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Restormel Castle

One mile away from Lostwithiel, Restormel Castle is strategically positioned on the spur of a hill overlooking the River Fowey. Surrounded by a deep, dry moat, the circular shell of the 12th century keep stands as a testament to the area's former prosperity.

Early historical records have left something of a blank as regards Restormel Castle and its development. In the Domesday Book, the grounds appear as part of the Bodardle manor, managed by a sheriff, Turstin. It was his son, Baldwin Fitz Turstin who built the first structure of Restormel Castle out of timber in 1100. Adhering to the typical Norman motte and bailey design, Restormel Castle was a mighty defence protecting a bridge that stood at the foot of the hill. The huge bailey was surrounded by an earth bank topped with strong wooden stakes for extra defence. Inside the bailey, the keep was further protected by a deep moat. Originally, the keep walls of Restormel Castle were constructed out of timber frames which were packed with dirt and rubble from the surrounding ditch. Plastered and whitewashed, they would have gleamed from their domineering position over the countryside in a powerful reminder of the strength and power of the Norman rulers.

By the 12th century, Restormel Castle passed into the hands of the Cardinhams and in 1227 to Thomas de Tracy by marriage. In 1264 civil war broke out and Restormel Castle was seized by troops loyal to Simon de Montfort. By 1270, Restormel Castle passed into the hands of the Earls of Cornwall. Nearby Lostwithiel was their feudal seat of government and the fate of Restormel Castle would be intimately tied to that of the town.

Historians believe that it was Edmund, Earl of Cornwall (1272-1299) who rebuilt Restormel Castle in stone. By this time, considerations of defence were moved to the back burner and Restormel Castle became a fitting princely residence situated within Cornwall's largest deer park. Restormel Castle now served as an aristocratic distraction where an Earl could entertain his guests. However, Edmund like other Earls who owned Restormel Castle would only ever make infrequent visits here and it was the steward who saw to Restormel's upkeep and maintenance. He and his family would have lived in the bailey which also included storage space, a bakery, a chapel and the Great Hall.

The 14th century saw two visits by the famous knight, Edward the Black Prince. He stayed at Restormel Castle in 1354 and again in 1365. However, Restormel Castle had served its purpose and its days of royalty were numbered. Its fall was due to the prosperity of Lostwithiel. In the 13th and 14th century, Lostwithiel was the capital of Cornwall and the centre of a Cornish tin mining boom. However, the source of its wealth would also provide its decline. Ironically, tin waste flowing from Bodmin Moor quickly led to the silting up of the River Fowey and Lostwithiel soon lost its importance as a port. Restormel Castle suffered the same fate and became redundant as an aristocratic palace.

Abandoned after the death of the Black Prince Restormel Castle had already fallen into a state of disrepair before it was to see any action. This came during the English Civil War (1642 1646) when Restormel Castle was taken over by the Parliamentarians. The Royalists, led by Sir Richard Grenville succeeded in recapturing Restormel Castle on the 21st August, 1644. Ever since, the only things to disturb these old castle walls are the sound of the wind through the ruins and the exclamations of tourists.

Location
Address: Restormel Castle
Postcode: PL22 OBD
Town/city or near: Lostwithiel
County: Cornwall
Admission
Adults: 2.40
Children: 1.20
Opening Times
Restormel Castle is open everyday from the 1st April to the end of October from 10am. Closes at 5pm April, May, June and September, 6pm in July and August, 4pm in October.
English Heritage

9 out of 10 stars (4 votes)

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Restormel Castle

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