Riber Castle

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Riber Castle
Riber Castle in 2003
Riber Castle is located in Derbyshire
Riber Castle
Location in Derbyshire
General information
Architectural styleGothic
Town or cityMatlock, Derbyshire
Coordinates53°07′40″N 1°32′35″W / 53.1278°N 1.5430°W / 53.1278; -1.5430Coordinates: 53°07′40″N 1°32′35″W / 53.1278°N 1.5430°W / 53.1278; -1.5430
ClientJohn Smedley
Listed Building – Grade II
Official nameRiber Castle
Designated22 June 1950
Reference no.1248137
Riber Castle from the air in 2000

Riber Castle is a 19th-century Grade II listed[1] country house in the hamlet of Riber on a hill overlooking Matlock, Derbyshire. It is built of gritstone from a local quarry which was pulled up the 200-metre (660 ft) hill by a series of pulleys.[2]


Known locally as "Smedley's Folly" because of the difficulty of getting water to the hill summit, it was built by the industrialist John Smedley in 1862 as his private home.[2] His wife lived in it until her death in 1892.[3]After the death of Smedley's wife, the castle became a boys' prep school until this became financially unsustainable in the 1930s. The architectural historian John Summerson attended the school in the early 20th century.[4] While he enjoyed his time at the school, the building's architecture had lesser appeal; he described the castle as "an object of indecipherable bastardy – a true monster".[5] With the coming of World War II the Ministry of Defence used the site for food storage.[6] The MoD left following the war and the castle remained unused until the 1960s.[3]

From the 1960s to September 2000 it was home to a wildlife park, containing British and European fauna.[2] Riber Castle Wildlife Park, or Riber Zoo as it was known, was eventually sold by the owner. The original owners sold the wildlife Park as a going concern. The subsequent owners were criticised heavily for the treatment of the animals kept there,[3] and the closure was not without controversy. The original owners bred lynx which were later released in a European mountain range.

Plans to turn the shell into apartments received planning consent on 15 March 2006.[2] The castle walls have now been secured, chimneys and floors rebuilt, 119 windows replaced and a roof added. It was expected that two show apartments would be ready some time in 2014.[7] Access to the site before 2006 was securely restricted, until the perimeter fence was unwired to provide unrestricted access to the site, which later became a commonly used footpath. However, recently developers have added a second (more secure) fence, boarded up all entrance points and have security personnel onsite.[6]

In popular culture[edit]

The castle and the town of Matlock are key locations in the Shane Meadows film Dead Man's Shoes.[8]


  1. ^ Historic England. "Riber Castle (Grade II) (1248137)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 25 July 2016.
  2. ^ a b c d "Riber Castle". Derbyshire Guide. Retrieved 25 July 2016.
  3. ^ a b c "Riber Castle – Urban Desertion". Urban Desertion. Archived from the original on 2 May 2006. Retrieved 1 June 2007.
  4. ^ "John Summerson: Historian – Blue Plaques". English Heritage. Retrieved 29 June 2020.
  5. ^ Hartwell, Pevsner & Williamson 2016, p. 570.
  6. ^ a b "Riber Castle: Empty Gothic castle turned into flats". BBC News. 12 March 2016. Retrieved 25 July 2016.
  7. ^ Hawley, Z. (2 January 2013). "From brooding landmark to des res with a view, castle is coming to life". Derby Telegraph. Retrieved 25 July 2016.[permanent dead link]
  8. ^ "Dead Man's Shoes (2004): Filming Locations". IMDb. Retrieved 25 July 2016.


External links[edit]