things about research

The Disillusionment of Ness

Raise your hand if you are a person who likes castles.

Brilliant – I like ’em too.

I visited a castle recently. At least I thought it was a castle. It looked like a castle and had walls, parapets, a keep-kinda-thing (actually known as the ‘Little Castle’), courtyard, and view over the surrounding countryside to see the incoming enemy.

I mean look at it:

model of said castle

Upon seeing it you would think: My word! That’s a castle if I ever saw one.

Hah. No.

It was a Castle with a capital ‘c’. But then after falling into ruin it was bought and rebuilt by a certain Sir Charles Cavendish and later by his son, William.

To defend the realm? To protect their people? No.

It was built for comfortable living. Elegant living. Pleasurous* living.

Sacrilege I say! They turned a castle that was built for defense and for, for sensible things into a place solely for comfort!


introducing Bolsover Castle
introducing Bolsover Castle

The parapets are waist height. And – correct me if I’m wrong – but aren’t they supposed to give protection for the defenders.

only useful for protection when kneeling

It was built as a fairy tale type castle. The greater part of it is in spectacular condition (particularly the ‘Little Castle’) …


… which was fascinating, but what I enjoyed most were the ruins … and the staircases – who doesn’t love stone staircases?

To be honest, I much prefer the history of Bolsover Castle before Sir Charles rebuilt it. But … if he hadn’t built it and if it hadn’t been preserved in such good order by the English Heritage I would have only visited ruins and would have missed out of having an almost surreal experience of visiting a castle which was built to be a ‘fairy tale’ castle.

What are you complaining about? That question may be asked, but to be honest it was quite bewildering. When you visit a place you go with certain expectations.

It was like Red Riding Hood visiting her Grandma, only to find out to her astonishment that her Grandma wasn’t her Grandma – it was the Big Bad Wolf.

And with that perfectly wonderful comparison I will leave you with the wiki page of Bolsover Castle.

*spell check doesn’t accept the word ‘pleasurous’ … surely this is a word? I know it’s a word. Why isn’t spell check accepting it?

DISCLAIMER: I am not a historian. Sometimes I fancy myself a bit of one but … I know that 1066 was the year in which the battle of Hastings was fought, 1945 was the year World War Two (in Europe) ended and 1966 was when England won the World Cup. That is my knowledge of historical dates (which seem to be a Very Important Part of being a historian). I like reading about history, watching ‘stuff about history and walking around historical sites, I cannot, however, claim an all-knowing knowledge about history. So if this article (or any future one) gets you going, “Wait a minute – that’s not right …” please do leave a comment and I will listen with ready ears.

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