Castleton Historical Society

Castleton, Hope Valley, Derbyshire, UK
Visit the CHS Blog for the latest on our current activities and research including the Dig Diary 2016 and our trip to Treak Cavern in July 2016.
Read the CHS newsletter

Castleton Historical Society
Located at Castleton Visitor Centre

Welcome to Castleton Historical Society's website.

CHS was founded in 1973 and became a registered charity in 1984.  It is a membership society with around 50 members, providing a programme of events and undertaking research into the history of the Parish of Castleton.

CHS is also responsible for “The Castleton Museum”, an accredited museum housed at Castleton Visitor Centre, Buxton Rd. The Centre is a joint partnership between The Peak District National Park Authority and CHS. The Museum is currently closed for refurbishment and will reopen in Summer 2017. The Centre's opening hours will also be subject to change during this time and it is advisable to check with the Centre after November 2016 if you plan to visit     

The Museum Forward Plan for 2007/2012 gives details of the Museum's registration, objectives & aims.
Castleton Christmas Tree Festival 2014
Our contribution to the Christmas Tree Festival at St Edmunds Church in 2014 remembered World War One with a theme of Christmas Cards from the war years. The source of the text regarding the Christmas truce on the front line and images for our decorations was  the author Tony Allen, From "Picture Postcards from the Great War 1914-1918" (


We have a regular programme of lectures which usually take place on the 3rd Thursday of the month at the Methodist Church, Buxton Road, Castleton at 7.30pm.  Everyone is welcome to come along to our meetings.  A charge of £3.00 includes refreshments.
Public health - what has it ever done for us?
Eleanor Houlston, Public Health Speciality Registrar (NHS)

CHS members researched the stories of the men of Castleton who fought in the First World War.The results of their work formed a memorable exhibition of photographs and historical details which was displayed in the Visitor Centre in August 2014.  Anyone who was not able to see the exhibition or would like to see it again can browse through the posters by clicking on the link above.


The Museum is currently closed for refurbishment and will reopen in summer 2017.
The following photos show some of the artefacts held by the Museum which portray life around Castleton in the past.

Celtic Head

The Celtic inhabitants of Mam Tor worshipped Brigantia, the goddess of fertility.  This carved head dates from around 1000 BC and was found in a garden wall in Castleton. 

The CHS adopted the image of the head as the  Society's logo. 


Castleton Garland

Castleton Garland Ceremony



Nursing & War time

Nursing & War Time displays



Farming equipment

Farming Equipment


Funeral Bier



Archaeology Update 2007 - 10
Medieval Hospitals
Nearly 500 hospitals and almshouses were founded in England before 1300, many of them for the poor and infirm of the parish.  

While larger hospitals in the cities probably had access to medical care, the sick poor in small rural hospitals were mainly provided with “bed rest, cleanliness and an adequate diet”. Needy travellers were often welcomed to stay for a night or two. Hospital inmates would have been required to participate in the daily round of religious services and prayers and the care of the soul was at least as important as the care of the body.
Hospital of St Mary in the Peak
The hospital in Castleton was probably founded before 1150 for the sick and poor, reputedly by the wife of one of the William Peverils and it was still in existence at the dissolution of the monasteries in the 1540s.  Some earthworks in Spital Field opposite the entrance to Losehill Hall were scheduled as the site of the hospital in 1999.
In 2007 Castleton Historical Society was awarded a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund for a community project to locate the hospital.

Topographical survey: Spital Field.

Resistivity survey: Spital Field
Archaeology Update 2007 - 10
Under the supervision of Colin Merrony from the Department of Archaeology at Sheffield University, volunteers surveyed surface features and below surface features using geophysics, and dug trenches.  In parallel, CHS has been researching documentary evidence, especially any that might shed light on location. 400 years of activity might be expected to leave traces; perhaps some foundations or a few pottery fragments. However there was no evidence of any human habitation, let alone medieval, until the final day of the dig in 2010 when a short section of plastered wall was uncovered underneath a wide scatter of rubble on the scheduled monument itself.

Magnetometry survey: Spital Field
Pottery Roadshow 2011. Chris Cumberpatch, a well-known local expert in identifying and dating pottery, spent the morning in Castleton at the Methodist Chapel identifying pieces of pottery brought along by local residents. He also brought along examples of his own medieval pottery to illustrate the kinds of shards that volunteers might hope to find when working on the Medieval Hospital project.

Archaeology Update 2011  
Between 27th June & 8th July, 82 individual volunteers spent more than 260 days working on the site and came up with a number of interesting and tantalising finds. The short section of wall was extended and another very substantial wall that butts up against it, probably of an earlier date, was uncovered.  Another structure, resembling a modern dry-stone wall, was also found on the site. The finds still have to be completely assessed, but amongst them are a number of large pieces of pottery identified as “Midlands Purple” late medieval ware (15th – 16th century).  Other finds included two skulls and some teeth which, after analysis, were found to be human.  Apart from the walls themselves, a stone from a window mullion, possibly 15th century, was found.

2011 dig photo

Archaeology Update 2012
June & July were remarkable for the amount of water that fell from the skies.  The dig was interrupted by often ferocious downpours. Despite efforts to protect the trenches from the rain, work began on several days by bailing out water for up to 2 hours, only to discover that the previous day’s trowelling was ruined.  To make up for lost time, the dig was extended for an extra two weeks.

Interesting small finds this year were a lot of rusty nails and lead, and some human finger bones found close to a “cut” in the natural clay that might indicate foundations that have been completely robbed out of stone.  In addition, burnt areas were found, one of which was then sectioned and found to have lead spill around its perimeter, as well as a piece of worked lead emerging from the section. This might represent melting down of lead from hospital-related buildings nearby.

Medieval Hospital Archaeological Dig 2013

The dig of 2013 ended up with some very interesting findings. On the scheduled monument in Spital Field a well preserved human skull was found (unfortunately the top of the cranium was damaged by a spade) - see the photo – and then at least two “burial cuts”. These were aligned east – west and on one of them finger bones could be seen in the position of the pelvis, indicating that they were Christian burials. Combined with the finding of hearths containing molten lead and twisted pieces of medieval lead came (from stained glass windows) in 2012, evidence is accumulating that suggests our hospital was somewhere close by. Hopefully we will soon have the bones dated.

The HLF funding has now come to an end, but two of our final actions have been to (1) produce an illustrated free booklet about the hospital project which is now at the printing stage and (2) purchase a metal detector that we can use on future digs for e.g. sifting spoil heaps and to investigate new sites. 

Castleton's Medieval Hospital: Blessed Mary in the Peak.
Use the Download button below to access this colourful and informative booklet. 


Castleton Historical Society is very grateful to Mrs Sidebottom and family for continued access to Spital Field, and to the YHA for access to Losehill Hall grounds and for allowing parking at the main entrance during the dig and, of course, to the Heritage Lottery Fund without whom this work would not have been possible.
Photographs of Archaeological Digs on the Spital Field site in 2011
Use the arrows to view all the photographs.

Removing skull embedded in soil to be sent for analysis.  Dig 2011

2011 Dig
Dig 2011
Dig 2011
Dig 2011
Dig 2011


Four weeks of archaeology this summer produced some exciting findings on the Spital Field. Last year, the significant features were possible burials, so this year the focus was on investigating these in more detail and extending the area around them.  Read the full report below for details of a very significant dig.
Excavating a burial on the Spital Field (July 2014)
Test pits were also dug in other parts of the village mainly in the context of exploring a possible early settlement at the west end near Buxton Road, where it is possible that a small pre-Norman settlement (named as Pechesers in the Domesday Book of 1086) was located. A test pit at Goosehill Hall
The second Goosehill Hall test pit
A Very Deep Drain
We still don’t know where the hospital buildings themselves were, but with this year’s exciting findings we may be a lot closer to locating them.......  Perhaps the very deep drain (Lee’s drain) and adjacent line of stone also discovered on the Spital Field this year could be linked to a medieval building? Use the arrows to scroll through the photos showing work on the drain.
The drain produced a lot of excitement!
As discovered after clean-up, the drain with capping stones.
The drain base was at a depth of about 1.6 metres.
Kevin in the drain.
Resistivity over the drain after backfilling


Castleton and Hope’s Hidden Medieval History:  A joint project by Castleton and Hope Historical Societies 2012 – 2013
In 2012 Castleton and Hope Historical Societies received £26,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund for an exciting new project to find out about the ‘hidden history’ of Castleton and Hope villages in the medieval period.  The project aims to discover where the common people of the area lived and worked between the Norman Conquest of 1066 and the Civil War in 1642.   The whole community will have the opportunity to get involved in the work, researching old documents, digging archaeological test pits and surveying the old routes between the two villages.
You can read more about the joint project to discover Castleton and Hope’s Hidden Medieval History in the downloadable document below. 
March 2012 Update

The project got off to an exciting start with visits to three record offices and a training day in landscape archaeology.  

Archivists at Matlock, Litchfield and Sheffield record offices gave training in researching documents; searches of the Litchfield records were particularly fruitful, uncovering a range of documents for both villages.

Following a training session on archaeological surveying, volunteers headed up the valley side north of Hope to practice some of the skills demonstrated. The aim is to record the archaeological features associated with the old routes between the two villages, which may date to the Middle Ages. 

July 2012 Update

Using 2 gazebos as protection from the rain, it was possible to dig 22 test pits in Castleton as planned. The finds have not been analysed yet but possible medieval pottery was found at three sites in Castleton. Part of a human jaw with teeth was found near Joules Yard as well as a few other human bones. A number of gardens had sherds of 18th century slipware and glazed blackware. We found quite a few clay pipe stems, including a possibly relatively early, thick, wide-bored section from a house on Peveril Close.

This document gives more details about the test-pitting in Castleton.
Hope Show 2012

The project took a stand at this years Hope Show held on the 27th August 2012. We had a small display of photographs showing the progress on the test pits in Hope and Castleton, together with a panel for the landscape survey and documentation. The documentation panel had the will and inventory of Thomas Stephenson from 1648 with a transcription which proved very interesting.

The landscape survey panel illustrated the two routes between Hope and Castleton which are being explored as part of the project. There was also a panel featuring the children from Hope primary schools getting a feel for life in medieval times. John Hudson, a potter provided a working display which kept children and adults enthralled throughout the day. The stand was considered a success.

Finds Day 2:  3 March 2013

Finds Day 2 held in Loxley Hall Hope on the 03 March 2013 presented the expert reports on the pottery finds and on the bones. Dr Chris Cumberpatch and the project team were on hand to answer visitors’ questions. The event was very well attended. There was a photographic display which included an update on the landscape survey work for the north and south routes between the villages and a continuous slide loop showing the test pit work and the landscape survey shots. The detailed reports are now being written up. More photos of the event below. 

Castleton  - Hope Test Pit Report
The 3 parts of this report are available to download below.

Medieval People's Lives Project: Reports & Booklet

Booklet:  Lives of the Medieval Common People of Castleton & Hope
This booklet tells you about the lives of the medieval common people of Castleton & Hope, their names, jobs, homes and crimes.  It is one result of the work of Castleton & Hope Historical Societies. The project & this booklet have been funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Lives of the Common People Project Report
This document reports on the historical research about the medieval common people in Castleton and Hope villages.

Landscape Survey Report  This document reports on a landscape survey carried out in Castleton and Hope villages, as part of the lives of the Common People Project.  March 2012-July 2013.

Historical Landscape Audio Trail

The archaeological survey work of 2012 has laid the foundation for a self-guided trail to enable visitors to discover the history behind the landscape and its route-ways, fields, lead mines, defences and buildings. The trail leaflet and audio clips for each point along the trail can be downloaded from this site.   Each audio trail file can be accessed for immediate listening by clicking on the download button or, by right clicking, saved to a computer for copying to a mobile device.  More information is available in the file 'Instructions for Audio Trail'.  The zip file is not available at present.

Please note that the stepping stones mentioned at the end of section 4 on the trail leaflet and the audio trail have been removed and the stream culverted.  

See note above about the stepping stones mentioned in this section.
Finds Day 2 in Loxley Hall on 3 March 2013
Finds Day 2 in Loxley Hall on 3 March 2013
Finds Day 2 in Loxley Hall on 3 March 2013
Finds Day 2 in Loxley Hall on 3 March 2013
Finds Day 2 in Loxley Hall on 3 March 2013
Finds Day 2 in Loxley Hall on 3 March 2013
Finds Day 2 in Loxley Hall on 3 March 2013


Murder, pagan rituals, a medieval tournament & a Celtic goddess;  Castleton's history is full of drama.  Find out more in the series of downloadable articles shown below.
Memories of Castleton Garland
This article by Jessie Hall was first published in Peveril Post in May 1995.

Jessie, pictured here at Castleton's Jublilee tea party in 2012, celebrated her hundredth birthday in December 2012.  

Photograph: Ray Fowler
Jessie Hall

The Garland in the 21st Century
Traditionally the Garland was made at the “Host Pub” from where the Procession started. From about 1989 until 2006 the Garland was made in the barn in Mill Lane. The recent move to the open-sided glass shelters at the Castleton Centre has enabled many more people, visitors and locals alike, to watch the Garland being made.
Garlands Day: A History
Nobody knows when the celebration that we call Castleton Garland Day actually started but from what evidence we have it is quite clear it is a very ancient ceremony and that it has undergone many changes.

The Winnats Pass Murders

“In 1758 and young gentleman and lady came out of Scotland on an expedition and were robbed and murdered at a place called the Winnats, near Castleton. Their bones were found in 1768 by some miners sinking an engine pit. ..." From the Derby News” 28 April 1788.                                                     An early photo of Winnats Pass (right).
Discovering Treak Cliff Cavern
In 1923, miners digging for fluorspar on Treak Cliff discovered a small chamber containing human bones.  Expert examination later established that this was a late Neolithic family burial about 5500 years old.  Three years later, 5 miners blasted through into an unknown cavern. This document is a transcript of a taped conversation with Jack Beverley of Castleton describing the day Treak Cliff Cavern was found.
Treak Cliff Cavern & Rainwater
The photo shows the stalactites in Dream Cave, Treak Cliff Cavern. In Treak Cliff Cavern, the average rate of growth of stalactites is about 1 mm every 65 years. Radio Carbon Dating suggests the formations in the Cavern are about 111 thousand years old.
Schools and Schooling in Castleton - 1687 to 1863
The Bagshawe family of “The Oakes” at Norton, Sheffield were the pioneers of schooling in Castleton.

The photo shown is of Castleton School, probably in 1912, with Frank Eyre as headmaster.
George Herbert Bridges Ward:  Rambler Extraordinaire
It was Bert’s desire that land should be free for all to enjoy lawfully. Making one of his annual pilgrimages to a cairn on Kinder Scout, where a fellow rambler had perished, Bert was served with a writ of tresspass and forbidden to enter the moor without permission.

Odin Mine
Odin (or Oden) mine is the oldest documented lead mine in Derbyshire and is thought to be one of the oldest mines in England.
The Brigantes & The Mam Tor Settlement
Over 3000 years ago a "splinter group" of Celts left their tribe in Northumbria and came to Mam Tor where they built their settlement, enclosing about 16.5 acres within double earthworks. Some of these earthworks are still clearly visible on the north east side of Mam Tor.
The Carboniferous Limestone Rock 
The carboniferous limestone rock of the White Peak of Derbyshire is about 350 million years old and made from the limey shells, bones and secretions of marine life.
Mam Tor: the Shivering Mountain
A massive landslide that happened about four thousand years ago containing about 15 million cubic metres of slipped debris weighing in the region of 45 million tonnes.
A Tournament at Peveril Castle
Knights from all parts of the country compete for the hand of the beautiful daughter of William Peveril. 
Some Castleton History
The Hospital of the Blessed Mary of Castleton in the Peak
"Early documents give an fascinating insight into life at the hospital ... John, Duke of Lancaster, confirmed the grant ... by which he gave to the warden of the hospital pasture for a mare and its foals and eight oxen ..."

Castleton and Its Old Inhabitants

by Kay Harrison

"…there are also memories in the Churchyard on many Headstones, and nameless mounds, which also have their story.”  W.H. Shawcross 1903.

Although Castleton is known for its history of lead mining, rope making, inns and caverns, Blue John, Garland and ruined castle; what of the people who lived, came, worked and died here in years gone by? This history is about their stories – an old cavern guide who hanged himself inside Peak Cavern in 1866, the barmaster’s son who shot himself dead after a funeral in 1894, and a pregnant servant who poisoned herself with arsenic in 1832.  In here you’ll find stories of crimes leading to transportation, of poverty and illegitimacy, accidents and disease; old Castleton families and characters, early schooling, innkeepers, vicars and much more.

This history is dedicated to Ann Broadbent who died in 1836 aged 2;  without the search for her story, this wealth of Castleton’s history may not have been uncovered quite so soon.

Please note; this is an ongoing project.  More stories and articles will be added over time as they are completed. Thank you.


St Edmund's Church Graveyard Survey was undertaken by Castleton Historical Society in 1981. Detailed information can be found in the downloadable documents below.


Castleton Visitor Centre, Buxton Road, Castleton, Hope Valley, S33 8WN.

If you are interested in joining Castleton Historical Society or would like to join in any of our activities, you can write to Castleton Historical Society, Castleton Visitor Centre, Buxton Rd, Castleton, Hope Valley, Derbyshire S33 8WP or email us at and we will get back to you as soon as we can.  

We are sorry that we do not have the resources at present to deal with research requests.