In 1066, when William the Bastard conquered England, one of his supporters was William Peveril, whom some say was the Bastard’s bastard son. In thanks, the Bastard gave William Peveril the title of Bailiff Of The Royal Manors Of The Peak and the lands of two Saxon lords in what is now known as the Peak District in modern-day Derbyshire. This land was in what is now called Hope Valley and at the head of the valley, beside Mam Tor, Peveril built the castle that bears his name to this day. At first, it was a wooden keep with a stone wall, one of the first stone-walled castles in England, and is listed in the Domesday Book of 1086.
When William Peveril died, his lands went to his son, also William. By this time, the family had also been granted Bolsover Castle, in Nottinghamshire, and the lands surrounding it. They were a family of great power. Until Henry I died and the Chaos began. When Henry died, his daughter, Matilda, had been named by him as his heir, but the nobles wouldn’t support him in it. One of them, Henry’s nephew Stephen, took control, while Matilda, and her son, Henry, fled to France. The Peverils, along with a great many Norman lords, supported Stephen in this.
After 15 years of civil war, both sides, including the barons and the Church, had tired of it. The country had gone back and forth between Stephen and Matilda repeatedly, and by 1153, when Matilda’s son, Henry, crossed the Channel once more for yet another battle, neither side really wanted it. Stephen and Henry negotiated a peace in which Henry was named Stephen’s heir. Upon Stephen’s death, he became Henry II, husband of Eleanor of Aquitaine, father of Richard Lionheart. Within two years, Henry II had removed Peveril for his support of Stephen. However, Peveril Castle was important, both administratively and for its protection of the mines in the area. Henry II built the stone keep, the remains of which stand today.
Over the next 200 years, the Peveril Castle was gifted to various nobles, depending on the king of the day. Each of them fortified it further, or at least maintained it, until it was given to John of Gaunt in the mid 1300s. He stopped maintaining it; indeed, he removed the lead for use in one of his other castles. Under his son and the successive owners, the castle’s role in the administration of the area decreased until, by 1561, it was noted to be in a state of decay. By 1609, it was found to be “very ruinous and serveth no use,” and eventually, it would be used to store animals.
With the advent of rail travel in the 19th century, the area became a tourist destination. By this time, the castle was owned by the Duchy of Lancaster, and the Duchy began clearing the rubble and fixing things here and there. Sir Walter Scott wrote his book, “Peveril of the Peak”, in 1823, in which he described the ruins, but it would be another 150-odd years before English Heritage took it over. The castle is now a scheduled monument, one deserving protection, and it was declared a Grade I listed building in 1985, for its historical importance. This is the castle I visited.