Bolsover Castle

Has been described as a Certain Timber Castle (Motte), and also as a Certain Masonry Castle

There are masonry footings remains

NameBolsover Castle
Alternative Names
Historic CountryDerbyshire
Modern AuthorityDerbyshire
1974 AuthorityDerbyshire
Civil ParishOld Bolsover

The site of an eleventh century motte and bailey castle, and the site of a twelfth century tower keep castle and the standing remains of the seventeenth century country house that was built over it. The country house was built largely on the remains of 12th century masonry. The open areas of the inner and outer baileys, therefore, have been left largely undisturbed since the 11th century and are believed to contain the buried remains of buildings and structures associated with the all periods of the medieval castle's history. The motte and bailey castle took the form of a large oval outer bailey, with a smaller inner bailey. The later medieval castle respected the layout of the earlier, and the square tower keep appears to have been built on the site of the original. The foundations of the twelfth century keep survive below the present 'keep', known as the Little Castle, which was built between 1612 and 1621 and contains wall paintings throughout. During the course of the seventeenth century, the terrace range, now ruined but containing the main state rooms and the Great Gallery, was built in the outer bailey or Great Court. (PastScape)

Bolsover Castle is an important and well-documented example of a motte and bailey castle which developed into a tower keep castle and was later adapted to become a country house of one of the most important families of the seventeenth century. Although nothing of the medieval castles remains upstanding, twelfth and thirteenth century masonry is known to survive beneath the walls and buildings of the later house and extensive archaeological deposits, relating to both the motte and bailey castle and the tower keep castle, survive largely undisturbed across the whole of the site

The extensive standing remains of the seventeenth century house, and the wide range of surviving buildings, make it not only of great architectural importance but also one of the most visually impressive monuments of its class.

Bolsover Castle is situated on a limestone promontory overlooking the town of Bolsover, which now almost encircles it. The monument comprises the site of the eleventh century motte and bailey castle, the site of the twelfth century tower keep castle and the standing remains of the seventeenth century country house that was built over it. The buildings and walls of the seventeenth century house were built largely on the remains of twelfth century masonry. The open areas of the inner and outer baileys, therefore, have been left largely undisturbed since the eleventh century and are believed to contain the buried remains of buildings and structures associated with all periods of the medieval castle's history. The motte and bailey castle took the form of a large oval outer bailey, measuring c.280m by 200m, with a smaller inner bailey, measuring c.80m by 60m, lying to the north at the highest point of the promontory. The inner bailey contained the keep while the outer bailey accommodated such ancillary buildings as stables, workshops and lodgings for retainers. The later medieval castle respected the layout of the earlier, and the square tower keep appears to have been built on the site of the original, though this has not yet been confirmed. The foundations of the twelfth century keep survive below the present 'keep', known as the Little Castle, which was built between 1612 and 1621. At this time the inner bailey became a garden, known as the Fountain Garden, and original twelfth or thirteenth century masonry was noted during consolidation work on its walls in both 1946 and 1978. During the course of the seventeenth century, the terrace range, now ruined but containing the main state rooms and the Great Gallery, was built in the outer bailey or Great Court, along with the riding school and its forge. Four conduit or water houses, which supplied the seventeenth century castle with water, lie outside the castle walls and are not included in this scheduling. The first castle at Bolsover was the motte and bailey castle built in the eleventh century by William Peverel, bastard son of William the Conqueror. In 1155 it was taken by the Crown and the earlier stone keep built between 1173 and 1179, at about the same time as the curtain wall round the inner bailey. The medieval fortification had fallen into ruin by the end of the fourteenth century. Throughout the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries it passed in and out of royal hands until granted to George Talbot, later Earl of Shrewsbury and husband of Bess of Hardwick, in 1553. Between 1608 and 1640, the castle was entirely rebuilt by Sir Charles Cavendish and his heir, the first Duke of Newcastle , the design being attributed to Robert and John Smithson. Newcastle was a prominent supporter of Charles I during the Civil War and, after a siege, the castle surrendered to Parliament in 1644 and was subsequently slighted. After the Restoration it gradually underwent repair but, by the mid eighteenth century, was stripped and in ruins, apart from the riding school and Little Castle. The seventh Duke of Portland granted it to the nation in 1945 since when it has been in State care. The castle is a Grade I Listed Building. There are a number of features to be excluded from the scheduling. The most important is the seventeenth century Little Castle which, being roofed and containing internal architectural and decorative features such as painted panelling, is better served by its Listed status rather than scheduling. The medieval foundations and the deposits underneath are, however, included in the scheduling. (Scheduling Report)

Gatehouse Comments

The circular wall around the bailey is of considerable thickness. This wall probably dates to the C13 but all datable architectural detail of gates etc. has been replaced with C17 work. Throughout the middle ages this was an important castle, overlooking a major route way, and sometimes in royal hands. It was built at the same time and the the same builder as Peveril Castle and may well have had a similar form. Some authors, biased by surviving medieval remains, rather than a complete picture of the past, describe this as a sham castle. Clearly the C17 buildings are different in style to the original medieval building, although the interior of the little keep gives a very good impression of the colour palette available to late medieval 'interior designers', although not, of course, the actual decorative motifs. As it stands the major buildings are not those of a medieval castle, although the layout of those building still reflects the medieval layout, the landscape and location can still be read and the surviving medieval documentation give us much more idea about how this castle works than many others (c.f Castell Coch near Cardiff). There were differences in function between the medieval castle and its C17 rebuild although these have more to do with changes in national and local government methods rather than the over emphasised military function of castles. The stylist changes reflect these changes from government based on an elite warrior class who expressed themselves through martial symbols to an educated officer class who expressed themselves through Classical motifs.

- Philip Davis

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

This is a Grade 1 listed building protected by law

Historic England Scheduled Monument Number
Historic England Listed Building number(s)
Images Of England
Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceSK470706
Latitude53.2312698364258
Longitude-1.29646003246307
Eastings447080
Northings370670
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
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Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All rights reserved
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All rights reserved
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Books

  • Goodall, John, 2011, The English Castle 1066-1650 (Yale University Press) passim
  • Riden, Philip and Fowkes, Dudley Vincent, 2008, Bolsover: Castle, Town and Colliery (Chichester: Phillimore)
  • Salter, Mike, 2002, The Castles of the East Midlands (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 14-17
  • Craven, Maxwell and Stanley, Michael, 2001, The Derbyshire Country House (Landmark Publishing) Vol. 1 p. 43-5
  • Cooper, Nicholas, 1999, Houses of the Gentry, 1480-1680 (Yale University Press) p. 124, 190
  • Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 48-9
  • Smith, Michael E., 1992, Castles and Manor Houses in and around Derbyshire (Derby)
  • Furtado, Peter et al (eds), 1988, Ordnance Survey guide to castles in Britain (London) p. 132
  • Merill, J.N., 1988, Halls and Castles of the Peak District and Derbyshire (Matlock: JNM Publications) p. 4-8
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 1 p. 108
  • Mark Girouard, 1983, Robert Smythson and The Elizabethan Country House (Yale University Press)
  • Hart, C.R.,1981, The North Derbyshire archaeological survey to AD1500 p. 139, 145
  • Fry, P.S., 1980, Castles of the British Isles (David and Charles) p. 192
  • Pevsner, Nikolaus revised by Elizabeth Williamson, 1978, Buildings of England: Derbyshire (Harmondsworth) p. 62-65
  • Renn, D.F., 1973 (2 edn.), Norman Castles of Britain (London: John Baker) p. 112
  • Colvin, H.M., Brown, R.Allen and Taylor, A.J., 1963, The history of the King's Works Vol. 2: the Middle Ages (London: HMSO) p. 572-3
  • Tipping, H.A., 1922, English Homes, period 3 Vol. 1 (London) p. 348-70
  • Harvey, Alfred, 1911, Castles and Walled Towns of England (London: Methuen and Co)
  • Cox, J.C., 1905, 'Ancient Earthworks' in Page, Wm (ed), VCH Derbyshire Vol. 1 p. 376-8 (slight) online copy
  • Armitage, Ella S., 1905, A key to English antiquites with special reference to the Sheffield and Rotherham district (London: J.M. Dent and Co) p. 104-7 online copy
  • Mackenzie, J.D., 1896, Castles of England; their story and structure (New York: Macmillan) Vol. 1 p. 461-4 online copy
  • Downman, A.E., 1895, History of Bolsover online copy
  • Timbs, J. and Gunn, A., 1872, Abbeys, Castles and Ancient Halls of England and Wales Vol. 3 (London) p. 110-12 online copy
  • Lysons, D. and S., 1817, Magna Britannia Vol. 5 Derbyshire p. ccxxxvi online transcription
  • Pegge, S., 1785, Sketch of the history of Bolsover and Peak Castles in the county of Derby (London: J. Nichols for the Society of Antiquaries - Bibliotheca Topographica Britannica No. 32) online copy
  • Buck, Samuel and Nathaniel, 1774, Buck's Antiquities (London) Vol. 1 p. 53-4
  • Grose, Francis, 1787, Antiquities of England and Wales (London) Vol. 8 p. 49-50 online copy

Antiquarian

  • Camden, Wm, 1607, Britannia hypertext critical edition by Dana F. Sutton (2004)
  • Chandler, John, 1993, John Leland's Itinerary: travels in Tudor England  (Sutton Publishing) p. 101
  • Toulmin-Smith, Lucy (ed), 1908, The itinerary of John Leland in or about the years 1535-1543 (London: Bell and Sons) Vol. 2 p. 11, 28 online copy

Journals

  • Speight, Sarah, 2008, ''Castles as Past Culture: Living with Castles in the Post-Medieval World' Cha^teau Gaillard Vol. 23 p. 385-94 (slight)
  • Sheppard R., 2003, 'Excavation of a Medieval Building and a Civil War Refortification at Bolsover Castle, Derbyshire' Derbyshire Archaeological Journal Vol. 123 p. 111-45
  • Sheppard R., 2001, 'Bolsover Castle (SK 471707)' Derbyshire Archaeological Journal Vol. 121 p. 205-9
  • Sheppard R., 1999, 'Bolsover Castle (SK 471707)' Derbyshire Archaeological Journal Vol. 119 p. 282-3
  • Sheppard R. and Gilbert, D., 1997, 'Bolsover Castle (SK 471707)' Derbyshire Archaeological Journal Vol. 119 p. 282
  • (Pratt and Akister) in Webster, L.E. and Cherry, J., 1978, 'Medieval Britain in 1977' Medieval Archaeology Vol. 22 p. 168 download copy
  • Faulkner, P.A., 1961, 'Haddon Hall and Bolsover Castle' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 118 p. 188-98 online copy
  • Brown, R. Allen, 1959, 'A List of Castles, 1154–1216' English Historical Review Vol. 74 p. 249-280 (Reprinted in Brown, R. Allen, 1989, Castles, conquest and charters: collected papers (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 90-121) view online copy (subscription required)
  • Brown, R. Allen, 1955, 'Royal Castle-building in England 1154-1216' English Historical Review Vol. 70 (Reprinted in Brown, R. Allen, 1989, Castles, conquest and charters: collected papers (Woodbridge: Boydell Press)) p. 19-64
  • Gregory, F.W.C., 1947, 'Bolsover Castle: a review of the 17th century buildings' Transactions of the Thoroton Society of Nottinghamshire Vol. 51 p. 4-49
  • Knoop, D., and G.P. Jones, 1936, 'The Bolsover Castle building account, 1613' Ars Quatuor Coronatorum Vol. 49
  • Goulding, 1917, Country Life Vol. 42 p. 132-9, 156-63
  • Currey, P.H., 1916, 'Bolsover Castle. front.' Derbyshire Archaeological Journal Vol. 38 plan opp. p. 5
  • Gotch, 1914, The Archaeological Journal Vol. 71 p. 408-12
  • 1904, Country Life Vol 15 p. 198-207
  • Gray, J.H., 1860, Reports and Papers of the Associated Architectural Societies Vol. 5 p. 228-46 online copy

Guide Books

  • Drury, P., 2014, Bolsover Castle (London: English Heritage)
  • Worsley, Lucy, 2000, Bolsover Castle (London: English Heritage)
  • Faulkner, P.A., 1985, Bolsover Castle, Derbyshire (London: English Heritage) (the 1972 edn publish by English Heritage)
  • Faulkner, P.A., 1972, Bolsover Castle, Derbyshire (HMSO)
  • Goulding, R.W., 1936 (6edn), Bolsover Castle

Primary Sources

  • Pipe Rolls 1194-1216 (see Pipe Roll Society for published references)
  • Rickard, John, 2002, The Castle Community. The Personnel of English and Welsh Castles, 1272-1422 (Boydell Press) (lists sources for 1272-1422) p. 165

Other

  • Worsley, Lucy, 2001, The Architectural Patronage of William Cavendish, first Duke of Newcastle, 1593–1676 (PhD thesis University of Sussex) Available via EThOS
  • Linford, P.K., 1993, Bolsover Castle, Bolsover, Derbyshire report on Geophysical Survey 1993 (English Heritage report 115/93 online copy