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Historic England Research Records

Berry Pomeroy Castle

Hob Uid: 446514
Location :
Devon
South Hams
Berry Pomeroy
Grid Ref : SX8389606232
Summary : Berry Pomeroy castle is located 1km north-east of the village of Berry Pomeroy and 3km east of Totnes, on a north-facing slope overlooking a deep, narrow, limestone gorge. The earliest remains now visible on the site date to the late 15th century, when a defended residence with a dry moat was built within a deer park belonging to the Pomeroy family. Prior to this, Berry Pomeroy was the site of a Manor House. The earliest documentary reference to a castle on the site is 1496. It is thought to be one of the last private castles built in England and was particularly strongly defended, intended to repel an attack using artillery. It was built around a central courtyard and comprises a gatehouse and three towers connected by curtain walls. The corner towers and gatehouse all have gun-ports at basement level. The gun-ports were originally intervisible, and provided a continuous line of fire along the defensive dry moat. In 1547, the castle was sold by Sir Thomas Pomeroy to Edward Seymour, first Duke of Somerset. Edward was the Lord Protector to the young King Edward VI, and the brother of Jayne Seymour who was the third wife of Henry VIII. His son (also Edward), known as Lord Seymour, replaced the 15th century domestic buildings with a Tudor mansion, the remains of which survive to a height of four storeys. It was built on a courtyard plan with two wings extending back from a hall range to the curtain wall. Edward's son, Sir Edward Seymour 1st baronet, started a grand scheme of enlargement including an impressive state range on the north-west side, beyond the limits of the old defences. The castle was abandoned between 1688 and 1701 and became well-known as a 'haunted' romantic ruin. In 1977, English Heritage took over the administration of the site. In 1978, a wall painting was discovered in the upper storey of the gatehouse, hidden behind a thick layer of vegetation. It is a representation of the Adoration of the Magi and has been dated to around 1500.
More information : (SX 83906231) Berry Pomeroy Castle (NR). (1)

Berry Pomeroy Castle has been in the possession of only two families since 1069; first the Pomeroy family, and then since 1547, the Seymours, Duke of Somerset. The existing ruins are of two distinct dates; first that of the castle built by Henry de la Pomeroy in about 1320-30, and secondly those of the mansion built by the Seymours in the 16th century. The original castle probably consisted of three towers and a gatehouse, placed at each angle and connected by curtain walls; the work remaining is the gatehouse and St Margaret's tower, with the southern curtain wall joining them and a portion of the western curtain wall from the gatehouse northwards. The 16th century building was never completed and by 1700 was in a ruinous state. (2-3)

The remains of Berry Pomeroy Castle are extensive and in a good state of preservation. They are owned by the Duke of Somerset and are open to the public. (4)

The Wishing Tree, situated to SX 84006232, is a beech tree of questionable antiquity, scarred by fire and largely decayed.

Berry Pomeroy Castle A large ruined structure of Medieval origin to which belong the gatehouse towers and encircling wall. A large house was erected in the court in latter half of C16; this also is in ruins. See Country Life, Vol.XC, p.1122 for description and illustrations. (5)

Berry Pomeroy Castle. Grade I. Ruins of medieval castle with ruins of large Elizabethan house within the walls. Situated on a wooded hill with a steep bluff to the north and a dried moat to the south. Circa 1300 gatehouse, remains of the curtain walls and St Margaret's Tower on the east corner. The Seymour house and offices within the walls to the east were built c.1575 to 1593. Coursed stone with freestone dressings. The gatehouse to the south has a round-arched gateway flanked by large semi-hexagonal towers connected by a flattened arch machicolation on corbels. Above the gateway in the guardroom is a C16 arcade with octagonal piers and chamfered arches. Curtain walls connected to the S Margaret's Tower to east which projects with a semicircular outer wall. Nothing survives of the crenellation. The group of tall, now freestanding, piers on the north side are probably the remains of the north wing (perhaps the hall) of the Seymour house which is situated on the north east side of the enceinte. The Seymour house, built around a small court, has a symmetrical three-storey, five-bay front with a central doorway and stone mullion four-light windows with hoodmoulds. The principal windows on the first floor are taller with transoms. The outer, north-east, facing wall has mullioned windows and the east corner is crenellated. To the west of the enclosure are the remains of the kitchen, which is all that survives of the north
range of the Seymour house.

Berry Pomeroy was acquired by Ralf de la Pomerai in 1066. There is no evidence of a castle here before c.1300, although a Crown survey of 1292 recorded a manor house. In C1300 the de la Pomerias built the existing fortified castle and in 1548 Sir Thomas Pomeroy sold it to the Lord Protector Somerset whose son, Sir Edward Seymour, built a great mansion within the walls and lived there from 1575 to 1593. Sir Edward Seymour's son, Edward (died 1613) was also responsible for some of the building. Sir Edward Seymour (1633-1708) moved to Maiden Bradley in Wiltshire and Berry Pomeroy Castle was abandoned and in ruins by early C18. It is now a Scheduled Ancient Monument.

References: Country Life, vol 90, page 1122. John Price "The Worthies of Devon", first published 1701. (6)

The foundations of a covered walkway, constructed c. 1550 or 1560, were located during excavations at Berry Pomeroy Castle in 1980-1 in advance of consolidation by the DOE. The walkway was deliberately demolished, probably in the mid 17th c., and extensively robbed. Restoration also uncovered a 14th c. fresco in a chamber of the gatehouse. The directors of the excavation expressed the view that Berry Pomeroy should be considered a defended manor house rather than a castle. (7-9)

Listed as a having gunports in the period 1360-1539. (10)

There was a comprehensive programme of excavation, fabric analysis and re-evaluation of documentary evidence at Berry Pomeroy during the 1980s which has allowed a reinterpretation of the origins of the castle. The earliest references to Berry Pomeroy clearly indicate that it is a manor house., and the principal residence of a messuage. The earliest reference to a castle at Berry Pomeroy is no earlier than 1496, when Elizabeth, widow of Richard Pomeroy, was assigned 1/3 of both the castle and the capital messuage, which the document makes plain were on two separate sites. It is suggested that Berry House, to the NE of the church, is the site of the original manor house.

The gunports are part of the earliest stone defences, and appear to be of late 15th century date, which accords with the wall-painting in the gatehouse oratory., which may have been applied soon after construction. What is less certain is the date of the underlying earthworks which have been largely unexcavated. No earlier buildings nor pottery have been found in the excavated areas, and without better evidence to the contrary, the current interpretation is that the earthworks are only marginally earlier than the stonework. The castle earthworks represent the construction of a new site chosen by the Pomeroys within their deerpark, and not too far removed from their manor house. earlier occupation of the site cannot be ruled out, but anyting more substantial than a hunting lodge or park-keeper's lodge would have left more race in the archaeological record.

The late 15th century would have been one of the last private castles to have been built in England. It was a nearly quadrangular plan, built around a central courtyard. This was undoubtedly the most ambitious and strongly defended castle of the period, clearly intended to repel an attack using artillery.

Following the acquisition of the castle by Edward Seymour in 1547, his son, Sir Edward, built the courtyard house. In his scheme, the Pomeroy defences probably served little more function than to seal off the east side of the inner court, and to enclose on the west a large, walled entrance court, complete with existing gatehouse, which was left standing. The courtyard house was built during the period 1560-80, the east range being added circa 1590 and the north range circa 1600. It is notable from the surveys that the north range remained unfinished until circa 1630.

The castle was abandoned in the late 17th century and became a romantic ruin until repaired by the Duke of Somerset circa 1830. (11)

On the first floor of the gatehouse remains of red paint survive. Located above the window on the east wall of the east tower a wall painting of the Adoration appears to have been the only figure subject within the room suggesting this part of the chamber was used as a chapel or oratory. It is a complex representation with the Holy Family in the stable, a shepherd, a king and other onlookers, and a distant landscape. The painting shows a strong Netherlandish influence. The costumes suggest a date of circa 1490-1500. The painting was not executed in the true fresco technique; pigments must have been applied in an organic medium such as oil. (12)

Ruined remains of a fortified house, built 1467-99. The surviving remains comprise the gatehouse, tower and parts of the curtain wall. Within the walls are the ruins of a large house, built 1560-1630 but never completed.

Berry Pomeroy castle is located 1km north-east of the village of Berry Pomeroy and 3km east of Totnes. It is situated on a north-facing slope overlooking a deep, narrow, limestone gorge. The earliest remains now visible on the site date to the late 15th century, when a defended residence with a dry moat was built within a deer park belonging to the Pomeroy family. Prior to this, Berry Pomeroy was the site of a Manor House. The earliest documentary reference to a castle on the site is 1496. It was built around a central courtyard and comprises a gatehouse and three towers connected by curtain walls. The corner towers and gatehouse all have gun-ports at basement level. The gun-ports were originally intervisible, and provided a continuous line of fire along the defensive dry moat. In 1547, the castle was sold by Sir Thomas Pomeroy to Edward Seymour, first Duke of Somerset. His son (also Edward), known as Lord Seymour, replaced the 15th century domestic buildings with a Tudor mansion, the remains of which survive to a height of four storeys. It was built on a courtyard plan with two wings extending back from a hall range to the curtain wall. Edward's son, Sir Edward Seymour 1st baronet, started a grand scheme of enlargement including an impressive state range on the north-west side, beyond the limits of the old defences. The castle was abandoned between 1688 and 1701 and became well-known as a 'haunted' romantic ruin. See source 20 for the designated description. [13]

Report published in 1993. In 1992, Dendrochronological (tree ring) dating techniques were applied to 5 timbers from the castle, one from the north range provided a felling date for the timber of circa AD 1581-1601, the others could not be dated. (14)

Details of watching brief at the east terrace of the castle in 1996. (15)

1997 edition of the English Heritage Guidebook to Berry Pomeroy Castle for visitors. (16)

An information pack for teachers about Berry Pomeroy Castle was published by English Heritage in 2002. (17)

A watching brief carried out in 2006 exposed part of the late 15th century defensive bank and retaining wall, this once flanked the carriage drive entrance to the castle. It also encountered a spread of redeposited "natural" clay and stones, which was interpreted as part of the process of levelling the defences in the 16th-17th centuries when a courtyard was created. (18)

A condition survey was commissioned at Berry Pomeroy Castle in 2007 by English Heritage, it was overseen by Van der Steen Architects Ltd. Archaeological and photographic recording was carried out by Stewart Brown Associates in the area of the gatehouse, "Kitchen Quarter" and north terrace, along with the boundary wall between the gate house and "Kitchen Quarter". This was to facilitate conservation work and better access. (19)

Scheduled. See the National Heritage List for England for the designated description of this site. (20)

Sources :
Source Number : 1
Source : Ordnance Survey Map (Scale / Date)
Source details : OS 6" 1963
Page(s) :
Figs. :
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Source Number : 2
Source : Devonshire Association reports and transactions
Source details : (H M Whitley)
Page(s) : 285-293
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 47, 1915
Source Number : 11
Source : Devon Archaeological Society proceedings
Source details : Brown S
Page(s) :
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Plates :
Vol(s) : 54, 1996
Source Number : 12
Source : Our painted past : wall paintings of English Heritage
Source details :
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Vol(s) :
Source Number : 13
Source : Scheduled Monument Notification
Source details : 10-Feb-93
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Source Number : 14
Source : Tree-ring analysis of oak timbers from Berry Pomeroy Castle, near Totnes, Devon, 1992
Source details :
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Source Number : 15
Source : Berry Pomeroy Castle east terrace, 1996 : the archaeological watching brief
Source details :
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Source Number : 16
Source : Berry Pomeroy Castle: Devon
Source details :
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Source Number : 17
Source : Berry Pomeroy Castle: information for teachers
Source details :
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Source Number : 18
Source : Berry Pomeroy Castle. Archaeological watching brief (2006)
Source details :
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Source Number : 19
Source : Berry Pomeroy Castle: archaeological excavation and recording during condition survey work
Source details :
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Source Number : 20
Source : World Wide Web page
Source details : English Heritage. 2011. The National Heritage List for England, [Accessed 26-JUL-2011]
Page(s) :
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Vol(s) :
Source Number : 3
Source : Journal of the British Archaeological Association
Source details : JBAA (H R Watkin)
Page(s) : 136-139
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Source Number : 4
Source : Field Investigators Comments
Source details : F1 JR 24-NOV-52
Page(s) :
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Source Number : 5
Source : List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest
Source details : Totnes Rural District, Devon, March 1970
Page(s) : 3
Figs. :
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Vol(s) :
Source Number : 6
Source : List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest
Source details : District of South Hams, Devon, 21-MAY-1985
Page(s) : 1
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 438
Source Number : 7
Source : Archaeology in Devon, annual report
Source details : Authors: DM Griffiths, AC King
Page(s) : 25
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 4
Source Number : 8
Source : Archaeology in Devon, annual report
Source details : Authors DM Griffiths, AC King
Page(s) : 33-34
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Plates :
Vol(s) : 1982
Source Number : 9
Source : Cornwall Archaeological Society : newsletter
Source details : Author: B Okely
Page(s) : 3
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 40, 1982
Source Number : 10
Source : Fort : the international journal of fortification and military architecture
Source details :
Page(s) : 76
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 4, AUTUMN 1977

Monument Types:
Monument Period Name : Medieval
Display Date : prior to 1467
Monument End Date : 1467
Monument Start Date :
Monument Type : Manor House
Evidence : Documentary Evidence
Monument Period Name : Medieval
Display Date : 1467-99
Monument End Date : 1499
Monument Start Date : 1467
Monument Type : Fortified House, Gatehouse, Chapel, Curtain Wall, Loopholed Wall
Evidence : Ruined Building, Structure
Monument Period Name : Medieval
Display Date : Late C15
Monument End Date : 1499
Monument Start Date : 1467
Monument Type : Chapel, Wall Painting
Evidence : Ruined Building
Monument Period Name : Tudor
Display Date : c1550-60
Monument End Date : 1560
Monument Start Date : 1550
Monument Type : Covered Way, Loggia
Evidence : Sub Surface Deposit
Monument Period Name : Tudor
Display Date : 1560-1630
Monument End Date : 1630
Monument Start Date : 1560
Monument Type : House, Great Hall, Kitchen, Service Wing
Evidence : Ruined Building

Components and Objects:
Related Records from other datasets:
External Cross Reference Source : Scheduled Monument Legacy (County No.)
External Cross Reference Number : DV 1
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : Listed Building List Entry Legacy Uid
External Cross Reference Number : 100537
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : Scheduled Monument Legacy (National No.)
External Cross Reference Number : 21706
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : EH Property Number
External Cross Reference Number : 240
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : ViewFinder
External Cross Reference Number : K951301
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : ViewFinder
External Cross Reference Number : K951302
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : ViewFinder
External Cross Reference Number : K960103
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : ViewFinder
External Cross Reference Number : K960109
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : ViewFinder
External Cross Reference Number : BB98/05825
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : ViewFinder
External Cross Reference Number : BB98/05826
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : ViewFinder
External Cross Reference Number : BB98/06418
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : ViewFinder
External Cross Reference Number : HAW 9411/8
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : Unified Designation System UID
External Cross Reference Number : 1017855
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : National Monuments Record Number
External Cross Reference Number : SX 86 SW 29
External Cross Reference Notes :

Related Warden Records :
Related Activities :
Associated Activities : Primary, FIELD OBSERVATION ON SX 86 SW 29
Activity type : FIELD OBSERVATION (VISUAL ASSESSMENT)
Start Date : 1952-11-24
End Date : 1952-11-24
Associated Activities : Primary, BERRY POMEROY CASTLE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1980-01-01
End Date : 1981-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, BERRY POMEROY CASTLE
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 1981-01-01
End Date : 1981-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, RCHME: OS SWEEPS
Activity type : FIELD OBSERVATION (VISUAL ASSESSMENT)
Start Date : 1983-01-01
End Date : 1994-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, BERRY POMEROY CASTLE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1983-01-01
End Date : 1983-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, BERRY POMEROY CASTLE
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 1984-01-01
End Date : 1984-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, BERRY POMEROY CASTLE
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 1986-01-01
End Date : 1986-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, BERRY POMEROY CASTLE
Activity type : EVALUATION
Start Date : 1988-01-01
End Date : 1996-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, BERRY POMEROY CASTLE
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 1988-01-01
End Date : 1988-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, BERRY POMEROY CASTLE
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 1989-01-01
End Date : 1989-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, BERRY POMEROY CASTLE
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 1990-01-01
End Date : 1990-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, BERRY POMEROY CASTLE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1991-01-01
End Date : 1991-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, BERRY POMEROY CASTLE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1991-01-01
End Date : 1991-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, BERRY POMEROY CASTLE
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 1991-01-01
End Date : 1991-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, BERRY POMEROY CASTLE
Activity type : DENDROCHRONOLOGICAL SURVEY
Start Date : 1992-01-01
End Date : 1992-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, BERRY POMEROY CASTLE
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 1996-01-01
End Date : 1996-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, BERRY POMEROY CASTLE
Activity type : THEMATIC SURVEY
Start Date : 1997-01-01
End Date : 1997-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, BERRY POMEROY CASTLE (GATEHOUSE ROOF)
Activity type : ARCHITECTURAL SURVEY
Start Date : 1998-01-01
End Date : 1998-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, BERRY POMEROY CASTLE
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 2006-01-01
End Date : 2006-12-31