Situated on a limestone outcrop, the castle stands in a near impregnable position overlooking the west end of Hope Valley. A document recorded the castle, as standing at ‘Pechesers’ one possible
translation is, ’Peak’s Arse’ another is ‘Peak Forest’.
It is believed that William Peveril built this castle of stone in about 1086, when most castles of the time were hurriedly erected of timber and were of the motte and bailey type.
The Normans were quick to realise the area was rich in lead, a metal much valued for its own uses, and for silver which was extracted from it. Thus the Conqueror entrusted this valuable area to the custody to his much favoured knight, William Peveril. There is a story that says, Peveril was William the Conqueror’s bastard son. Whether it is true or not, it’s difficult to judge because many kings in history and certainly of that period sired many illegitimate offspring. Whatever the case, the Conqueror did give William Peveril vast amounts of English lands in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire.
Another hint was in 1100 when King Henry I, his possible half brother, granted the Peak area as an independent lordship under the control of William Peveril.
On his death in 1114, he was succeeded by his son William Peveril the younger. He married Avicia, daughter of Roger de Montgomery “le Poitevin”, brother of Robert de Bellême. William was later to be accused of trying to poison Ranulf de Gernon, Earl of Chester but this was never proved. From here on, William’s popularity began to wain. He fell out with the young King Henry II in 1153, the King accusing William of, “plundering and treachery”. Eventually he lost Peveril and his other English lands to the crown.
In 1157 King Henry II hosted, Malcolm IV of Scotland at Peveril and in the years 1173 to 1174, during the revolt by the King’s sons, he began a rushed programme of building. The square towed keep was probably just one of the projects, heightening it to 40 feet as well as carrying out other
works to improve the castle’s defences.
By 1199 when King John was on the throne, William de Ferrers, son-in-law to William Peveril the younger, was successful in his claim to the Peveril estates at a cost of 2,000 marks. Then in 1223, King Henry III took it away from Ferrers and it became crown property again.
Although money was spent on the castle, it continued to change hands until 1374 when it came into the possession of John of Gaunt. Because of the changing times, it began to lack importance and so he began to plunder it, for its fabric. First to go was the lead roofing to be used on his other castles.
A 16th century survey reported the castle as,”very ruinous”.
It is now in the care of English Heritage and is open to the public.
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