Bolsover Castle was originally built by the Peverel family in the 12th century but after years of neglect was purchased by Sir George Talbot in 1553. Talbot, later becoming the 6th Earl of Shrewsbury is noted for his marriage to 'Bess of Hardwick', probably the most astute business woman of the 16th century, who owned the vast Chatsworth estates.
Bolsover Castle was sold on to Charles Cavendish in 1608, who employing Robert Smythson as his architect, set about re-building the castle. which, despite its embattled appearance, was designed for elegant living rather than for defence. The tower, known today as the little castle, was completed around 1621, and building work continued with their sons adding the terrace and riding school ranges. Used as extra accommodation, the Terrace Range originally consisted of apartments and kitchens, but with a Royal visit imminent this range was extended to include a long gallery and an external staircase. At completion, the school had every facility required, including a forge, a tack and harness room, a large arena, and an upper viewing gallery. One of the most notable features of the Riding School range is its magnificent timber roof.
Despite Bolsover Castle falling into a ruinous state during the Civil War, 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. His successors, however, chose to live at Welbeck Abbey and in 1752 they stripped the lead from the roof of the Terrace Range at Bolsover Castle to effect the necessary repairs to their preferred residence.
The Little Castle and the Riding School Range survived much better, and was let to the Curate of Bolsover in 1834. Following the death of his widow in 1883, the castle remained uninhabited and was eventually given to the nation by the 7th Duke of Portland in 1945. The castle is now in the care of English Heritage.
The symbolic and erotic wall-paintings in the Little Castle, some of which were restored in the 1970s, have been conserved, and exciting discoveries have been made of original painted decoration beneath later work. The castle battlements and the Venus Garden have been restored, and the fountain, with 23 new statues, plays again for the first time in centuries. The riding centre stables have been developed as a new Discovery Centre and new site interpretation facilities have been introduced.
The castle regularly hosts historic and cultural events throughout the year and the site is ideal for family picnics.
Directions: Off M1 at junctions 29 or 30, 6 miles from Mansfield. In Bolsover, 6 miles E of Chesterfield on A632 (OS Map 120; ref SK 471707)
Local Tourist Information Chesterfield (01246 345777)
For dates, opening times and prices please see Visitor Information at Bolsover Castle
For more information on events, opening times and prices for bolsover castle, please visit the english heritage website at English Heritage
Photographs of Bolsover Castle at Bolsover Castle Photographs
Information on other Derbyshire and Peak District Houses
Chatsworth House and Gardens