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Bolsover Castle: eleventh century motte and bailey castle, twelfth century tower keep castle and seventeenth century country house.

A Scheduled Monument in Old Bolsover, Derbyshire

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Latitude: 53.2307 / 53°13'50"N

Longitude: -1.2961 / 1°17'45"W

OS Eastings: 447084.252661

OS Northings: 370642.794081

OS Grid: SK470706

Mapcode National: GBR 7BR.H4S

Mapcode Global: WHDFK.2222

Entry Name: Bolsover Castle: eleventh century motte and bailey castle, twelfth century tower keep castle and seventeenth century country house.

Scheduled Date: 9 October 1981

Last Amended: 11 March 1992

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1012496

English Heritage Legacy ID: 13270

County: Derbyshire

Civil Parish: Old Bolsover

Built-Up Area: Bolsover

Traditional County: Derbyshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Derbyshire

Church of England Parish: Bolsover St Mary and St Laurence

Church of England Diocese: Derby


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
seige, 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
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. Other exclusions are the surfaces of paths and drives, all modern
fencing and walling, modern gates, the ticket office and all English Heritage
fittings such as railings, grilles and notices, the toilet block, the
custodian's lodge and outhouses, the surface of the playground of Bolsover
Church of England School, the sheds etc. within the English Heritage Works
compound, the fittings of the Bolsover Castle Bowling Club and the surface of
the bowling green itself. The ground beneath all these exclusions is, however,

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

A tower keep castle is a strongly fortified residence in which the keep is the
principal defensive feature. The keep may be freestanding or surrounded by a
defensive enclosure; they are normally square in shape, although other shapes
are known. Internally they have several floors providing accommodation of
various types. If the keep has an attached enclosure this will normally be
defined by a defensive wall, frequently with an external ditch. Access into
the enclosure was provided by a bridge across the ditch, allowing entry via a
gatehouse. Additional buildings, including stabling for animals and
workshops, may be found within the enclosure.
Tower keep castles were built throughout the medieval period, from immediately
after the Norman Conquest to the mid-15th century, with a peak in the middle
of the 12th century. A few were constructed on the sites of earlier earthwork
castle types but most were new creations. They provided strongly fortified
residences for the king or leading families and occur in both urban or rural
Tower keep castles are widely dispersed throughout England with a major
concentration on the Welsh border. They are rare nationally with only 104
recorded examples. Considerable diversity of form is exhibited with no two
examples being exactly alike. With other castle types, they are major
medieval monument types which, belonging to the highest levels of society,
frequently acted as major administrative centres and formed the foci for
developing settlement patterns. Castles generally provide an emotive and
evocative link to the past and can provide a valuable educational resource,
both with respect to medieval warfare and defence and with respect to wider
aspects of medieval society. All examples retaining significant remains of
medieval date are considered to be nationally important.
Motte castles are medieval fortifications introduced into Britain by the
Normans. They comprised a large conical mound of earth or rubble, the motte,
surmounted by a palisade and a stone or timber tower. In a majority of
examples an embanked enclosure containing additional buildings, the
bailey, adjoined the motte. Motte castles and motte-and-bailey castles acted
as garrison forts during offensive military operations, as strongholds, and,
in many cases, as aristocratic residences and the centre of local or royal
administration. Built in towns, villages and open countryside, motte castles
generally occupied strategic positions dominating their immediate locality and
as a result, are the most visually impressive monuments of the early post-
Conquest period surviving in the modern landscape. Over 600 motte castles or
motte-and-bailey castles are recorded nationally, with examples known from
most regions. As such, and as one of a restricted range of recognised early
post-Conquest monuments, they are particularly important for the study of
Norman Britain and the development of the feudal system. Although many were
occupier for only a short period of time, motte castles continued to be built
and occupied from the 11th to the 13th centuries, after which they were
superseded by other types of castle.
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

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Faulkner, PA, Bolsover Castle, Derbyshire, (1972)
Hart, CR, North Derbyshire Archaeological Survey, (1984), 148
Pevsner, N, Williamson, E, The Buildings of England: Derbyshire, (1978), 92-94
Renn, D F, Norman Castles in Britain, (1968)
Currey, P H, 'Derbyshire Archaeological Journal' in Bolsover Castle, , Vol. XXXVIII, (1916), 1-28
Hart, C R, Bolsover: The Archaeological Implications Of Development, 1977, N D A C Pamphlet

Source: Historic England

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