Peveril Castle sits high on a limestone ridge guarding the village of Castleton and the west end of the Hope Valley. The valley forms a natural line of communication through Derbyshire and gained additional importance from the valuable mineral deposits in the area.
The castle is named after its first owner William Peverell, a Norman knight who came over with William the Conqueror and fought with him at the Battle of Hastings. The castle is also known as Castle Peak or Castleton Castle. The exact date he started the castle is unknown, but it must have been at least under construction in 1086 because it is mentioned in the Doomsday Book.
His son William Peveril the Younger inherited the castle. In The Anarchy (a civil war over the succession of the kingdom after Henry I) he backed the wrong side and his lands, including Peveril Castle, were forfeited to the crown. Under royal control the castle became the main administrative centre for the region.
Henry II visited a few times during his reign. In 1157 he chose Peveril when he received homage from King Malcolm IV of Scotland. He returned again during the Baron's Revolt in 1164. After the revolt ended in 1176 the garrison was increased and fortified the castle with a square keep.
With Henry's death and Richard I of England coming to the throne the ownership of Peveril became more chaotic. Richard first gave the castle to his brother John. After John's rebellion Richard confiscated the lordship. When John ascended to the throne the castle was bought by William de Ferrers, 4th Earl of Derby.
There are records of some building work in the early 13th Century between 1204 and 1212, but it's unclear whether this was maintenance of the existing buildings or new buildings being constructed.
The Earl of Derby had to hand the castle back to the Crown in 1223 when King Henry III came of age. The 13th Century was a peaceful period for the castle and Henry III undertook a building programme at the site.
When he visited in 1235 the north wall and bridge were repaired before his arrival. Over the course of the period he built a new larger great hall and towers on the wall overlooking Cave Dale.
During the Second Baron's Revolt in 1264 it was occupied by Robert de Ferrers, 6th Earl of Derby. It was recovered by the Crown in 1265 as part of the settlement with the Barons.
The castle passed through a number of hands until it was given to John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster, and fourth son of King Edward III. He was one of the kingdom's richest men and Peveril had lost much of its strategic importance by this time. He decided not spend money maintaining it and 1374 he had the lead stripped from the castle buildings to be used at Pontefract Castle.
After John of Gaunt's death Peveril Castle became part of the Duchy of Lancaster. Its fall from grace continued with much of its administrative duties being moved elsewhere. In 1561 the Duchy decided that it should be abandoned. The castle was still home to some local courts and a prison until around 1600 when it was finally left to fall into ruin.
The area around the castle became a tourist attraction in the 19th Century. The castle's popularity was no doubt helped by Sir Walter Scott featuring it in his novel Peveril of the Peak.
The Duchy undertook some maintenance work; clearing away the rubble and adding mortar to stabilise the castle's buildings.
In 1932 the Duchy gave Peveril Castle to the Office of Public Works and today English Heritage looks after the castle and its grounds. Peveril Castle is open to the public. Facilities available at the castle include toilets and a gift shop. Parking is available nearby. The castle can also cater for groups and has special information packs for schools and children.
Status: Visitor Attraction
Owner: English Heritage
Tel: +44 (0)1433 620613
Opening Times: April to October Daily 10am to 5pm / November to March Weekends only 10am to 4pm
Peveril Castle overlooking Castleton
Close up view of the keep at Peveril Castle