Kingswear Castle

Has been described as a Certain Artillery Fort, and also as a Certain Chain Tower

There are major building remains

NameKingswear Castle
Alternative Names
Historic CountryDevonshire
Modern AuthorityDevon
1974 AuthorityDevon
Civil ParishKingswear

Blockhouse for the defence of Dartmouth Harbour, converted into summer residence. Built in 1491 to 1502 as part of the defences at entrance to Dartmouth harbour on the east side and with Dartmouth Castle on the west side of the estuary. Slate rubble with red sandstone dressings. Square on plan with slightly battered walls. Corbelled embattled parapet, stepped up to higherlevel on north side. North side has chamfered two-centred arch doorway and corbelled machicolations above, and an octagonal stair turret to right on north west corner, with battlements, small four-centred arch windows at top and loops below. On the other sides four- centred head openings and loops at high level and square openings below with relieving arches. Low circular detached tower to north west with corbelled embattled parapet, openings with cambered arches, and round stair turret on south east side also with corbelled parapet with battlements. C20 concrete accretions linking it to main building. There was a fort on the Dartmouth side of the harbour mouth as early as 1388 but the existing Dartmouth Castle was begun in 1481 and most of the surviving work is of 1488-94. By the mid C17 the long range guns installed at Dartmouth Castle made Kingswear Castle obsolete and it was abandoned. But it was held by Sir Henry Cary for the King during the Civil War and captured in 1646 by Sir Thomas Fairfax. Further defences for Kingswear were built by the Royalists in the form of the redoubt immediately above the town. Kingswear Castle was converted into a summer residence (for Major Charles Seale- Hayne) in 1855 by T Lidston, architect, and it is still used for this purpose. (PastScape - ref. O'Neill)

Possibly begun in 1491, but more probably built in one go, 1501-2, at which date it is recorded as complete

The second earliest fortification in the country specifically designed for artillery - its only predecessor being Dartmouth Castle to which Kingswear is the companion in a unified system of defence. Gun room on ground floor, with additional gun loops on the first and second floors and a platform on the roof of timber planks caulked with tar. Largely redundant by 1600. One round of repairs in the later xvii century, when the principal gun platform is recorded as being on the roof. Early C19 illustrations show its upper storey in ruins. Converted to summer residence in 1855, with new floors and roof, rebuilt parapet and a new round tower added. Restoration work commenced in 1987. Timber plates running through embrasure cills reinterpreted as devices to prevent recoil. Ground floor battery reinstated by removal of kitchen, scullery and concrete floor. Oak embrasure shutters repaired and new ones made. Three shutters possibly c17. First floor held garderobe and fireplace. Victorian features retained, but floor raised 20cm to its original height. Second floor retained least tudor detail with C17-C18 window openings and room divisions added in 1855. These subdivisions have been removed but Victorian window joinery and other carpentry has been retained. Pitched roof replaced by flat roof with a lean-to bathroom in position of a long-removed shelter against the rear parapet (Haslam). (Devon and Dartmoor HER)

Gatehouse Comments

Suggested as a location for the house of John Corp who was granted a licence to crenellate in 1402 (see Gomerock for preferred site of this licence). Has been suggested as one end of the Dartmouth Chain but this was at Gomerock. Now owned by Landmark Trust and available to rent.

- Philip Davis

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 ReferenceSX891502
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink
Photo by Andy Knight All Rights ReservedView full Sized Image
Photo by Andy Knight All Rights ReservedView full Sized Image
Photo by Andy Knight All Rights ReservedView full Sized Image
Copyright Ken Bate All Rights ReservedView full Sized Image
Copyright Danny George All Rights ReservedView full Sized Image

Most of the sites or buildings recorded in this web site are NOT open to the public and permission to visit a site must always be sought from the landowner or tenant.

Calculate Print


  • Harrington, Peter, 2007, The Castles of Henry VIII (Oxford: Osprey) p. 9 (mention)
  • Duffy, Michael, 1999, 'Coastal Defences and Garrisons 1480-1914' in Kain, R. and Ravenhill, W., Historical Atlas of South-West England (University of Exeter Press) p. 158-60
  • Salter, Mike, 1999, The Castles of Devon and Cornwall (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 67
  • Saunders, Andrew, 1997, Channel Defences (London; Batsford/English Heritage) p. 43, 117
  • Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 59
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 1 p. 116
  • Oman, Charles W.C., 1926, Castles (1978 edn Beetham House: New York) p. 95-6
  • Turner, T.H. and Parker, J.H., 1859, Some account of Domestic Architecture in England (Oxford) Vol. 3 Part 2 p. 355 online copy
  • Lysons, D. and S., 1822, Magna Britannia Vol. 6 Devon p. cccxlv-cccxlviii online transcription



  • Haslam, C., 1990 Feb, 'Landmarks in coastal defence' Fortress: The castles and fortifications quarterly Vol. 4 p. 4-5
  • Russell and Yorke, 1953, Transactions of the Devonshire Association Vol. 85 p. 72-3
  • O'Neil, B.H.St.J., 1936, 'Dartmouth Castle and other defences of Dartmouth Haven' Archaeologia Vol. 85 p. 129-59 esp p. 136, plates xxxvi, xxxvii, xlii