Raised by the Peverel family in the 12thcentury, very little is known of the original castle at Bolsover. A stone Keep was built c1173, surrounded by a curtain wall with an outer bailey, but the wall was breached in 1216 during the reign of King John. Surviving fragments of this curtain wall were later incorporated in a wall walk that can be seen in the castle garden.
The castle became Crown property in 1155 when the third William Peverel fled into exile, but by 1400 it had lost its strategic importance. Years of occupation by tenants had left Bolsover Castle ruinous by the time it was purchased by Sir George Talbot in 1553. Talbot, later becoming the 6th Earl of Shrewsbury, is noted for two famous associations. Firstly, his marriage to ‘Bess of Hardwick’, probably the most astute business woman of the 16th century, who owned the vast Chatsworth estates. And then his lengthy term as keeper to the exiled Mary Queen of Scots, a 16 year duty that seriously drained the family’s resources.