Peveril Castle

No visit to Castleton would be complete without visiting the imposing Peveril Castle high up on the hillside in an impregnable position overlooking the village. It’s not hard to drift back in time and imagine what the castle looked like in its heyday, defending the area from its foe.

The castle is a very important monument in Castleton, not only giving the town its name, but providing rich heritage and the opportunity for some outstanding views for miles around of the surrounding landscape. Built by William I following the Norman Conquest, it was one of a series of castles ordered to be erected up and down the country, with Peveril Castle believed to be among the first sanctioned for construction.

It was built in 1080, strategically placed, and chosen for its inaccessibility and thus providing easy defence. The castle was named after William’s son, William Peverel, who was granted Royal Manors of the Peak after the Norman conquests and became the administrator of the Royal Forest of the Park in Castleton on behalf of the King, his father. The original structure was built from wood, with a keep, but later these buildings were converted into stone in around 1175. This is the building that can still be seen today, the square keep with round headed windows.

In 1155, William’s younger son brought dishonour on the family by falling out of favour with King Henry II. It is said he became far too independent and confiscated the Peverel’s of their estate, taking the responsibility of the castle from them. King Henry visited Castleton and the castle numerous times, many times to hunt, but on one notable occasion he met King Malcolm of Scotland in 1157 and the court records show there was plenty of wine drunk that night!

Since Peverel the younger was stripped of his duties, the Castle has undergone many changes and being used in a series of different ways by Castleton’s rulers. There then became a succession of royal Kings and Queens for a couple of hundred years and it wasn’t until the late 14th century that it was granted to John of Gaunt, in exchange for the earldom of Richmond and became part of the Duchy of Lancaster’s estate. On John of Gaunt’s death, his son, who would later become King Henry IV, inherited the castle and it became part of the Crown estate. After that, in Tudor times in the 17th century, the building was considered too uncomfortable to live in and over a period of time, the living quarters were demolished with only the Keep retained to serve as a courthouse. The castle was left unoccupied and rapid deterioration occurred until the early 19th century, when the Duchy finally accepted the dilapidated state of the castle and took responsibility of the necessary repairs and reconstruction.

The castle belonged to the crown of Lancaster ever since, but is now in the care of English Heritage, becoming a protected Scheduled Ancient Monument, meaning the castle is considered to be a ‘nationally important archaeological site’ or historic building. It is given protection against any unauthorised changes and is also a Grade 1 listed building.

For the modern day visitor enjoying Castleton, a climb to the castle at the top of the hill means enjoying breathtaking views over the Hope Valley and it’s possible to explore the remains of the Keep, including the Medieval Loo! Displays in the visitor centre tell the story of Peverel, and is well worth a visit to the gift shop where there are interactive displays in the visitor centre.