Bolsover Castle, and the Little Castle were in gradual decline from their heyday in the 17th Century through to their stewardship by English Heritage in the late 20th Century.
The Interior of the Little Castle has survived better than many other parts of the Castle and so you can still get a hint of some of the opulence that William Cavendish achieved when it was his residence.
As you enter the Little Castle, up the main steps you pass through the entrance way, and on the left is an ante room. This was probably used by the steward to greet guests.
The pillar parlour, originally known as the lower dining room, is a lavishly decorated room that was used as a second dining room for more intimate dinners and celebrations.
The white pillars and sweeping arched ceilings are a beautiful example of 17th Century architecture. The walls are wood panelling with grained and gilded decoration, lasted until 1976 but were then stripped. However, dedicated work by English Heritage has seen the room restored to how it would have looked to the Cavendish family.
The paintings in the hall depict the 5 senses which seems a suitable theme for a room where banquets and entertainment that stimulated all the senses were held.
The Grand Hall on the ground floor of the Little Castle has the vaulted ceilings and pillars common to the main rooms of the ground floor.
Restoration work by English Heritage has been carried out to return the colouring of the walls and ceiling to how they would have been in the 17th Century. The walls are plastered, and have been incised to make them appear like large stone blocks, and the grey paint enhances this illusion.
The fireplace in the Hall is dated 1616 and it is thought that the structure of the Little Castle was completed in this year.
There are further paintings in the arched areas of the walls that depict the labours of Hercules. The paintings cleverly incorporate perspective views of the ceiling vaults to make it appear when standing in the right place, that the room continues on behind the subjects of the paintings.
The Little Castle houses extensive kitchens and pantries in the basement to cater for the residents, as well as the parties and banquets that occurred here.
You can still see the bread ovens in the bakery and sinks and fireplaces in the kitchens.
Great Beer Cellar
The largest room in the basement is the Great Beer Cellar, which you can imagine housing a huge store of wines, beers and other drinks to keep the revellers upstairs happy.
The Star Chamber was the main chamber for the owners of the castle. Only family members and privileged guests would have been allowed to attend meals in this part of the Castle. The walls would have been hung with colourful tapestries and there would have been opulent furniture.
In the seventies it was assumed that the oak panelling would have been bare in the 17th Century and in 1976 much of it was stripped back to the wood, destroying the original paint work. In other areas, pieces of original decoration were overpainted with what was then thought to be the original colours.
Since then the decorations have been extensively restored by English Heritage so the walls and ceiling appear much as they would have done in the 17th Century. Panelling has been restored to it’s painted state and the ceiling has been decorated using paints made up with the pigments found in the surviving painted areas and using traditional techniques.
It was common in the 17th Century for ceiling to be painted blue to match the heavens. The stars that decorate the ceiling are made from lead and gilded with gold leaf.
The main bed chamber appears fairly plain in comparison to some of the other rooms on this floor, but would have been hung with rich tapestries to provide the opulent effect that William Cavendish throughout the Castle. The records show that William had a feather mattress and bolster, three blankets, a canvas quilt, a Holland quilt and a silk quilt.
With a fire roaring in the ornate fireplace it would have been a very comfortable room.
Two closets lead of this room:
This closet has a painted ceiling that depicts Christ’s ascension to heaven.A ring of cherubs surround Christ as he rises towards the light above.
The angels around the outside play all manner of instruments including, lutes, horns, triangles, harps, violins and tambourines.
The Heaven closet symbolises divine love and contrasts with the the theme of the other closet.
The Elysium chamber (or closet) depicts the gods and goddesses of Ancient Greece. The Ceiling shows the throngs of Greek gods rising up through the clouds. Many of the Gods can be identified from what they are carrying, with Dionysis being a particularly striking figure.
This painting symbolises physical love and contrasts with the divine love depicted in the Heaven closet.
The third closet on this floor is the Marble Closet which was decorated in black marble.
The lantern is an unusual, octagonal room beneath the central turret of the Little Castle. The turret is circled with windows that allow light to spill down into the centre of the upper floor.
The plaster of the central area has a golden tint that gives the light in the lantern a summery quality. This area would probably been the centre of much of the activity in this are of the castle due to this lightness.
The rest of the second floor is taken up with a range of rooms that were probably used for family members and the senior servants of the household.