The folly of Riber

Derbyshire castle known as ‘Smedley’s Folly’ for sale for £9 million (despite requiring a further investment of at least £8 million)


Riber Castle stands dominant above the Derbyshire town of Matlock and though it was only built in 1862 for an industrialist named John Smedley, its decline began soon after in 1874 upon his death. After subsequent use as a hydro and a private boys’ school in the 1920s, the gritstone building was bought by Matlock Urban District Council in 1936 and soon after its roof was removed. The shell that remained became a breeding centre and zoo in the 1960s. That closed in 2000 and now, following a highly controversial planning process that concluded in 2006, the semi-restored building is on the market for a figure of around £9 million ($12.9 million or €11.6 million).


Riber Castle
John Smedley (1803 – 1874), pictured with his wife Caroline, was the co-founder of Lea Mills (now operating under the brandname ‘John Smedley’), a business that is described as “the world’s longest running factory manufacturer”
An aerial view of the setting
The shell of the castle prior to the new roof being installed
The new roof
One hundred and nineteen new windows have been installed
The interior prior to the removal of the roof
It is now well on the road to a rebirth in its grandeur


Offered for sale or as an opportunity for a joint venture by current owners Cross Tower Ventures Limited, the Grade II listed Gothic castle is said to require an additional investment of around £8 million ($11.4 million or €10.3 million) and will provide a total of 46 dwellings when finished. It comes with 18 acres of grounds and views over the Derwent Valley.


Some 853-feet above sea level and including four symmetrical 75-foot high towers and 145 feet of battlement walls, a total of 119 windows in the building have already been replaced. Its chimneys and floors have been rebuilt, a new roof added and many period details have also been restored. The former folly is now described by Humberts, the selling agents marketing it, as being “well advanced towards the second fix stage, with the mechanical and electrical infrastructure well established” and it certainly is well on the road to having a viable purpose for the first time in its existence. A “reliable asset value on completion” of in excess of £28 million ($40 million or €36 million) is quoted “depending on continued level of specification”.



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      • Similarly, Rod, one is delighted for an Australian appreciation of taste and quality.
        I am sure you would like to bulldoze Castle Howard down

    1. It looks like fortune has finally dealt this place a good card. It was known as Smedley’s Folly as it was nigh on impossible to get water to it and the zoo was a disaster too. Some of the animals were let out by animal rights activists and others escaped. The locals tried to stop this scheme but have rightly failed. The current owner is undoubtedly the true saviour and I hope he finds a partner to help him continue. Rod is wrong – This is a fine building and Riber Castle will soon provide homes for 46 lucky residents all being well.

      • Sharon
        You seem to know what you are talking about and as Charles says, a sensible use of an imposing landmark. Rod, you really are a tiresome pest.

    2. Such an amazing castle , with stunning views.
      Would really make an exceptional hotel , with so much potential.
      It’s been lovingly restored , and so much time , money and investment has already been made to get it to this standard . It’s a real labour of love , and after many years working for Hilton would be the perfect setting for romantic getaways, weddings and country breaks , in relaxing surroundings.
      It was built to admire , and it certainly can be seen from all over Matlock . Would be a very worth while investment.

    3. Is it still being restored? I walked up there yesterday and no signs of work being completed. Some of the buildings have no windows and are shells…..

    4. Absolutely the only way to save this iconic landmark. Seems to be taking forever to complete though and I’d have serious concerns regarding access.


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