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Castles of the British Isles

Photo Focus: Restormel Castle

by Peter Kessler & Jo Lewis, 20 November 2021

 

Restormel Castle in Cornwall
Photo © Jo Lewis

The perfectly circular Restormel Castle lies alongside the River Fowey, near Lostwithiel in Cornwall. It is one of the four chief Norman castles of Cornwall, the others being Launceston, Tintagel, and Trematon.

Its early history is a bit of a mystery. It has been proposed as the first Norman castle to be built in a Cornwall of post-1066 which had barely been subjugated by the preceding Anglo-Saxon kings. The original structure was likely to have been erected in the eleventh century by Baldwin Fitz Turstin.

Restormel Castle in Cornwall
Photo © Jo Lewis

The stone keep was possibly built in the thirteenth century, part of a luxurious residence for the earl of Cornwall, the Norman king's representative here. Following the death in 1299 of Edmund II, earl of Cornwall, the earldom reverted to the crown. Restormel Castle lost its importance and was left to decay.

In 1337 the lapsed earldom was raised to a duchy for Edward, the Black Prince. He briefly brought the castle back to life thanks to the large deer park which surrounded it. At that time the castle layout included a larger outer ward or enclosure (now lost), with a great hall and a further three chambers, all above cellars, together with a chapel, service buildings, and stabling for twenty horses. Most members of the lord's household would have worshipped in this outer ward.

Restormel Castle in Cornwall
Photo © Michael Garlick

The chapel was one of two, the one already mentioned outside the main fortification, and another inside (in the inner ward), almost directly opposite the entrance (see 'Related Links' below for more on the chapels).

After the Black Prince's death in 1376, the castle again fell into disrepair. It was briefly reoccupied and fought over during the English Civil War, by which time it was already largely ruinous, and was then abandoned for the final time. Today (and from 1925) it is cared for by English Heritage.

 

Two photos kindly contributed by Jo Lewis, taken in February 2020, and one licensed by Michael Garlick for re-use under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0) licence.

Main Sources

Dreamstime.com

Atlas Obscura

Geograph

English Heritage

Historic England

 

Images and text copyright © Jo Lewis, Michael Garlick, & P L Kessler except where stated. An original feature for the History Files.