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Riber Castle

Riber Castle dominates the country side around Matlock. It is perched on a hill 260 metres (850 feet) above sea level, which is about 200 metres (600 feet) above Matlock. It looks forbidding. Indeed, it would not look out of place in a horror movie.

It was designed and built by John Smedley in 1862 as his residence. The Griststone for the building came from a local quarry and was carted up hill by a series of pulleys. Smedley employed skilled craftsmen. Plasterers, for example, came from Italy to work on the Castle. There was electricity and gas, plus a deep well for water. The Castle's salon was vast.

It has been the former site of a boys' school, a food store during World War Two, and later a nature reserve.

The castle remained derelict for many years until, in the 1960s, a group of zoologists set up a Nature Reserve for British and European Fauna.

This Nature Reserve is no longer open to the public as it closed in September 2000 amid much criticism.

It is well worth a visit, especially for the views of the surrounding area.

The future of Riber Castle has continued to be the subject of much debate.


Riber Castle and its grounds will be converted into apartments, following a decision from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister on the 15th March 2006

Riber Castle in 2015

Cross Tower Ventures are converting Riber Castle into about 45 luxury apartments and houses some of which will have some of the best views in the Peak District. They are doing this without altering the appearance of this Grade II Listed Riber Castle. The dwellings are expected to cost around £700,000.

Planning Inquiry 2005

A public inquiry to decide the future of Riber Castle opened on the 15th November 2005. Proceedings were adjourned early on to provide enough seating for everyone trying to pack into the chamber at the Matlock council offices. More than 30 members of the public declared they wished to speak during the inquiry, and those wishing to speak for and against the proposal were very evenly matched in number. The plans are to convert the crumbling building and its grounds into 46 homes. Objectors included the Keep Riber Rural pressure group.

Derbyshire Dales District Council approved the application in October 2004, but the First Secretary of State has called in the decision to make the decision himself, saying it may conflict with national policies.

The Sheffield-based developers Crosstower Ventures, said before the inquiry: "We're confident that we have a very strong case and the only solution to the long-term future of the castle."

English Heritage is also known to have given its support to the plans.

Crosstower Venture's opening statement highlighted their proposals, saying the castle is likely to completely collapse within 30 years if a use is not secured.

A spokesperson for the Keep Riber Rural group refused to comment before the inquiry opened, but protesters have voiced concerns in the past about preserving the grade two listed building. Members of the protest group object to the development, saying the site could have better uses serving the community. Others have said the access roads are unsuitable for increased traffic, and the added lights will spoil the view of the castle.

The bitterly contested public inquiry into the future of Riber Castle closed on the 22nd November 2005. The Planning Inspector heard testimonies for and against proposals for a housing development in and around the historic ruin during the week-long hearing. A government decision based on the findings is now expected some time in January, finally settling the wrangle over the site's future.

Debate became heated in the closing stages of the inquiry, when English Heritage gave its support to the plans put forward by Crosstower Ventures of Sheffield. English Heritage stance was that "A do-nothing approach would not secure the long term future as the castle would, at some point, collapse. None of the new dwellings would intrude on the castle's silhouette view. If the castle was still in good condition we would not support any development and would think any development unnecessary. We consider that planning permission in these circumstances should be justified subject to appropriate conditions."

On the other hand, the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), said: "I'm astonished that English Heritage supports this project. I believe the evidence you have before you establishes beyond doubt that it will harm the castle and the wider rural setting by way of traffic, lighting and the necessary road improvements."

CPRE went on to cite Hardwick Hall and Peveril Castle as examples of ruins maintained locally by English Heritage and other bodies, but admitted he had not contacted these authorities with a view to preserving Riber.

A Riber resident added: "This is not a case of 'Not In My Back Yard', as there have been letters sent to this inquiry from all over Britain and the world. It's not just the hillbillies in Riber against the proposals. The village can cope with gradual change; it cannot cope with revolution. The community's spirit would become a thing of the past."

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Well that's the legal stuff sorted.

Should you decline to comply with this warning, a leather winged demon of the night will soar from the deep malevolent caverns of the white peak into the shadowy moonlit sky and, with a thirst for blood on its salivating fangs, search the very threads of time for the throbbing of your heartbeat. Just thought you'd want to know that.

Last Updated : Saturday, 02-Feb-2019
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