re in some sort of fairy-tale movie. It sits on the site where an old medieval fortress once stood, however, this 17th-century castle is far more exquisite than what was once there. This lovely castle is not only known as Bolsover Castle, but also as ‘Little Castle’ and it also plays home to remarkable wall paintings, interiors, and the Riding House which was the earliest such building in England to survive as a complete structure.
Bolsover Castles History
While the site of the current castle definitely plays home to a long and intriguing history, not a huge amount of it is actually known. What we do know is simply mystifying, however, there is so much more to this castle that will forever remain a mystery. There have been tales of controversy, ghosts, and other spooky happenings. Keep reading to dive into the discovery of the ever so delightful (and haunted) Bolsover Castle.
The early history
The new and enhanced Bolsover Castle is amazing, however, what some people fail to realise is that the 17th-century castle wasn’t the first building on the site. In fact, the first-ever fortification on the site goes way back to the 12th century which means that the castle we see now actually lies on the ruins of the old medieval castle. The original castle was built by the Peverel family and became Crown property in the year 1155 when William Peverel the Younger unfortunately died.
The Ferrers family, who were Earls of Derby laid claim to the property afterwards. It was when a group of barons led by King Henry II’s sons revolted against the king’s rile that Henry spent roughly £116 on building the castles of Bolsover and Peveril both of which were in Derbyshire. Eventually, the garrison was increased to a force led by 20 knights and was shared with Peveril and Nottingham Castle during the revolt. King John was then able to ascend the throne in the year 1199 after his brother Richard had died.
William de Ferrers was able to maintain the claim of the Earls of Derby to the Peveril estates and he then paid John around 2000 marks for the lordship of the Peak, but the Crown retained possession of Bolsover and Peveril Castles. Finally, in the year 1216, John gave them both to William de Ferrers to secure his support in the face of country-wide rebellion. However, fury arose when the castellan known as Brian de Lisle refused to hand them over to him despite them both being John’s supporters. John then gave Ferrers permission to use as much force as he needed to in order to take the castles.
The situation was incredibly chaotic and remained this way even when Henry III became the king after his father’s death in 1216. It was in 1217 that Bolsover finally fell to Ferrers’ forces after a long siege. Though in the year 1223, the castle was returned to Crown control and at this point, only £33 was spent to repair the damage that the Earl of Derby had caused when he captured the castle years beforehand.
Over the next 20 years, four towers were added to Bolsover Castle and the keep was repaired. Various parts of the curtain wall were also repaired, and the kitchen, barn, and small other additions were built at a cost of £181. It was from 1290 onwards that the castle and surrounding manor were granted to a series of local farmers and under their custodianship, the once beautiful castle gradually fell into a state of disrepair.
Finally, a saving grace came along in the form of a man known as George Talbot, 6th Earl of Shrewsbury Bolsover Castle was granted to him by King Edward VI in 1553. After Georges death in 1590, his son, son Gilbert, 7th Earl of Shrewsbury, sold the ruins of the once beautiful castle to his stepbrother and brother-in-law, Sir Charles Cavendish. His aim was to build a new castle over the ruins and so he did exactly that.
He worked alongside a famous builder and designer, known as Robert Smythson, who worked hard to design Cavendish’s castle. He designed it specifically for elegant and spacious living rather than for defence and when the two men died three years apart (1614 and 1617), it was still unfinished. The building of Bolsover Castle continued when Cavendish’s two sons, William and John, took over the land. They were both heavily influenced by the Italian-inspired work of the architect Inigo Jones.
The tower, which is still to this day known as the Little Castle, is said to have been completed in 1621, however, completion of the castle was once again disrupted, this time by the Civil Wars of 1642 to 1651. During this time, the castle was taken by the Parliamentarians who slighted it. William Cavendish was created Marquess of Newcastle in 1643 as well as Duke of Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 1665.
He went forth with his newfound power and added a new hall and staterooms to the Terrace Range and when he died in 1676, the castle had finally been restored to good order, so in the end, he got his wish. The castle then passed through Margaret Bentinck, Duchess of Portland into the Bentinck family and ultimately became one of the seats of the Earls and Dukes of Portland.
The Present day at Bolsover Castle
The castle was uninhabited after 1883 up until the year 1945 when it was given to the nation by the 7th Duke of Portland. The castle is now in the protective and adoring care of English Heritage. Bolsover Castle is now a Scheduled Ancient Monument which means that it is a nationally important historic building as well as an archaeological site that has been given protection against unauthorised change. On top of all of this, it is a Grade 1 listed building and recognised as an internationally important structure.
You can visit the castle today by purchasing Bolsover Castle tickets and when you make your purchase, you essentially have access all over the grounds and within the castle. By heading to the official website, you can find all of the information you need to know about buying tickets and you will also be informed as to what areas you can and cannot enter. If you are ever unsure, there are plenty of helpful people around to give you a kind helping hand.
The walks at Bolsover Castle are yet another amazing feature of the present day at the castle. The invigorating walk sees you adventuring through a gorgeous open countryside between Bolsover and Sutton Scarsdale Hall which are two very prominent landmarks in this part of North East Derbyshire. It is very much worth it, and the experience is one you will remember forever.
Rated as English Heritage’s spookiest site
Just when you thought Bolsover Castle couldn’t get any more interesting, we have yet another amazing thing to share with you, yet this one is quite a bit spookier than the other information shared in this blog. This seemingly beautiful castle has topped the list of English Heritage’s ten spookiest sites, as voted for by members of staff.
It is said that “Bolsover Castle, the magnificent former home of William Cavendish, definitely has a dark side. Over the years staff have reported time and again unexplained occurrences of objects moving, orbs of light, pinches and some have been told by visitors that they have seen William himself, wandering the lonely corridors. It’s no wonder that it has been voted English Heritage’s spookiest site.”
After speaking to many of the members of staff at Bolsover Castle, people have become quite worried when entering the castle of exploring the grounds. Many of the staff members choose to tell people that Bolsover is one of the most widely reported haunted sites in the care of English Heritage which sends shivers up the spines of even the bravest visitors. Staff members have reported having doors slammed on them, finding objects inexplicably moved, and some have even reported that they have been pushed by someone.
The security guards on the night shift have even become alarmed when they notice lights or movement in the empty property and two workmen were terrified when they saw a woman who disappeared through a wall. We saved the worst one for last. One night, a staff member was locking up the property when she reported hearing a scream that seemed to get louder and louder as she walked away from the castle. She rushed back and nobody was there.
You may enjoy reading about other English castles such as Newark Castle.