Saturday, July 14, 2007

The Peaks Revisited, Part III: Peveril Castle

Peveril Castle's ruined Norman keep.

In the first years of the Norman occupation of Britain, William the Conquerer parceled out lands to the nobles who fought with him at Hastings. Among those knights was William Peveril, who was granted land in what is now the Peak District, where he built himself a castle. Sir Walter Scott, who was under the impression that William Peveril was an illegitimate son of the Conqueror, wrote a novel called Peveril of the Peak, set during the Popish Plot of 1678. The novel, published in 1823, begins:

"William, the Conqueror of England, was, or supposed himself to be, the father of a certain William Peveril, who attended him to the battle of Hastings, and there distinguished himself. The liberal-minded monarch, who assumed in his charters the veritable title of Gulielmus Bastardus, was not likely to let his son's illegitimacy be any bar to the course of his royal favour, when the laws of England were issued from the mouth of the Norman victor, and the lands of the Saxons were at his unlimited disposal. William Peveril obtained a liberal grant of property and lordships in Derbyshire, and became the erecter of that Gothic fortress, which, hanging over the mouth of the Devil's Cavern, so well known to tourists, gives the name of Castleton to the adjacent village."

Seth and Peter looking out from the keep.

Scott wrote that Peveril "chose his nest upon the principles on which an eagle selects her eyry, and built it in such a fashion as if he had intended it, as an Irishman said of the Martello towers, for the sole purpose of puzzling posterity." Today, little remains of the castle but some of the northern curtain wall and the ruined keep, built under Henry II in the 1170s. The castle, though in what would seem to be a highly defensible site, was never used as a military stronghold, and seems to have served mostly for administrative purposes, and as a base for hunting parties. Today, the castle offers a good climb up from Castleton, with fine views around the Hope Valley.

Next: The Industrial Revolution on the Derwent River and a Medieval Hall

No comments: