Bolsover (St. Mary)

BOLSOVER (St. Mary), a parish, and formerly a market-town, in the union of Chesterfield, hundred of Scarsdale, N. division of the county of Derby, 6 miles (E. by S.) from Chesterfield, 28½ (N. N. E.) from Derby, and 145½ (N. by W.) from London; containing, with the hamlets of Glapwell, Ockley, Whaley, Oxcroft, Stanfree, Shuttlewood, Woodside, and Woodhouse, 1512 inhabitants. This place, called Belesoure prior to the Conquest, was noted for a castle erected immediately after by William Peveril, who had obtained the grant of several manors in England. The castle, which was remarkably strong, on the extinction of the Peveril family became a royal fortress, and sustained a siege in the war of the barons, by whom, together with the Castle of the Peak, it was garrisoned against King John. In 1215, William, Earl of Ferrers, retook both these castles from the barons, and was made governor of them, as a reward for his fidelity. In the reign of Henry VII. the castle became the property of the Earl of Shrewsbury, and in that of Elizabeth was given to his step-son, Sir Charles Cavendish, who rebuilt the greater portion of it, and erected a magnificent suite of state apartments on the site of the original Norman structure, which had become ruinous. His eldest son, William, afterwards Duke of Newcastle, erected the spacious riding-house, and the long range of buildings, now in ruins, which crown the beautiful terrace. In these stately and splendid halls he thrice entertained Charles I. and his court, and upon one occasion, when the queen was present, expended £15,000. During the civil war, while the duke was abroad, the castle sustained a siege, and, after being defended for some time by the Marquess of Newcastle, surrendered to the parliamentarians, from whom it was purchased by Sir Charles, the duke's younger brother. The Duke of Portland, who is proprietor of the castle, and lord of the manor of Bolsover, inherits from the Cavendish family. The keep is in an excellent state of preservation, and is at present the residence of the Rev. J. H. Gray, vicar of Bolsover; it occupies a lofty eminence commanding an extensive prospect.

The town is large and well built, and is pleasantly situated on rising ground, environed on every side, except where the ground forms a natural rampart, with a deep intrenchment. The chief pursuit of the inhabitants is agriculture; at present no manufacture is carried on, but formerly the place was celebrated for buckles and tobacco-pipes. Facility of conveyance is afforded by the Midland railway, which has a station at Chesterfield; and to the east of the town is the road from Mansfield to Rotherham. It is within the jurisdiction of the court for the honour of Peveril, held at Lenton, near Nottingham: a court leet belonging to the lord of the manor is held every third week, for the recovery of debts under 40s.; and there is a fair on Midsummerday. The parish comprises 4590 acres of land, whereof 82 are wood. South-west of the town the surface declines to a fine open valley, and on the east approaches to a level undulating country; the scenery of the valley is exceedingly beautiful, and in the distance is seen hill rising over hill for more than twenty miles. The soil is calcareous, and the substratum consists of thick beds of limestone of two or three varieties. The quarries here supply excellent building-stone, which is extensively used in the town and neighbourhood, and has been raised for the erection of parts of the new houses of parliament; the material is of a durable nature, but more suitable for exterior than inner work. Coal-mines, also, are wrought, on a limited scale. The chief proprietor of land, after the Duke of Portland, is the Duke of Devonshire; and there are a great number of other owners, the farms being generally small.

The living is a discharged vicarage, valued in the king's books at £5. 19. 4.; net income, about £110; patron and impropriator, the Duke of Portland, who receives about £800 per annum as tithe rent: the glebe consists of 28 acres of arable land. The church, situated in the town, is a spacious structure, and consists of a nave, chancel, and south aisle: it is said to be partly Norman, but is probably of later construction; with the exception of an arch, the general style is early English, of which the spire is a good specimen. In the chancel is a mutilated piece of sculpture, of very ancient workmanship, representing the Virgin and the Infant Jesus, and, perhaps, the Magi; with camels looking over the manger. The Cavendish family have a sepulchral chapel, terminating the aisle; it was built in 1618, and contains some very splendid monuments: in one corner of the chancel, also, is a flat stone, with an inscription round it in square letters, and a number of figures in outline, evidently of great age. The Wesleyans and Independents have places of worship; that belonging to the latter was formerly a Presbyterian chapel, in which Archbishop Secker officiated for some time. An endowed school was built in 1755 by the Countess of Oxford and Mortimer: it had dwindled into insignificance, and become almost useless; but in 1844 was placed under the National Society, and opened on an improved system. Mrs. Isabella Smithson, in 1761, bequeathed £2000 to the poor of Bolsover; the payment being resisted by her executors, a suit was instituted, and in 1770 the full amount, with £956 interest, was recovered. The annual proceeds are chiefly paid as marriage portions, of £25 each, to five young women of the parish; and in default of that number of young women in any year, the portions unclaimed, and the residue, are appropriated in sums not exceeding three guineas annually, to poor persons upwards of 55 years of age. The Duke of Portland lately set apart some land as allotments for the poor, and about 135 families have already been assigned plots of ground. In the parish is a ferruginous spring; and partly inclosing the town wall is a circular mound supposed to have been a Danish camp.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of England, by Samuel Lewis, 7th edition, published in 1848.