Totnes CastleBuilt in a domineering position over the town, Totnes Castle was of the earliest Norman strongholds in England. Built upon a large artificial earthen mound, Totnes Castle was surrounded by wooden fortifications which enclosed a high wooden tower to symbolise the importance and the strength of the new regime.
Totnes Castle was built by Judhael, a knight from Brittany. A trusted servant to William the Conqueror he was honoured at the early stages of the Norman Conquest with 103 manors in South Devon. Of these, Totnes Castle was Judhael's greatest stronghold, his home, fortress and the centre of government and justice.
The design is of great architectural interest as it was one of the earliest Norman Castles to be built in England. As such, Totnes Castle adhered to what became known as the Norman motte and bailey design. The motte was built as early as 1100 out of clay, earth and rock with extremely steep sides further protected by a deep ditch on the side adjoining the Anglo-Saxon township of Totnes. Access to Totnes Castle was possible only via the winding stairs which circle the outside of the motte leaving attackers totally exposed to the mercy of the defenders above them.
The earliest fortifications built on top of the motte at Totnes were probably constructed out of earth and timber. These were replaced in the early stages of the Norman occupation with stone masonry replacing the framework of the original fortifications. The shell keep which you see here today was originally constructed in the 13th century but also underwent modification in the 14th century. The structures contained within these walls were lost long ago with Leland a visitor to Totnes Castle in 1540 noting, “the castle wall and the strong donjon be maintained, but the lodgings be clene in ruins.”. Even these ruins are long gone and all that survives today are the foundations of a stone square tower within the keep walls.
Address: Totnes Castle, Castle Street,
Postcode: TQ9 5NU
Town/city or near: Totnes
pen Daily from 1st April to 31st October from 10am. Closes at 5pm in April, May, June and September, closes at 6pm in July and August and at 4pm in October