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A comprehensive gazetteer and bibliography of the medieval castles, fortifications and palaces of England, Wales and the Islands.
 
 
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Pendennis Castle

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Pendinas; Pendinant

In the civil parish of Falmouth.
In the historic county of Cornwall.
Modern Authority of Cornwall.
1974 county of Cornwall.

OS Map Grid Reference: SW82433178
Latitude 50.14609° Longitude -5.04659°

Pendennis Castle has been described as a certain Artillery Fort.

There are major building remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.
This is a Grade 1 listed building protected by law*.

Description

Castle, circular keep and curtain wall built between 1540 and 1546. Angular bastions and outer defences added between 1583 to 1598. Various outworks added during the civil war when the castle was besieged falling to Parliament in 1646. Pendennis and its sister castle at St Mawes were built to defend the approaches to Carrick Roads, one of the largest natural harbours in the country with extensive areas of deep water suitable for mooring large vessels and with enough room for a whole fleet of warships. This, and the harbour's strategic position at the entrance to the English Channel, plus the urgent need to prevent raids on the fast developing towns on its shores, made their construction imperative. The 2 castles were capable of considerable fire-power with impressive range and they contained all the available military innovation of their time. This technology was updated from time to time and served as an effective deterrent from attack. In 1644 Queen Henrietta Maria took shelter here previous to her embarkation for the Continent. The first real threat to the castle came in 1646 during the Civil War, when, with a small force under the leadership of the 86 year old Colonel John Arundel of Trerice, it withstood a siege of 5 months. After losing about 300 men from starvation, Arundel and the surviving 900 men surrendered. They were granted full honours of war and marched out "with colours flying, trumpets sounding, drums beating, matches lighted at both ends, bullets in their mouths, and every soldier twelve charges of powder"

Pendennis castle, erected between 1540 and 1545, was the most westerly of a chain of coastal defences erected by Henry VIII in response to the threat of French and Spanish invasion. The original Henrician defences have been significantly enhanced through the years, notably in the Elizabethan period and in the 18th and 19th centuries. The castle was used as a barracks, storehouse and sergeants mess in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. During both the First and the Second World Wars, Pendennis castle became part of Britain's coastal defence system. The site now houses a permanent exhibition on the castle.

The Henrician castle was constructed on land leased from the Killigrews of Arwennack. Construction started in 1540 and a circular keep or tower (nearly 17.5 metres in diameter) surrounded by a low polygonal chemise or curtain wall was built. The name 'Pendynas' suggests an ancient fortification already existed on the site and a plan of about 1540 seems to indicate the former presence of a cliff castle. Together with its sister castle at St Mawes, Pendennis defended the approaches to Carrick Roads, one of the largest natural harbours in the country.

n 1597, late in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, the fortifications were extended with the inclusion of ramparts and bastions to guard against Spanish incursions. The castle was again strengthened prior to the Civil War. In 1646, it was the last Royalist position in the West of England and a Royalist garrison withstood a 5 month siege from Parliamentarian forces before surrendering. Improvements were made to the outer defences in the 18th and 19th centuries, and the castle was used as a barracks up to the time of the First World War. During the First and Second World Wars a number of coastal batteries were constructed on the site as part of Britain's coastal defence system (see associated monuments). The site is now run by English Heritage and there is a permanent exhibition on the castle. (PastScape)
Links to archaeological and architectural databases, mapping and other online resources

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Sources of information, references and further reading
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The author and compiler of Gatehouse does not receive any income from the site and funds it himself. The information within this site is provided freely for educational purposes only.
The bibliography owes much to various bibliographies produced by John Kenyon for the Council for British Archaeology, the Castle Studies Group and others.
Suggestions for finding online and/or hard copies of bibliographical sources can be seen at this link.
Minor archaeological investigations, such as watching brief reports, and some other 'grey' literature is most likely to be held by H.E.R.s but is often poorly referenced and is unlikely to be recorded here, or elsewhere, but some suggestions can be found here.
The possible site or monument is represented on maps as a point location. This is a guide only. It should be noted that OS grid references defines an area, not a point location. In practice this means the actual center of the site or monument may often, but not always, be to the North East of the point shown. Locations derived from OS grid references and from latitude longitiude may differ by a small distance.
Further information on mapping and location can be seen at this link.
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*The listed building may not be the actual medieval building, but a building on the site of, or incorporating fragments of, the described site.
This record last updated on Saturday, July 26, 2014

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