The significance of Peveril Castle is that it is close to both Hathersage where Little John is said to be buried and Loxley which is said to be the home of Robin Hood. Peveril Castle was built by William Peveril who was the natural son of William the Conqueror. William Peveril was the sheriff of Nottingham having jurisdiction between Peveril Castle and Nottingham Castle including the whole of Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire. The Peveril family held the castle for less than 100 years when in 1155AD a younger Peveril was disinherited for poisoning the Earl of Chester who features in the first literary mention of Robin Hood where in Piers Plowman we read, "I cannot perfectly say the Lord's Prayer as the priest sings it. But I know rhymes of Robin Hood and Randolph, earl of Chester."
The Royal Forest of the Peak where Peveril Castle is situated was a wild district forming part of the inheritance of the Anglo-Saxon Kings and was already royal property at the time of Domesday. The best hunting in England was to be found there and horses were bred specifically for the hunting in the booths at nearby Edale for royal hunting parties. It was a favourite hunting ground of King John and the last sovereign to stay at Peveril Castle is thought to have been Edward III in September 1331. Among the castle's Constables were Edward I, Piers Gaveston who was the favourite of Edward II, and Simon de Montfort. It is recorded that Robert Hood was an outlaw amongst the woodland briar's and thorns during the battle of Evesham when Simon de Montfort perished.
In the late 12th century Prince John granted some of his woodland and moors that lay west of Hathersage to the canons of Welbeck Abbey. The only condition in the charter was that between mid April and the 24 July the Canons should keep their cattle away from the nesting places of his sparrow hawks. When the Castle came into the possession of King John the demand for the hunt was so great in Peak Forest that large studs of horses were maintained specifically for the hunting along with large numbers of cattle. There were so many deer in the Royal Forest of the Peak in 1184AD that men and dogs were trampled to death when deer stampeded. The Royal Forest of the Peak would have been one of King John’s principle hunting lodges and was the site of one of his last battles when Barons opposed to the King occupied the castle in 1215AD after the signing of the Magna Charta.
The castle also fulfilled the functions of protecting the lead mining industry, it protected the north of England from incursions by the invading Scots, it was a royal hunting lodge and an administration centre and it is named after the man who built it, William Peveril. He held various offices and one of them was the "Sheriff of Nottingham." Close to the castle is a vantage point called "Lord's Seat" where tradition says he watched the progress of the chase. It is interesting to note that the great majority of “deer stealers” came from the upper class of society, and included prominent members of the nobility! In fact it seems to have been the fashionable thing in Feudal times to poach the King’s game from Peak Forest, and the fines formed an important item of revenue. Venison trespass records of, the thirteenth century include William de Ferrers, Earl of Derby (who died before coming to justice), Ralph de Beaufoy of Trusley, Richard Curzon, Henry de Elton, and William May the Earl’s huntsman, for having taken 1000 deer during the six years when Earl Derby was Chief Bailiff (1216-1222). Three of them were imprisoned but afterwards released with heavy fines.
Other members of the nobility and gentry convicted for the fun of poaching were the Earl of Arundel, Sir Thomas Furnival, lord of Sheffield, Matthew de Hathersage, one of the Bagshawes, and I regret to say some members of the church, including the Rector of Manchester and the Vicar of Sheffield! Matthew de Hathersage was charged with having “a Buckstall in his great wood at Hathersage barely two bowshots from the King’s Forest,” and he had to pay 20 marks. The Buckstall was a kind of extended netted trap for catching deer. It would seem that Robin Hood and Little John were not the only poachers in the district. Other people caught poaching were:
Adam de Langar, Ralf, his son, of Bradfield.
JOHN REVEL, of Dungworth.
Roger Got of Bradfield.
William de Bosco of Bradfield.
Walter fil William de Oggele, in Halamshire.
Roger fil Henry de Oxcroft, in Halamshire.
Roger de Wesham, Bishop of Chester, Adam de Stamphord, Archdeacon, William, Vicar of Glossop.
Hugo le Hunt of Bradfield.
Robert Cap de Muttrn, and Lovetot his brother.
At Chapel-en-le-Frith which was the capital of the Royal Forest of the Peak in Robin Hood's day is mention of the Archers’ Wall which is shown on the maps of the Forest made in the time of Charles 1 ("PRO" maps 23 and 79). In the Derbyshire Ballads is a poem by Mr William Bennett, of Chapel, founded on local songs, one which he considered related to a contention and fight between Robin Hood and the Keepers of Peak Forest and the other to a match between Robin Hood and the Foresters with the longbow."
The sheriffs "farmed the shire," by taxing the peasants and this way they got more than if they farmed the land themselves. The Foresters, Bailiffs and their officers had their own methods of raising money and sometimes a suitable bribe would allow the building of a house within the Forest, or the bailiffs would turn a blind eye to the horses-breeders, a bribe would allow grants of marriages to the heirs of the Foresters of fee, they sold trees, they allowed the extraction of minerals and took the profits, they encroached on common or public land such as highways, rivers, harbours, forts, etc, and they charged a toll for passage through the forest.
Here are some of the Bailiffs who appeared in court for offences during the time of King John and King Henry III:
Earl of Ferrars who was bailiff in the time of King John and King Henry III received the profits from the Kings mines.
Brian de Insula held the office for five years, and received £12.
Robert de Lexington, six years, £40.
John Goband, three years, £7 10s.
Warner Engayne, £12 l0s in five years.
John de Grey, £15 in six years.
William de Horsenden, for one year, 50 shillings.
Rad Bugg, of Nottingham (the ancestor of Lords Willoughby of Wollaton), extracted the minerals in the time of John Goband, and William de Langsdon and Rad Bugg, of Bakewell (father or son of the former), in the time of John de Grey.
John de Grey took a toll for passage through a forest, besides the said mines, 20 marks in his time.
During this time, while King Richard was on Crusade and in prison in the Holy Land, William Brewer became the Sheriff of Nottingham and some people believe he was Robin Hood's notorious adversary.
The popularity of the Peak is illustrated again by King Henry II who spent £20.00 on provisioning the castle for twenty knights for twenty days. This would have provided them with sufficient supplies for some serious revelry in this Royal Hunting Lodge of the Peak after a days hunting .
There is also another charge of £10. l6s. for the expenses of the King (Henry II) at Peak Castle and in 1158 AD, Henry II went there to receive the submission of King Malcolm IV of Scotland who had laid claim to various parts of northern England. There is a bill of £37 12s. 3d. for entertaining the King of Scotland and at Nottingham; plus a charge of 72 shillings for wine at Peak.
In 14 Henry II., Matilda, the King's daughter, was resident at Peak, for there is a charge of £4-10s. for two watchers and one porter, and 30s. for one palfrey (a lady's light easy-gaited horse) and one courser (a swift or spirited horse) for her use.
In 22 Henry II., £1135 was expended upon the operations (works) of the Castle, and in the same Roll there is a charge of 76s. 8d. for keeping the King's bears.
William Peveril owned other property nearby and "Hazlebadge Hall" which belonged to him is still there today. It is a working farm although one wing was demolished and a modern house built. It was part of the Peveril estates until 1154AD when William Peveril the younger was dispossessed and exiled for the murder of Ranulf, the Earl of Chester by poisoning. Then the ownership passed to the Strelley family who were the verderer's in charge of the Royal Forests of Sherwood and Peak Forest. They were also given the bridge near the mill at Brough on the road leading to Hazlebadge Hall for their services in providing horses for King Edward III whenever he came to the Peak. If a Strelley horse died during one of these visits, the king would replace it and in addition give the family two robes as compensation.
The many important families in Peak Forest demonstrated its importance in medieval England and one such family was the Bower family of Tideswell who held lands directly from the King for special knight service called serjeantry that was a particular kind of knight service due to the king only. The family rendered service to the monarchs of England during the reigns of five kings from King Edward I to King Henry V. They wore the King’s livery and Thurstan Bower held knight service to King Edward III in the Royal Forest of the Peak and was also “scutifero” (Shield-bearer) to Lord Furnival, Thomas Nevil who was treasurer of England and Calis. Thurstan was one of an elite group retained by the sovereign who were chosen for their skill in arms, wisdom, wealth and social standing in the country. Thurstan received Royal commissions for the defence of the realm during the King’s absence in France and was granted a royal pension of twenty pounds per year for life.
JOUSTING AT PEVERIL CASTLE
After William Peveril (the elder) died in his castle in the Peak, another William Peveril (the younger) became sole heir and now we have a glimpse into their family life for this second William had two nieces and Melette the youngest was by far the most beautiful and on speaking to her uncle she declared, "Surely sire, there is not a knight in all the world that I would take either for all his riches or for the honour of his lands. But if ever I have a husband, he shall be handsome, courteous and accomplished, as well as being the most valiant in all Christendom. I care little for riches and I might add that the only true wealth is to have what the heart longs for." When William heard this he smiled and said, "My dear niece, you have spoken well. I will do my best to find you just such a husband. Moreover, I will give you Blanchetour with all that belongs to it including all the feudal rights appurtenant to it. For a woman who has land in a fee is always more desirable." Then William sent forth a proclamation throughout many lands and cities that all brave knights who wished to tourney for love should come to castle Peveril in the Peak on the feast of Michealmas (29 September). The knight who should perform the best would have as his prize the love of Melette of Blanchetour. He would also become the lord and master of Blanchetour and have all the feudal rights to the domain. Among the hundreds of contesting knights to descend on the castle for the ladies hand in marriage were Aeneas the son of the King of Scots and the two hundred knights he brought with him, also the Prince of Gwynedd who came with a further two hundred knights and the Baron of Burgoyne who came with three hundred knights, and there were many more. The day of the tournament arrived and accompanied by many ladies the damsel went up into a tower from where she could better see this fine gathering of knights.
Waryn came out of the forest and went to the joust clad all in green with ivy leaves like an adventurous knight, unrecognised by anyone. When the duke of Burgundy saw him he attacked immediately, striking a great blow with his lance. Waryn returned the blow, and then struck him twice more and the duke fell from his horse in the midst of the place. Melette of the Blanchetour sent Waryn her glove and asked him to defend her. Then returning to the forest he put on his red armour and came with his companions into the field. He was the victor in the tournament and held the field against all who came there. Thereupon it was decided among all the great lords, the heralds, and the judges that Waryn, who was the adventurous knight, rightly deserved to have the prize for the tourney along with Melette of the Blanchetour. With great joy he took her, and the damsel took him. So they sent for the bishop, who in the presence of all married them and William Peveril gave a very sumptuous feast at the marriage. When the feast broke up Waryn took his wife accompanied by all his men and they went to Blancheville where they remained for forty days in great joy. (From Medieval Outlaws edited by Thomas H. Ohlgren published by Sutton Publishing)
Footnote: Waryn was the father of the famous outlaw Fulk fitz Warin. This is how it happened. Waryn (died 1156AD) married Miletta Peverel and their son Fulk Fitz Waryn married Hawise or Avice, daughter of Sir Joyce Dinan. Waryn was a baron of the Welsh marches born in the 1170’s and on his death Fulk took over the barony and castle of Whittington, Shropshire. Then in 1200AD he lost his possessions to a rival claimant who he murdered. For that he was outlawed by King John and for the next three years he levied war against King John in the marches. He was pardoned in 1203AD at the request of two of the king’s most intimate friends, one of who appears to have been Randolph, earl of Chester and on being pardoned he recovered his possessions.
The ballads of Fulk fitz Warin along with Hereward the Wake and Robin Hood are typical of the ballad writers art who tell us in the Geste, "They bent their bows, and forth they went, shooting all together toward the town of Nottingham, outlaws as they were. Our king and Robin rode together." From Peveril Castle where the joust was held is the road to Nottingham.
So, what do we know for sure? We know there really was a joust, we know there really was a Fulk fitz Warin, we know about Peveril Castle, and in the nearby parish of Tideswell we read about Robert-de-Lockesly agreeing to support Henry-de-Leke for the remainder of his life. We know that later writers identified Robert-of-Loxley as Robin Hood and here is a record of him in 1245AD.
(24) No. 389, f0- 78. Ascension Day, 29 H. III., Nic Meverill, with John Kantia, on the one part, and Henry de Leke. Henry released to Nicolas and John 5 m. rent, which he received from Nicolas and John and Robert de Lockesly for his life from the lands of Gellery, in consideration of receiving from each of them 2 M. only, the said Henry to live at table with one of them and to receive 2 m. annually from the other.
Top picture: Peveril Castle, built by the Sheriff of Nottingham on the site of an earlier construction.
Second picture: Winnats Pass with Peveril Castle above right (out of shot).
Third picture: Hazlebadge Hall the property of William Peveril.