Bickleigh Castle

Has been described as a Possible Timber Castle (Other/Unknown), and also as a Possible Masonry Castle, and also as a Certain Fortified Manor House

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains

NameBickleigh Castle
Alternative NamesOld Court
Historic CountryDevonshire
Modern AuthorityDevon
1974 AuthorityDevon
Civil ParishBickleigh

Remains of a moated and fortified manor house, originating in C12 but rebuilt in C15. The gatehouse range is probably early C15 in date, with C16 and C17 alterations, and was restored in the 1920s and 1930s. It forms the eastern range of a complex of buildings set around a courtyard. The west range no longer survives above ground and the south range is now a private house. The northern range probably dates from the late C17 and was in use as a farmhouse before its restoration in the 1930s. The castle chapel is probably C12 in date and was renovated in 1929. (PastScape)

Gatehouse range of fortified manor house. Circa early C15 with C16 and C17 alterations; renovations of the 1920s and 30s. Volcanic trap rubble with some Beerstone dressings; asbestos slate roof behind parapets; end stacks and front lateral stack. Plan: East-facing range of what was once a substantial complex of buildings with a courtyard to the rear of the gatehouse. The west range has now disappeared above ground; the south range (Old Court, q.v.) is now a separate property; the north range is separately listed. There is plainly a long history of evolution and addition to the manor house complex and the surviving buildings, of which the gatehouse is the most imposing, may only be a fragment of what may once have stood on the site. Single-depth 3-storey plan to gatehouse (2nd storey incomplete) with a circa early C15 vaulted central entrance with heated ground floor rooms, one to the right. A large first floor room, probably originally divided into smaller chambers, is heated both by the front lateral and the right end stack. Projecting rectangular turrets on the front at the left and right: the front left turret contains a stair, the right hand turret may have served as a garderobe. Similar rear turrets. Adjoining the south west corner of the range is a rounded, ruinous stair turret which appears to have been part of a linking block between the gatehouse range and Old Court (q.v.)

There have been various suggestions for the building sequence of the range. The house became the property of the Courtenay family in circa 1400 d. 1681. It passed to the Carews in the early C16. After the civil war Sir Henry Carew is said to have reconstructed the range (armorial bearings over western arch), and the gateway may have been reconstructed or constructed at this date. Substantial restoration work was carried out in the 1920s and 30s including raising the left turret to the second storey and introducing newel stairs into both the front turrets. Exterior: 2 storeys but with the remains of a third storey in an additional tier of windows in the parapet, rear elevation 2 storeys. Approximately symmetrical 2 window front with a triple-chamfered depressed segmental arch flanked by pilaster buttresses. 2 first floor 4-light mullioned windows, probably C17, with chamfered mullions, relieving arches, hoodmoulds and label stops. 2 second floor windows, possibly C15, with cinquefoil-headed lights, stanchions and saddle bars. Arms of Carew impaling Courtenay over the gateway. The rear elevation, facing the courtyard, is approximately symmetrical with the gateway arch in the centre flanked by 3-light Ham Hill windows with trefoil-headed lights and relieving arches, probably part of the 1930s alterations. 2 large first floor 4-light mullioned windows, similar to those on the east elevation. The right hand turret has a lean-to roof and both turrets have cusped lights. The south end of the building has a blocked first floor doorway which presumably led into the rounded ruinous stair turret which adjoins this end. Interior: the gateway has 2 bays of chamfered rib vaulting carried on engaged shafts with carved bosses with heraldic shields. Chamfered. 2-centred arched doorways lead into the ground floor rooms from the gateway. The south room (the 'Armoury') has a chamfered inner arch to the east window and a fireplace with chamfered jambs below a re-sited Beerstone carving probably C16 of a demi-figure flanked by lion supporters, some traces of ancient paint. The north room (the 'guardroom') has a panelled dado with panelling of different dates, some with a frieze of strapwork ; a circa C17 fireplace with chamfered lintel carried on stone corbels. The C17 framed stair in the north west turret has turned balusters a moulded handrail and onion-shaped finials and pendants. The stair has been re-sited. The large first floor room has a 1930s chimneypiece to the lateral stack with a Tudor arch and the arms of Colonel Jasper Henson. A gallery at the south end was introduced in the 1930s with Tudor panelling. The north east turret is reached through a chamfered doorframe and contains a drain arrangement. An outstanding building connected with the Courtenay and Carew families. (Listed Building Report)

Not scheduled

This is a Grade 1 listed building protected by law

Historic England Scheduled Monument Number
Historic England Listed Building number(s)
Images Of England
Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceSS936068
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Copyright Joe Lafferty All Rights ReservedView full Sized Image
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  • Higham, R.A., 1988, 'Devon Castles: an annotated list' Proceedings of the Devon Archaeological Society Vol. 46 p. 142-9
  • Hussey, C., 1939, 'Bickleigh Castle, Devon' Country Life Vol. 85 p. 416-20, 442-6