Taste of life as a society socialite

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Built as lavish and experimental palace of pleasure, Bolsover Castle was carefully crafted with exuberance in mind. And hosting some of the most exclusive parties of the 17th century, every inch is a bold statement to demonstrate the power and influence of its creator, William Cavendish.

Pioneering Italian architecture and horticulture, picked up from William’s travels to the continent, the castle really did start something of a revolution – right here in Bolsover. And true renaissance-man William also found time to invent horse dressage, in between the banquets, fine liquor, and ladies.

Martin Allfrey and Steve Bax at Bolsover Castle

Martin Allfrey and Steve Bax at Bolsover Castle

And while imagining the wonder of Bolsover Castle in it’s heyday is one-thing, seeing it for yourself is something else entirely. But thanks to a £1.3 million investment over the last year alone, visitors really can now get a flavour of what life would have been like as a high society socialite.

The previously empty buildings are starting to be dressed to look as they would have in the day. The rooms filled with historically accurate furniture and drapes, which can still be enjoyed and touched by intrigued children – and adults.

The castle walls have been restored so that visitors can walk round and see the stunning gardens as they should have been viewed, from above. Not to mention the far-reaching views of Derbyshire.

The former stables have been transformed into multimedia, and fully interactive, learning centre. The garden has even been filled with only plants available at the time of William. There’s even a play area. Perhaps the most impressive development has been the former horse showing room, though – which has been renovated to become the ONLY one of its kind in a genuine period building.

Martin Allfrey and Steve Bax at Bolsover Castle

Martin Allfrey and Steve Bax at Bolsover Castle

However, things are set to get even better for Bolsover Castle. In April, English Heritage, who own the site, will become an independent charity. The move will mean – in part, thanks to £80 million from the government – even more investment in sites like Bolsover Castle and Sutton Scarsdale Hall. English Heritage regional director, Steve Bax, explained: “English Heritage is effectively splitting into two parts. The side that advises the Government will be one entity. And the side that manages our 400 sites across the country, will become a charity and will be free to get sponsorship and donations without Government restrictions. In eight years we expect to be self-funded.”

He added that Bolsover Castles has been a flagship site in the transition, owing to the investment and activities it hosts. Steve said: “From costing the Government millions a year, Bolsover Castle is now a profitable site. This is because the renovations we have carried out have attracted more visitors, which has brought more money, and allowed us to do even more.”

He added: “But we also have more than 80 local volunteers who have really helped us on the way, and we’re always looking for new people too.”

But it’s not just a financial benefit. English Heritage are changing their attitudes to keep roped-off areas and ‘do not touch signs’ at a minimum, while still preserving the history for future generations.

The new exhibition in the stables at Bolsover Castle

The new exhibition in the stables at Bolsover Castle

Steve said: “These are really exciting times. There’s so much we could do with Bolsover Castle.”

Steve Bax and Martin Allfrey in the new display in the stables at Bolsover Castle

Steve Bax and Martin Allfrey in the new display in the stables at Bolsover Castle

The Pillar Parlour after restoration

The Pillar Parlour after restoration

two of a series of original paintings depicting the Labours of Hercules

two of a series of original paintings depicting the Labours of Hercules

The Star Chamber

The Star Chamber

New stone work at Bolsover Castle

New stone work at Bolsover Castle

New stone work at Bolsover Castle

New stone work at Bolsover Castle

Steve Bax at Bolsover Castle

Steve Bax at Bolsover Castle