Little Castle Keep at Bolsover Castle

The Little Castle at Bolsover may at first glance look like a castle keep for overseeing a castle during wartime, but further inspection shows that it has few of the features that would have allowed a genuine keep to withstand a siege.

Non warlike features of the Little Castle

Bolsover Little Castle by steve-p

Bolsover Little Castle by steve-p

  • The large windows would have been vulnerable to missile attacks
  • The doors are easily accessed from ground level
  • The elaborately ornamented gatehouses and walls that form the small front courtyard are too low to have provided any real protection
  • There are balconies with doors that allowanother point of entry

The Building of the Little Castle

The Little Castle was in fact started in 1612 by Charles Cavendish and designed with deliberate features of a Norman keep, despite being a house for luxurious pleasure and extravagant parties.

Bolsover Little Castle by Lynne Glazzard

Bolsover Little Castle by Lynne Glazzard

It is thought that Charles Cavendish employed Robert Smythson (designer of Hardwick Hall and Longleat) to create a keep to fit in with chivalrous obsessions of the nobles of the day.

However, both Charles and Smythson died before work had proceeded very far so we can’t know whether the Little Castle was built fully to the original design.

The work on the Little Castle was continued by William Cavendish, with Robert Smythson’s son John supervising the building work, and came to include major influences from the Italian inspired work of Inigo Jones in London.

William Cavendish is known to have planned a trip to London in 1618 to plan the furnishings and paintings for the interior, and the balconies show definite influences from earlier work by Jones.

Further discussion of the interior and purpose of the Little Castle at Bolsover Castle can be found here.