The imposing ruins of Peveril Castle (also known as Peak Castle or Castleton Castle) rise above the charming village of Castleton in the English county of Derbyshire. It is one of the first Norman fortifications in England, even mentioned in the Domesday Book, a manuscript record of the “Great Survey” of much of England and parts of Wales completed in 1086 by order of King William the Conqueror.
For many years the castle was forgotten, covered over time with lush vegetation. The first cleaning and minor conservation operations were carried out in the nineteenth century and today this monument of considerable historical value is correctly preserved.
According to material discovered so far on the site, together with the written documents of the time, clearly show that the castle was built between 1066 and 1086.
Although the earliest Norman castles were usually built in timber, Peveril Castle seems to have been designed from outset to be built in stone, and takes its name from its founder, William Peveril, a Norman knight who held lands in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire as a tenant-in-chief of the king, closely linked to William the Conqueror.
Some historians and researchers believe that Peveril was actually an illegitimate son of William the Conqueror. But there is no clear evidence to support this thesis. William Peveril inherited his father’s estates, but in 1155 they were confiscated by King Henry II. While in royal possession, Henry II visited the castle on several occasions and in 1157 he had a meeting with King Malcolm of Scotland there.
In the 13th century there were periods of building work at the castle, and by 1300 its definitive form had been established. Toward the end of the 14th century, around 1372, the barony was granted to John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, who did not use it often. He ordered some of its material to be stripped out for re-use, marking the beginning of its decline.
In the seventeenth century, the keep was used as a local court. This practice was soon abandoned and, little by little, it fell almost completely into ruins until the surviving remains were restored during the 20th century. The keep dominates the top of the hill still today. On both sides, parts of the original grit finish can still be seen.
Although much of the castle is in ruins, it is still worthwhile climbing through the ruins. The structures that survived the passage of time are extraordinary and silently tell the story of the castle and the region.
In addition, the walk around is just lovely. The site is located on the top of a hill offering breathtaking panoramic views of the village below and the surrounding countryside, including Hope Valley and Cave Dale.
In the Visitor Center you can find some interactive screens that tell the story of Peveril Castle, used as the administrative center of the High Peak Royal Forest, a royal hunting area since the 11th century, often appreciated by Norman kings and their knights. In fact, the castle was built primarily to control the High Peak Royal Forest.