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Restormel Castle

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Restormil; Raistormel; Tywardreath; Lestmel

In the civil parish of Lostwithiel.
In the historic county of Cornwall.
Modern Authority of Cornwall.
1974 county of Cornwall.
Medieval County of Cornwall.

OS Map Grid Reference: SX10406138
Latitude 50.42171° Longitude -4.67039°

Restormel Castle has been described as a certain Timber Castle, and also as a certain Masonry Castle, and also as a certain Palace.

There are major building remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.


Restormel Castle was first built as a motte and bailey castle by Baldwin Fitz Turstin, Sheriff of Cornwall in around 1100 AD. It stands on the summit of a spur projecting into the west side of the River Fowey valley. The motte has a diameter of about 52 metres with a surrounding ditch and bank. The rectangular bailey was sited on gently sloping land extending west south west from the motte and today remains marked by earthworks. The earthworks indicate the siting of a hall, chapel, kitchen and administrative centre within the bailey. The circular shell keep, on top of the motte was constructed in about 1200 AD. It measures about 125 feet in diameter and was built to replace the original timber defences. The keep comprises a curtain wall nearly 2.5 metres thick, butted against the earlier gate tower and surviving to the height of the wall walk with a battlemented parapet. Inside this is an inner courtyard bounded by a circular wall. The internal structures included guardhouses, a kitchen, great hall, solar, ante-chamber, bed chamber and guest chamber. In the 13th century a chapel was added, projecting beyond the curtain wall on the west side. The castle was acquired by Richard, Earl of Cornwall, in the reign of Henry III (reigned 1216-1272), and his successor, Earl Edmund, appears to have made it his chief residence. Edmund converted the existing shell keep into its present form in the later 13th century. Thereafter it served more as a lordly residence then a defensive structure, standing within a large deer park. In 1337, the castle was handed over to Edward of Woodstock or 'the Black Prince' as 1st Duke of Cornwall, and he made extensive repairs. After the prince died (1376), the castle declined before it was garrisoned by the Parliamentarians during the civil war, only to be captured by Royalist forces in 1644. It thereafter fell into decay and became a picturesque ruin. In 1925, guardianship of the monument passed to the Ministry of Works. (PastScape)

this structure was part of a deliberately designed landscape within a medieval tradition that, centuries later, provided rich country houses in heavily manipulated and landscaped surroundings. In the present context, we might note that such structures, elevated and with a continuous wall-walk and crenellations, leant themselves well to this role in the later middle ages (and perhaps earlier). (Higham 2015)

On one occasion called Tywardreath which has lead to idea that there was a separate castle of Tywardreath.
Crieghton states the masonry was of one phase of the late C13, that the earthwork of the old ringwork were added to by adding to the base of the new masonry walls (c.f. Lydford 'keep') to make the castle have the appearance of sitting on a motte, giving this new masonry an more ancient look and presence. The castle is sat in the centre of a deer park, with other high status features, such as a hermitage, in the surrounding landscape.
Certainly after the castle was obtained by Earl Richard is was used as a pure pleasure palace. The Duchy administrative and judicial centre was the Lostwithiel Duchy Palace - which probably also functioned as the military storehouse. Creighton also make the point that the castle is not sited with the bounds of a nearby Roman fort at the strongest military location but on a false crest which gives the castle the highest visibility. It should be noted that the choice of this location was made in the late C11, in the aftermath of the Norman Conquest. The implication is that, from its construction in the C11, this castle was designed as a high status, highly visible, residence for hunting and not a military base.
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:22:04

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