St Mawes Castle, Cornwall

st mawes castle cornwall

St Mawes Castle grounds are now a pretty garden, but the fortification continues and there is a large nineteenth century magazine as well as a tiny shoreline fort to complement that of Little Dennis across the sea at Pendennis Castle. is Henry VIII's smaller fort with its three huge circular clover leaf bastions. It now stands in sub tropical gardens, and from the battlements you can see across the estuary to Falmouth and Pendennis. If you want to make the trip the little ferry boats ply back and forth. St Mawes Town is within a few hundred metres.

St Mawes Castle and its larger sister castle, Pendennis in Falmouth, is part of a chain built by Henry VIII along the south coast of England between 1539 and 1545.

The central tower was designed with four floors. You enter the tower by a bridge to the third level. The elaborate decorations were continued inside the tower, with wooden carvings of a cherub, a monk, Tudor roses and fleur-de-lis surviving to the present day. It is the most intricately decorated of Henry VIII's castle forts. The stonework is embellished by string courses, gargoyles and detailed windows. The decoration survived probably because of this fortress surrendered to Fairfax's Parliamentarian in 1646 without a siege.

Above the entrance is a carved Royal Coat of Arms. The gun loops on either side of the door offer a very restricted field of fire and appear sited more for decorative effect than for defence.

The kitchen is in the basement, lit by windows at ground level in the side bastions. The water for the fort would have been obtained from a well here.

The gun platforms at here, were like Pendennis, well designed, with the towers upper gun deck being built with ventilation shafts above the gun placements to disperse the smoke. The forward gun room has several canons on display to the general public; you can still see the sockets in the walls that held the large beams to support the gun tackle needed to maneuver the large cannon.

St. Mawes Castle, like its neighbour Pendennis did not see action against the French or the Spanish during the Tudor period. The defenses were improved by Elizabeth I following the Spanish landings and subsequent raid on Penzance and Mounts in 1595; as a precaution against a possible full scale invasion.

The defences here were designed to protect Falmouth Harbour, but were vulnerable to an attack from the land. When the castle came under attack during the Civil War, the governor surrendered without a shot being fired, realising it was hopeless to try and defend against an attack from the land.

It continued to be used as a gun emplacement protecting the harbour at Falmouth until the Second World War.

St Mawes Castle information in English Haritage

                                  fort by Henry VIII                                      ferry to pendennis castle


Cornwall Castles Map