Mamhead 'castle'

Has been described as a Questionable Masonry Castle, and also as a Questionable Fortified Manor House

There are no visible remains

NameMamhead 'castle'
Alternative NamesThe Brewery
Historic CountryDevonshire
Modern AuthorityDevon
1974 AuthorityDevon
Civil ParishMamhead

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)

Gatehouse Comments

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.

- Philip Davis

Not scheduled

This is a Grade 2* 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 ReferenceSX929812
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink

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  • Hoskins, W.G., 1954, A New Survey of England: Devon (London: Collins) p. 431
  • Pevsner, Nikolaus, 1952, Buildings of England: South Devon p. 202
  • Lysons, D. and S., 1822, Magna Britannia Vol. 6 Devon p. 327-8 online transcription


  • Higham, R.A., 1988, 'Devon Castles: an annotated list' Proceedings of the Devon Archaeological Society Vol. 46 p. 142-9
  • Baldwin, M., 1957, Archaeological Journal Vol. 114 p. 151-2