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Mamhead 'castle'

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
The Brewery

In the civil parish of Mamhead.
In the historic county of Devonshire.
Modern Authority of Devon.
1974 county of Devon.
Medieval County of Devon.

OS Map Grid Reference: SX929812
Latitude 50.62015° Longitude -3.51400°

Mamhead 'castle' has been described as a Masonry Castle although is doubtful that it was such, and also as a Fortified Manor House although is doubtful that it was such.

There are no visible remains.

This is a Grade 2* listed building protected by law*.


Whether the sham castle is built on ancient foundations is not sure, but unlikely, as there have been three houses of three distinct periods called Mamhead house. Whether a medieval castle stood where the sham castle now stands is not ascertained but it would have been an impossible place to defend (Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card).
Mamhead House. Neo Tudor French plasterwork by John Willement around 1832 on site of alleged medieval castle. Immediately behind Mamhead House on the foundation of a genuine medieval castle, are outbuildings in the form of a sham castle, copied from Belsay, Northumberland (Pevsner).
In 1822 the old 17th century house was demolished to build new house (Baldwin). (Devon and Dartmoor HER)

Mamhead House, an Elizabethan manor house, was demolished and rebuilt by Sir Peter Ball (1598-1680). This mansion was completed by his son before 1718. Thomas Ball, who succeeded to the estate in 1718. planted the grounds with exotic trees brought back from foreign journeys. The estate was bought by Mr Newman in 1823. He completely rebuilt the present house on a new site in 1830 to the designs of Salvin. The tree planted to mark the original site of Mamhead House was still in existence in 1953. (PastScape)

Pevsner writes that this C19 folly is 'on the foundations of a genuine medieval castle'. Higham writes there is no evidence for this.
Close to the site of Mamhead DMV in landscaped parkland. It seems entirely probable that Mamhead House was built on the site of a medieval manor house of some status but there is nothing to suggest this medieval house was fortified although that possibility can not be entirely dismissed. However, the castle name seems to be of relatively recent date and possibly represents part of a constructed 'ancient' high status history done in parallel to Salvin's building of a copy of a north country tower house.
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Sources of information, references and further reading
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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 26/07/2017 09:21:53

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