The significance of Peveril Castle is that it is close to both Hathersage where Little John is said to be buried and Loxley which is said to be the home of Robin Hood. Peveril Castle was built by William Peveril who was the natural son of William the Conqueror. William Peveril was the sheriff of Nottingham having jurisdiction between Peveril Castle and Nottingham Castle including the whole of Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire. The Peveril family held the castle for less than 100 years when in 1155AD a younger Peveril was disinherited for poisoning the Earl of Chester who features in the first literary mention of Robin Hood where in Piers Plowman we read, "I cannot perfectly say the Lord's Prayer as the priest sings it. But I know rhymes of Robin Hood and Randolph, earl of Chester."
The Royal Forest of the Peak where Peveril Castle is situated was a wild district forming part of the inheritance of the Anglo-Saxon Kings and was already royal property at the time of Domesday. The best hunting in England was to be found there and horses were bred specifically for the hunting in the booths at nearby Edale for royal hunting parties. It was a favourite hunting ground of King John and the last sovereign to stay at Peveril Castle is thought to have been Edward III in September 1331. Among the castle's Constables were Edward I, Piers Gaveston who was the favourite of Edward II, and Simon de Montfort. It is recorded that Robert Hood was an outlaw amongst the woodland briar's and thorns during the battle of Evesham when Simon de Montfort perished.
In the late 12th century Prince John granted some of his woodland and moors that lay west of Hathersage to the canons of Welbeck Abbey. The only condition in the charter was that between mid April and the 24 July the Canons should keep their cattle away from the nesting places of his sparrow hawks. When the Castle came into the possession of King John the demand for the hunt was so great in Peak Forest that large studs of horses were maintained specifically for the hunting along with large numbers of cattle. There were so many deer in the Royal Forest of the Peak in 1184AD that men and dogs were trampled to death when deer stampeded. The Royal Forest of the Peak would have been one of King John’s principle hunting lodges and was the site of one of his last battles when Barons opposed to the King occupied the castle in 1215AD after the signing of the Magna Charta.
The castle also fulfilled the functions of protecting the lead mining industry, it protected the north of England from incursions by the invading Scots, it was a royal hunting lodge and an administration centre and it is named after the man who built it, William Peveril. He held various offices and one of them was the "Sheriff of Nottingham." Close to the castle is a vantage point called "Lord's Seat" where tradition says he watched the progress of the chase. It is interesting to note that the great majority of “deer stealers” came from the upper class of society, and included prominent members of the nobility! In fact it seems to have been the fashionable thing in Feudal times to poach the King’s game from Peak Forest, and the fines formed an important item of revenue. Venison trespass records of, the thirteenth century include William de Ferrers, Earl of Derby (who died before coming to justice), Ralph de Beaufoy of Trusley, Richard Curzon, Henry de Elton, and William May the Earl’s huntsman, for having taken 1000 deer during the six years when Earl Derby was Chief Bailiff (1216-1222). Three of them were imprisoned but afterwards released with heavy fines.
Other members of the nobility and gentry convicted for the fun of poaching were the Earl of Arundel, Sir Thomas Furnival, lord of Sheffield, Matthew de Hathersage, one of the Bagshawes, and I regret to say some members of the church, including the Rector of Manchester and the Vicar of Sheffield! Matthew de Hathersage was charged with having “a Buckstall in his great wood at Hathersage barely two bowshots from the King’s Forest,” and he had to pay 20 marks. The Buckstall was a kind of extended netted trap for catching deer. It would seem that Robin Hood and Little John were not the only poachers in the district. Other people caught poaching were: