High above the River Lynher, a Norman motte and bailey castle was built by
Robert de Mortain possibly on the site of an earlier Saxon burgh.
Robert, Count de Mortain was half brother to William the Conqueror and he fought at
the Battle of Hastings of 1066 under the banner of St Michel.
Robert was granted this land by William soon after the battle. He was also granted most of Cornwall and was considered by many to be the unofficial Earl of Cornwall.
At some unspecified date after the death of Robert, the property was granted to the Valletort family.
It was then bought, for £300, by Richard, 1st Earl of Cornwall in 1270.
After Richard died in 1272, his son, Edmond, 2nd Earl of Cornwall, inherited the property and it was possibly during this period that most of the castle’s rebuilding in stone was carried out. This included the shell keep, curtain wall and the fortified gatehouse which has two portcullises, arrow loops and a guard chamber above. There is no information as to who the craftsmen were, but one can hazard a guess that Edmond probably used local masons and carpenters.
In 1337, it was in the possession of Edward the Back Prince, Duke of Cornwall. In a survey by the Duke’s officers, it was described as “a well-walled castle” containing a hall, a kitchen, and a two storied chamber.
In 1385-6 King Richard II had the castle fully garrisoned and its defences repaired
because of the threat of a French invasion.
There is a story, true or false, that Sir Francis Drake, after docking at Plymouth harbour in 1580, temporarily stored a horde of treasure here, consisting of precious stones pirated from Spanish ships in the raid on Cadiz harbour. This treasure was bound for Queen Elizabeth Ist.
In 1594 Sir Richard Grenville and his wife were besieged by Cornish rebels, during the ‘Kilter’s Rising’, who spoke old Celtic and wanted to keep to the Latin they knew and not the new English Prayer Book in their churches. The rebels lured Sir Richard out of the castle under the pretext of an honourable negotiation. They then pounced on him and threatened his life if he didn’t give the order to open the castle gates. The rebels then ransacked the castle and stripped their prisoners of their valuables, before taking them off to Launceston castle. The rebellion was crushed two months later.
After this episode the castle was little used until 1808 when the Duchy’s Surveyor General, Benjamin Tucker, a wealthy man in his own right, took a 99 year lease on the property, destroyed sections of the curtain wall in order to view the sea, using some of the walling to build a 9 bedroomed house in the bailey.
The property is owned by the Duchy of Cornwall and is not oped to the public
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