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HER Number:MDV14312
Name:Lydford Castle

Summary

Lydford Castle is a rare example of a purpose built Medieval prison; acting as a Stannary prison from 13th until 18th century. It consists of a stone tower, or keep, of three storeys with an entrance on the first floor, level with the top of the mound which surrounds it. Also a small rectangular bailey defined by a rampart and ditch. The keep was built in the late 12th century as a free-standing stone structure, with two upper storeys added in the 13th century, and a mound thrown up around the building and the bailey added, giving it the appearance of a castle.

Location

Grid Reference:SX 509 848
Map Sheet:SX58SW
Admin AreaDartmoor National Park
Civil ParishLydford
DistrictWest Devon
Ecclesiastical ParishLYDFORD

Protected Status

Other References/Statuses

  • Guardianship Monument: 282
  • National Buildings Record: 93876
  • National Monuments Record: SX58SW2
  • National Record of the Historic Environment: 440670
  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SX58SW/8
  • Old SAM County Ref: 392

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • CASTLE (Built, XII to Mid 20th Century - 1195 AD (Between) to 1959 AD (Between))
  • LAW COURT (Built, XII to Mid 20th Century - 1195 AD (Between) to 1959 AD (Between))
  • OFFICE (Built, XII to Mid 20th Century - 1195 AD (Between) to 1959 AD (Between))
  • PRISON (Built, XII to Mid 20th Century - 1195 AD (Between) to 1959 AD (Between))
  • KEEP AND BAILEY CASTLE (Constructed, XIII - 1201 AD (Between) to 1300 AD (Between))
  • MOAT (Constructed, XIII - 1201 AD (Between) to 1300 AD (Between))
  • MOTTE (Constructed, XIII - 1201 AD (Between) to 1300 AD (Between))

Full description

Cambridge University, CUC/K, 17-x 141,147-9 (Aerial Photograph). SDV350343.

Worth, R. N., 1879, Lydford and its Castle, 287 (Article in Serial). SDV336870.

It was reported as being in ruins in 1686 & 1703, subsequently restored and reused as a prison, but in ruins again by 1800.

Worth, R. N., 1883, Unknown, 350-354 (Article in Serial). SDV230883.

Lydford castle. Believed at one time to be a motte and bailey castle, which served as a Stannary prison, first known reference 1216.

Radford, G. H., 1905, Lydford Town, 177 (Article in Serial). SDV336874.

Wall, J. C., 1906, Ancient Earthworks, 619/plan (Article in Monograph). SDV341465.

Ralegh Radford, C. A., 1947, Lydford Castle (Pamphlet). SDV336888.

Pamphlet. (In NMR Library).

Royal Air Force, 1947, RAF/CPE/UK/1995, 2387 (Aerial Photograph). SDV224714.

Cambridge University, 1950, CUC/FL, 20-22 (Aerial Photograph). SDV135873.

Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division, 1950, SX58SW2 (Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card). SDV230713.

Ordnance Survey, 1950, SX58SW3 (Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card). SDV230874.

Wilson, D. M. + Hurst, D. G., 1958, Medieval Britain in 1957, 195 (Article in Serial). SDV230717.

Wilson, D. M. + Hurst, D. G., 1959, Medieval Britain in 1958, 307 (Article in Serial). SDV364189.

Renn, D. F., 1959, Mottes. A Classification, 106-112 (Article in Serial). SDV11931.

Fox, A., 1959, Twenty-Fifth Report on the Archaeology and Early History of Devon, 176 (Article in Serial). SDV343851.

Excavation by the Ministry of Works in 1958 showed that the lower storey of the keep had been filled up with rubble to first floor level. The results of the excavation greatly change our views of the physical appearance of the castle and indicate that the three-storey keep was originally a free standing structure without a mound. The mound was built up after the keep's construction.

Department of Environment, 1960, Tavistock RD, 13 (List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest). SDV239444.

In the care of the Ministry of Works. The rectangular late C12 keep remains fairly perfect as far as the walls are concerned. The floors and roof have been destroyed. Deeply splayed round-headed windows. Divided inside by a wall across. Ancient monument.

Cambridge University, 1962, CUC/AFD, 15-19 (Aerial Photograph). SDV345649.

Colvin, H. M. + Brown, R. A. + Taylor, A. J., 1963, The History of the Kings Works: The Middle Ages, 2 vols (Monograph). SDV7828.

The fact that 40 house were laid waste between 1066-87 in the Royal Borough of Lydford may indicate that a Norman castle was built soon after the Conquest. King John granted the castle to William Brewerm but it reverted to the crown on Brewer's death in 1226. Granted by Henry III to his brother, Richard, Earl of Cornwall, and since 1337 has been a possession of the Duchy of Cornwall.

Addyman, P. V., 1963-1964, Excavations at Lydford, Devon, 1963-64. An Interim Report on excavation work in the Saxon town, Norman fort and late Norman Castle (Un-published). SDV230800.

Wilson, D. M., 1964, Medieval Britain in 1962 and 1963, 252 (Article in Serial). SDV344024.

Wilson, D. M. + Hurst, D. G., 1965, Medieval Britain in 1964, 188 (Article in Serial). SDV6878.

Excavations of the bailey show it to have been built late in the castle's history, the bailey bank running over an in filled moat, although it may also be on the site of an earlier bank. Traces of a timber structure were found beneath it.

Cambridge University, 1966, CUC/ANM, 12-17 (Aerial Photograph). SDV62341.

Copeland, G. W., 1966, Proceedings at the 104th Annual Meeting, 28-29 (Article in Serial). SDV266064.

Renn, D. F., 1968, Norman Castles in Britain, 235-236/plate 27,fig 42. (Monograph). SDV74059.

Brief description of castle.

Cambridge University, 1971, CUC/BFK, 21-2,29-36 (Aerial Photograph). SDV346663.

Cambridge University Collection, 1979, CUC/CIZ, 9-12 (Aerial Photograph). SDV230728.

Higham, R. A., 1979, The Castles of Medieval Devon, 69-75,294-296,315,317-318, 331/fig 10,11/plates 12,13 (Post-Graduate Thesis). SDV336189.

Saunders, A. D., 1980, Lydford Castle, Devon, 123-186, plan (Article in Serial). SDV253674.

However, although known as Lydford Castle, this is probably the gaol mentioned in the pipe rolls of 1195 AD. A rare example of a purpose built Medieval prison, it acted as a Stannary prison from 13th until 18th century, although its state of maintenance is known to have fluctuated frequently between dereliction and repair.
It consists of a stone tower, or keep, of three storeys with an entrance on the first floor, level with the top of the mound which surrounds it. Also a small rectangular bailey defined by a rampart and ditch. The keep was built in the late 12th century as a free-standing stone structure, which was later demolished down to first floor level. Two upper storeys were added in the latter half of the 13th century, probably during the earldom of Richard of Cornwall, at the same time, the ground floor was filled in, a mound thrown up around the building and the bailey added, giving it the appearance of a castle. The bailey was divided from the mound by a rock-cut ditch. Further alterations in the 18th century included fenestration of the wall. Excavated by A. D. Saunders.

Cathcart King, D. J., 1983, Castellarium anglicanum : an index and bibliography of the castles in England, Wales and the islands. Volume I : Anglesey - Montgomery, 117 (Article in Serial). SDV346507.

Listed by Cathcart King.

Griffith, F. M., 1984, DAP/CV, 7-8 (Aerial Photograph). SDV233132.

Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England, 1985, Aerial Photograph Project (Dartmoor) - Dartmoor Pre-NMP (Cartographic). SDV319854.

Recorded.

1986, Lydford Castle (Photograph). SDV230901.

Higham, R. A., 1988, Devon Castles: An Annotated List, 143 (Article in Serial). SDV341278.

Its foundation cannot be dated on documentary grounds, first references appearing in late 12th/13th century; although a royal castle, documentary coverage is poor. Although later a prison, there is no reason to suggest it was not a castle at its foundation.

Ancient Monuments, 1989, Lydford; Ringwork, Castle, Town Banks, Site of Saxon Town and Defences (Schedule Document). SDV351489.

Site Number 24331 - 392c - Lydford Castle: North of the road which traverses the village and to the east fo the church. Base court on the north-west enclosed by high earthen mounds. Shell of two storied keep with three apartments on the lower floor; one with a dungeon in the centre. Remains are of the Plantagenet period, earlier castle on site. First mentioned in 1215, used as a Stannary prison and in the Civil War when Sir Richard Grenville was Royalist Governor.
Originally a two storey 12th century tower 15.8 metres square with walls 3 metres thick. Rebuilt in the 13th century with 2 metre thick walls and a mound built up round the ground floor of the original tower. Ground floor infilled; rectangular bailey part bounded by Saxon earthwork.

English Heritage, 1992, Lydford Saxon Town and Castle, a brief guide (Pamphlet). SDV230903.

Higham, R. A. + Freeman, J. P., 1996, Devon Castles (Draft Text), 2, 4, 7, 8, 11, 13, Gazetteer (Monograph). SDV354350.

Lydford was in royal hands after the conquest and the castle was built to control the mineral wealth of the area. The first castle was an earthwork and timber defence built into an angle of the late Saxon defences. It remains as a semi circular ringwork at the tip of the promontory. Excavation has shown that there were buildings of timber wattle and clay construction within. No high status buildings were found although these may have lain in the unexcavated area of the interior. A Stephen penny found in the upper levels of the ramparts suggests that the castle was still in use in the 1130s but it had gone out of use by the time the second castle was built. This second castle was constructed about half way along the northern perimeter of the Saxon burgh defences. It was built as a ‘strong house’ to hold royal prisoners in 1195 and is documented as housing prisoners throughout the medieval period. The original keep of the 1190s was rebuilt in the mid 13th century and the impression of a motte was created by piling up a mound against the enlarged keep. The architectural details and facilities attached to the different chambers within the rebuilt keep reflect the castles functions as a prison and administrative centre, ranging in comfort from the second storey room with a fireplace which may have been a courtroom through decreasing size and facilities for various grades of prisoners.

Swete, J. (ed. Gray T. + Rowe, M.), 1997, Travels in Georgian Devon. The Illustrated Journals of the Reverend John Swete. Vol. 1, 111, 114 (DRO, 564M/F3/3, 23, 33) (Monograph). SDV341166.

Undated illustrations of castle by Swete and description of the castle and settlement during his travels.

Newman, P., 2000, The Town and Castle Earthworks at Lydford, 12-13, Figure 7 (Report - Survey). SDV351534.

Lydford Castle was built in AD 1195 as a purpose built prison for detaining royal prisoners and took the form of a square stone tower or keep. It is also thought that the castle was used as the administration office for the Royal Forest of Dartmoor and a Court of Law. In the 13th century, the castle was gaining importance as a Stannary Gaol, imprisoning people for offences related to tin-mining. A second phase of construction began at this time. This involved demolishing the upper part of the tower and adding two more storeys. The lower section of the castle was surrounded by earth to form a motte. On the north west side a narrow, rectangular bailey was added. The castle continued in use as a prison for several centuries. During the English Civil War, Lydford Castle was used by the Royalists as a prison or dungeon (in the lowest floor of the building) for Parliamentary supporters and soldiers. However it is recorded as in a state of serious disrepair in 1650 and major repairs were carried out in 1716 and 1733. In 1932, it was transferred from the Duchy of Cornwall to the guardianship of the Ministry of Works. The floors and lead roof of the castle have been destroyed. Restoration work was carried out to the rest of the monument in the 1950s. The tower is 14.5 metres square with 2.1 metre thick walls surrounded by an earthen motte measuring 45 metres by 35 metres. The tower has deeply splayed round-headed windows. The motte was once surrounded by a 4.5 metre deep ditch. The bailey covers an area 60 metre by 40 metre. The site was excavated in the late 1950s and 1960s.

Manning, P., 2008, Archaeological Assessment of Proposed Sewage Treatment Works at Lydford, 7 (Report - Assessment). SDV351460.

Lydford Castle first documented in the late 12th/early 13th century. Building used as a Stannary prison from the 13th to 18th century. Originally a 12th century stone tower or keep. Mound and bailey added in the later 13th century with alterations in the 18th century. Party of bailey rampart built on top of Saxon town defences.

Higham, R. A., 2010, Castle Studies in Transition: A Forty Year Reflection, 1 - 13 (Article in Serial). SDV361505.

Ordnance Survey, 2012, MasterMap (Cartographic). SDV348725.

Area of the castle (keep and associated bailey) depicted on modern map. Map object is based on this source.

Historic England, 2021-2022, NRHE to HER website, Accessed 25/11/2021 (Website). SDV364039.

Late 12th century rectangular keep, now without walls or floors. The mound on which the keep appears to stand was actually built up around its foundations. The bailey survives as an earthwork, with its bank overlying traces of an infilled moat. The earliest reference to the castle is in 1195 when there is a reference to a strong house for the king's prisoners. (compiled from sources dated 1959-1983)
[This information reconstituted from Microfiche of Ordnance Survey Record Cards kept in NMRC Library, Swindon. Comparison of the original Ordnance Survey Cards with the Microfiche information shows that an extensive survey of the castle by RN Worth in Oct and Nov 1950 is missing from the Ordnance Survey Cards. Three cards are missing, and unfortunately the original material was handwritten and the copy is largely illegible] (7 Oral information, correspondence (not archived) or staff comments, R. J. Fitz-Gerald, NMRC Recording, 06-Feb-2004).
Source 12 includes a brief accessible overview of the history and remains of Lydford Castle and Saxon Town, including a small plan of the site (English Heritage: Edited by Katy Carter, 2004, Heritage Unlocked: Guide to free sites in Devon, Dorset and Somerset, pg 22-25).

Sources / Further Reading

SDV11931Article in Serial: Renn, D. F.. 1959. Mottes. A Classification. Antiquity. 33. Unknown. 106-112.
SDV135873Aerial Photograph: Cambridge University. 1950. CUC/FL. Cambridge University Collection of Aerial Photographs. Photograph (Paper). 20-22.
SDV224714Aerial Photograph: Royal Air Force. 1947. RAF/CPE/UK/1995. Royal Air Force Aerial Photograph. Photograph (Paper). 2387.
SDV230713Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card: Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division. 1950. SX58SW2. Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card. Card Index.
SDV230717Article in Serial: Wilson, D. M. + Hurst, D. G.. 1958. Medieval Britain in 1957. Medieval Archaeology. 2. Digital. 195.
SDV230728Aerial Photograph: Cambridge University Collection. 1979. CUC/CIZ. Cambridge University Collection of Aerial Photographs. Unknown. 9-12.
SDV230800Un-published: Addyman, P. V.. 1963-1964. Excavations at Lydford, Devon, 1963-64. An Interim Report on excavation work in the Saxon town, Norman fort and late Norman Castle. Digital.
SDV230874Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card: Ordnance Survey. 1950. SX58SW3. Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card. Card Index.
SDV230883Article in Serial: Worth, R. N.. 1883. Unknown. Journal of the British Archaeological Association. 39. Unknown. 350-354.
SDV230901Photograph: 1986. Lydford Castle. Photograph (Paper).
SDV230903Pamphlet: English Heritage. 1992. Lydford Saxon Town and Castle, a brief guide. Digital.
SDV233132Aerial Photograph: Griffith, F. M.. 1984. DAP/CV. Devon Aerial Photograph. Photograph (Paper). 7-8.
SDV239444List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest: Department of Environment. 1960. Tavistock RD. Historic Houses Register. Unknown. 13.
SDV253674Article in Serial: Saunders, A. D.. 1980. Lydford Castle, Devon. Medieval Archaeology. 24. Digital. 123-186, plan.
SDV266064Article in Serial: Copeland, G. W.. 1966. Proceedings at the 104th Annual Meeting. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 98. A5 Paperback. 28-29.
SDV319854Cartographic: Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England. 1985. Aerial Photograph Project (Dartmoor) - Dartmoor Pre-NMP. Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England Aerial Photograph P. Cartographic.
SDV336189Post-Graduate Thesis: Higham, R. A.. 1979. The Castles of Medieval Devon. University of Exeter Thesis. Unknown. 69-75,294-296,315,317-318, 331/fig 10,11/plates 12,13.
SDV336870Article in Serial: Worth, R. N.. 1879. Lydford and its Castle. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 11. A5 Paperback. 287.
SDV336874Article in Serial: Radford, G. H.. 1905. Lydford Town. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 37. A5 Paperback. 177.
SDV336888Pamphlet: Ralegh Radford, C. A.. 1947. Lydford Castle. Ministry or Works Pamphlet. Unknown.
SDV341166Monograph: Swete, J. (ed. Gray T. + Rowe, M.). 1997. Travels in Georgian Devon. The Illustrated Journals of the Reverend John Swete. Vol. 1. Travels in Georgian Devon. The Illustrated Journals of the Reverend John Sw. 1. Hardback Volume. 111, 114 (DRO, 564M/F3/3, 23, 33).
SDV341278Article in Serial: Higham, R. A.. 1988. Devon Castles: An Annotated List. Proceedings of the Devon Archaeological Society. 46. Paperback Volume. 143.
SDV341465Article in Monograph: Wall, J. C.. 1906. Ancient Earthworks. Victoria History of the County of Devon. Hardback Volume. 619/plan.
SDV343851Article in Serial: Fox, A.. 1959. Twenty-Fifth Report on the Archaeology and Early History of Devon. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 91. A5 Hardback. 176.
SDV344024Article in Serial: Wilson, D. M.. 1964. Medieval Britain in 1962 and 1963. Medieval Archaeology. 8. Digital. 252.
SDV345649Aerial Photograph: Cambridge University. 1962. CUC/AFD. Cambridge University Collection of Aerial Photographs. Photograph (Paper). 15-19.
SDV346507Article in Serial: Cathcart King, D. J.. 1983. Castellarium anglicanum : an index and bibliography of the castles in England, Wales and the islands. Volume I : Anglesey - Montgomery. Castellarium Anglicanum. 1. Unknown. 117.
SDV346663Aerial Photograph: Cambridge University. 1971. CUC/BFK. Cambridge University Collection of Aerial Photographs. Photograph (Paper). 21-2,29-36.
SDV348725Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 2012. MasterMap. Ordnance Survey. Map (Digital).
SDV350343Aerial Photograph: Cambridge University. CUC/K. Cambridge University Collection of Aerial Photographs. Photograph (Paper). 17-x 141,147-9.
SDV351460Report - Assessment: Manning, P.. 2008. Archaeological Assessment of Proposed Sewage Treatment Works at Lydford. Exeter Archaeology. 08.31 (6475). A4 Grip Bound. 7.
SDV351489Schedule Document: Ancient Monuments. 1989. Lydford; Ringwork, Castle, Town Banks, Site of Saxon Town and Defences. The Schedule of Monuments.
SDV351534Report - Survey: Newman, P.. 2000. The Town and Castle Earthworks at Lydford. English Heritage. A4 Spiral Bound. 12-13, Figure 7.
SDV354350Monograph: Higham, R. A. + Freeman, J. P.. 1996. Devon Castles (Draft Text). Devon Castles. A4 Unbound + Digital. 2, 4, 7, 8, 11, 13, Gazetteer.
SDV361505Article in Serial: Higham, R. A.. 2010. Castle Studies in Transition: A Forty Year Reflection. Archaeological Journal. 167. 1 - 13.
SDV364039Website: Historic England. 2021-2022. NRHE to HER website. https://nrhe-to-her.esdm.co.uk/NRHE. Website. Accessed 25/11/2021.
SDV364189Article in Serial: Wilson, D. M. + Hurst, D. G.. 1959. Medieval Britain in 1958. Medieval Archaeology. 3. Digital. 307.
SDV62341Aerial Photograph: Cambridge University. 1966. CUC/ANM. Cambridge University Collection of Aerial Photographs. Photograph (Paper). 12-17.
SDV6878Article in Serial: Wilson, D. M. + Hurst, D. G.. 1965. Medieval Britain in 1964. Medieval Archaeology. 9. Digital. 188.
SDV74059Monograph: Renn, D. F.. 1968. Norman Castles in Britain. Norman Castles in Britain. Unknown. 235-236/plate 27,fig 42..
SDV7828Monograph: Colvin, H. M. + Brown, R. A. + Taylor, A. J.. 1963. The History of the Kings Works: The Middle Ages. The History of the Kings Works: The Middle Ages. Unknown. 2 vols.

Associated Monuments

MDV14314Parent of: Bailey, Lydford Castle (Monument)
MDV14313Parent of: Stone keep, Lydford Castle (Monument)
MDV53821Related to: Burgage Plots in Lydford (Monument)
MDV59867Related to: Castle Inn, Lydford (Building)
MDV104550Related to: Cottage to south-east of Lydford Castle Keep (Building)
MDV28942Related to: Earthworks in field to east of Lydford (Monument)
MDV54075Related to: Hollow Way (Monument)
MDV14320Related to: Lydford Castle, Linear Earthwork (Monument)
MDV14324Related to: Medieval Houses exposed opposite Lydford Parish Church (Monument)
MDV104551Related to: Pound to north-west of Castle Inn in Lydford (Monument)
MDV14317Related to: Ringwork to west of Lydford (Monument)
MDV14315Related to: Saxon earthworks, Lydford (Monument)
MDV14316Related to: Saxon features at Lydford Castle (Monument)
MDV3190Related to: Seal found at Lydford Castle (Find Spot)
MDV3189Related to: Well, Lydford Castle (Monument)

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events

  • EDV6171 - Archaeological Assessment of Proposed Sewage Treatment Works at Lydford (Ref: 08.31)
  • EDV6180 - Survey of the Town and Castle Earthworks at Lydford
  • EDV8454 - Watching brief within Lydford Castle grounds
  • EDV8455 - Watching brief on land at Lydford (Ref: ACD163)
  • EDV8623 - Excavation at Lydford Castle

Date Last Edited:Nov 25 2021 10:40AM