Restormel Castle, Cornwall

restormel castle cornwall

Restormel Castle is a typical motte and bailey style castle was first built c1100 probably built by Baldwin Fitz Turstin. It was surrounded by a deep, wide moat, long since dried up. There is an unusual large circular shell Keep which encloses the principal apartments of the castle and, viewed from above, resembles an amphitheatre. Restormel differs from the many other motte and bailey Norman castles by having an unusually wide and deep ditch with a fairly low motte. This is because the ditch was cut into the rock, rather than the motte built up from the ditch.

The earliest mention of the castle is its surrender by de Tracy in 1264. When Edmond, Earl of Cornwall in 1299, the Earldom of Cornwall reverted to the Crown. Since that date Restormel has belonged to the Earldom (latter the Duchy) of Cornwall.

It was probably Richard, Earl of Cornwall who built the stone castle when he moved his main administrative centre to Restormel from Launceston, another shell keep. Although not tremendously strong defensively, the shape and design of the building with its large windows and views over the countryside, reflect the high status of its owner. The surrounding deer park was then the largest in Cornwall

In 1354 and in 1365 it is known that Edward, the Black Prince, visited the castle and, for a while, made it his home. By the sixteenth century the buildings were unoccupied and in ruins.

During the Civil War the keep was garrisoned by the Parliamentarian army of Lord Essex, which was holding Lostwithiel and Fowey. However on 21 August 1644 the castle was captured by Sir Richard Grenville. From that time onwards it was left neglected and decaying.

It is now a peaceful setting 2km north of Lostwithiel, Cornwall. It overlooks the River Fowey where there was once a major crossing point of the river. There are splendid views over the surrounding countryside, and is particularly lovely in Spring, when daffodils and bluebells cover the banks.

Castle Architecture

Drawbridge. The castle was originally entered over a drawbridge, and there is some evidence to suggest that a second drawbridge existed at one time within the square Gate Tower. Some masonry from earlier buildings can be seen at the base of the Gate Tower.

Moat. This was never a true water filled moat, but the castle latrines, rainwater and rubbish all filled the moat to make it fairly unsavoury.

Gatehouse. The gatehouse was constructed at different times. The inner side was part of the defence of the early wooden structure, and the outer part built when the stone structure went up. You can still see the recess that received the drawbridge.

Walls. The walls diameter is about 38 meters, and they are 2.4 meters thick and made out of a local shillet stone. The stone was rendered and then lime washed for protection. Door surrounds and windows, were carved from higher quality stone, and most of this has been removed for re-use in other buildings in the area. The wall walk around the top is still passable via the stairs leading up to it on either side of the entrance.

Keep. The huge stone Keep was built during the early years of the 13th century to replace the timber defences. And towards the end of that century, the main buildings within the Keep such as the accommodation, kitchen and great hall, were completed,

Water Supply. A well chamber in the courtyard (8 meters deep) provided the original water supply, but an additional source was supplied from a spring, sited on the higher ground outside of the castle, and run to the fortress via a lead conduit (pieces of which have been found in the buildings and surrounding fields)

Chapel. The chapel sticks out from the keep wall. The curtain wall was opened during the thirteenth century for the addition of the chapel. It appears that a gun emplacement was put here during the Civil War.

Great Hall. The great hall was built to impress guests, rather than deter aggressors. It has two large windows in the curtain wall. And there were probably two more windows on the courtyard side. A door leads from the great hall to the solar, the lord's private quarters. And there are stairs leading up to the wall walk.

lostwithiel in Civil war

Restormel Castle English Heritage


Cornwall Castles Map