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Bolsover in 1836

BOLSOVER, a parish and formerly a market-town in the hundred of Scarsdale, county of Derby, 23 miles N.N.E. from Derby and 130 miles N. by W. from London. At the time of the Domesday Survey the manor of Bolsover (Belesovre) belonged to William Peveril, who is supposed to have built Bolsover Castle.

Not long after the forfeiture of this property by William Peveril the younger for poisoning Ralph Earl of Chester, in 1153, we find the castle mentioned as having been given with the manor by Richard I in 1189, to his brother John on his marriage. The castle was in the possession of the barons in 1215, but was taken from them by assault for the king (John) by William de Ferrers, Earl of Derby. The manor and castle continued sometimes a direct property of the crown, and at other times it was in the possession of various nobles under grants from the crown.

The Earl of Richmond (father of Henry VII) died possessed of it in 1456, together with the Castle of Hareston, both of which were granted in 1514 to Thomas Howard Duke of Norfolk, on the attainder of whose son it again reverted to the crown. Edward VI granted it to Talbot Earl of Shrewsbury, in whose family the manor of Bolsover continued until the time of James I, when Earl Gilbert sold it to Sir Charles Cavendish. The old castle was in ruins long before. Leland mentions it as in ruins in his time, and no vestige of it now remains.

That which is now called the castle is nothing more than an ill-contrived and inconvenient domestic residence with somewhat of a castellated appearance. It was begun, immediately after he made the purchase, by Sir Charles, who appears to have removed on the occasion what. remained of the old castle. It is a square, lofty, and embattled structure of brown stone with a tower at each angle, of which that at the north-east angle is much higher and larger than any of the others.

The building stands on the brow of a steep hill overlooking a large extent of country. A flight of steps on the east side leads through a passage to the hall (the roof of which is supported by stone pillars), and thence to the only room designed for habitation on this floor. This apartment, called the ‘pillar parlour,’ is 21 feet square, and has an arched ceiling which is supported in the centre by a circular pillar, around which the dining-table is placed.

Above stairs there is a large room, about 45 feet by 30, called the ‘star chamber;’ there are also a smaller apartment and two lodging-rooms on this floor and eight on the attic story, which are all very small : the floor of every room is of stone or plaster.

The residence of the family of Cavendish was probably in the magnificent range of ruined apartments which extend to the west of the structure we have mentioned, and of which only the outside walls are now standing. In front of this mansion there was a fine terrace from which a magnificent flight of steps led to the entrance.

The gallery in this fine range of apartments was 200 feet in length by 22 in width ; the dining-room 78 feet by 32 ; the two drawing-rooms are 39 feet, the other 36 feet by 33. Dr Pegge, Horace Walpole, and others, thought that these buildings were erected after the Restoration by William Cavendish Duke of Newcastle, son of the Sir Charles, who built what is called the castle. Diepenbeck’s view of Bolsover (1652) however decides the point of their previous existence, and that they were built before the civil wars is more than probable, as otherwise there would have been no room at Bolsover for the splendid entertainment ; which the Earl of Newcastle (such was then his rank) gave to King Charles, with the queen, the court, and ‘all the gentry of the county.’

The earl had previously entertained the king at Bolsover in 1633, when he went to Scotland to be crowned. The dinner on this occasion cost £4000 ; and Clarendon speaks of it as ‘such an excess of feasting as had scarce ever been known in England before.’

In the early part of the civil war the castle was garrisoned for the king, but was taken in 1644 by Major-General Crawford, who is said to have found it well manned and fortified with great guns and strong works.

During the sequestration of the Marquis of Newcastle’s estates, Bolsover Castle suffered much both in its buildings and furniture, and was to have been demolished for the sake of its materials, had it not been purchased for the earl by his brother, Sir Charles Cavendish. The noble owner repaired the buildings after the Restoration, and occasionally made the place his residence. It now belongs to the Duke of Portland, whose family derived it in the female line from the Newcastle Cavendishes. Although still inhabited, the mansion has long ceased to be even occasionally occupied by its owners.

The small town or village of Bolsover is pleasantly situated, together with the castle, upon a point projecting into a valley which surrounds it on every side except the north-east, where the separation has been made by a deep cut.

The number of houses in the parish, which includes part of the township of Gapwell, amounted to 320 in 1831, and the population to 1,429, of whom 695 were females. The inhabitants are chiefly employed in agriculture.

The parish church, dedicated to St. Mary, is of a mixed architecture, having portions of the Norman style intermixed with later English architecture and with some modern additions. The living is a discharged vicarage in the diocese of Lichfield and Coventry, with the annual net income of £111.

There is a small charity school, endowed with £6 per annum, said to have been given by the Countess of Oxford : the school-house was erected in 1756. The interest of nearly £3,000, bank annuities, bequeathed by Mrs. Smithson in 1761, is applicable to the assistance of the poor at the discretion of the minister, churchwardens, and four trustees.