This ruined castle, on a rainy day, looks the very image of a sad and deserted sentinel
on guard above the River Fowey.
It is thought to have been built in 1100 by Baldwin fitzTurstin, as a motte and bailey fort with a timbered tower. The property was part of the manor of Bordardle. Baldwin was the local sheriff and it is believed he fought at the Battle of Hastings and was one of William the Conqueror’s standard bearers.
The earliest stonework is at the base of the shell keep and is dated from about 1166,
the time of Robert fitzWilliam, Lord of Cardinham.
By 1192 the property had passed to Robert de Cardinham, one of King Richard’s justices and it is he who continued the development of the castle, constructing the curtain walls and the gatehouse of stone.
During the period of troubles in 1264, Simon de Montfort seized the castle without a fight. The following year the castle was retaken by Sir Ralph Arundel.
Isolda de Cardinan, who in 1270 had possession of the castle, granted it to her overlord,
Richard, Earl of Cornwall and King of the Romans.
On Richard’s death it passed to his son Edmond who made Restormel his main base, building the inner residential chambers of stone, replacing the earlier timber ones. The castle at this time,
resembled a palace with the luxury of piped water.
In 1299 the castle reverted to the crown, and from 1337 to the Duchy of Cornwall.
King Richard II gave orders in 1385 for repairs to the the castle. £80 was spent and for the next 40 years, repairs and general maintenance were carried out regularly.
The only named craftsman appearing in the castle’s records is for 1462, when William Freemason from Bodmin made three windows for the hermitage chapel. All other records are lost to us.
By the 16th century it was unoccupied and in a ruinous state but during the Civil War the keep was repaired and garrisoned by Parliamentarians commanded by Lord Essex, until Sir Richard Grenville and his royalist forces captured it on 21 August 1644.
It was reported to have been in ruins by 1740.
It is now in the care of English Heritage and is open to the public.
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