On this hill above the town, a year after the Battle of Hastings, it is believed Robert, Count of Mortain, half-brother of William the Conqueror, built a timbered fortress.
It wasn’t until about 1166, when the castle became an administrative centre for the Earls of Cornwall, that a circular keep of stone was built with a tall circular tower inside.
By 1227 Richard, Earl of Cornwall, one of King Henry III’s younger sons, began an extensive building programme in stone, constructing the Great Hall, kitchens, chapel and a platform for a ballistics machine. With the removal of the administrative centre in 1272 to Lostwithiel, the castle fell into disrepair.
In 1337 King Edward III created the Duchy of Cornwall and Edward, the king’s eldest son, became Duke, popularly known as the Black Prince. He set about restoring the castle but again it was soon neglected and fell into a ruinous state.
In the 16th century the castle was locally known as ‘Castle Terrible’ after 28 Cornishmen were hanged here.
During the ‘Civil War’ the castle surrendered to Parliamentary forces in 1646 but, due to the castle’s bad state of repair, there was no need to slight it.
Over the following years of neglect the castle was plundered, becoming a source for
building materials for the town.
It is now administered by English Heritage.
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