Restormel Castle

Has been described as a Certain Timber Castle (Ringwork), and also as a Certain Masonry Castle, and also as a Certain Palace (Other)

There are major building remains

NameRestormel Castle
Alternative NamesRestormil; Raistormel; Tywardreath; Lestmel
Historic CountryCornwall
Modern AuthorityCornwall
1974 AuthorityCornwall
Civil ParishLostwithiel

Restormel Castle was first built as a motte and bailey castle by Baldwin Fitz Turstin, Sheriff of Cornwall in around 1100 AD. It stands on the summit of a spur projecting into the west side of the River Fowey valley. The motte has a diameter of about 52 metres with a surrounding ditch and bank. The rectangular bailey was sited on gently sloping land extending west south west from the motte and today remains marked by earthworks. The earthworks indicate the siting of a hall, chapel, kitchen and administrative centre within the bailey. The circular shell keep, on top of the motte was constructed in about 1200 AD. It measures about 125 feet in diameter and was built to replace the original timber defences. The keep comprises a curtain wall nearly 2.5 metres thick, butted against the earlier gate tower and surviving to the height of the wall walk with a battlemented parapet. Inside this is an inner courtyard bounded by a circular wall. The internal structures included guardhouses, a kitchen, great hall, solar, ante-chamber, bed chamber and guest chamber. In the 13th century a chapel was added, projecting beyond the curtain wall on the west side. The castle was acquired by Richard, Earl of Cornwall, in the reign of Henry III (reigned 1216-1272), and his successor, Earl Edmund, appears to have made it his chief residence. Edmund converted the existing shell keep into its present form in the later 13th century. Thereafter it served more as a lordly residence then a defensive structure, standing within a large deer park. In 1337, the castle was handed over to Edward of Woodstock or 'the Black Prince' as 1st Duke of Cornwall, and he made extensive repairs. After the prince died (1376), the castle declined before it was garrisoned by the Parliamentarians during the civil war, only to be captured by Royalist forces in 1644. It thereafter fell into decay and became a picturesque ruin. In 1925, guardianship of the monument passed to the Ministry of Works


this structure was part of a deliberately designed landscape within a medieval tradition that, centuries later, provided rich country houses in heavily manipulated and landscaped surroundings. In the present context, we might note that such structures, elevated and with a continuous wall-walk and crenellations, leant themselves well to this role in the later middle ages (and perhaps earlier). (Higham 2015)

Gatehouse Comments

On one occasion called Tywardreath which has lead to idea that there was a separate castle of Tywardreath. Crieghton states the masonry was of one phase of the late C13, that the earthwork of the old ringwork were added to by adding to the base of the new masonry walls (c.f. Lydford 'keep') to make the castle have the appearance of sitting on a motte, giving this new masonry an more ancient look and presence. The castle is sat in the centre of a deer park, with other high status features, such as a hermitage, in the surrounding landscape. Certainly after the castle was obtained by Earl Richard is was used as a pure pleasure palace. The Duchy administrative and judicial centre was the Lostwithiel Duchy Palace - which probably also functioned as the military storehouse. Creighton also make the point that the castle is not sited with the bounds of a nearby Roman fort at the strongest military location but on a false crest which gives the castle the highest visibility. It should be noted that the choice of this location was made in the late C11, in the aftermath of the Norman Conquest. The implication is that, from its construction in the C11, this castle was designed as a high status, highly visible, residence for hunting and not a military base.

- Philip Davis

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

Not Listed

Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceSX104613
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  • Higham, Robert, 2015, Shell-keeps re-visited: the bailey on the motte? (Castle Studies Group - online publication) online copy
  • Creighton, Oliver, 2015, 'Castle, Landscape and Townscape in Thirteenth-Century England: Wallingford, Oxfordshire and the 'Princely Building Strategies' of Richard, Earl of Cornwall' in Jörg Peltzer (ed), Rank and Order: The Formation of Aristocratic Elites in Western and Central Europe, 500–1500 (Ostfildern: Thorbecke Jan Verlag) p. 309-341 (slight)
  • Goodall, John, 2011, The English Castle 1066-1650 (Yale University Press) p. 238-9, 260, 291
  • Creighton, O.H., 2009, Designs Upon the Land (Boydell and Brewer) p. 15-23
  • Higham, Robert A., 1999, 'Castles, Fortified Houses and Fortified Towns in the Middle Ages' in Kain, R. and Ravenhill, W., Historical Atlas of South-West England (University of Exeter Press) p. 136-43
  • Salter, Mike, 1999, The Castles of Devon and Cornwall (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 32-4
  • Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 20-21 (plan)
  • Brown, R.Allen, 1989, Castles from the Air (Cambridge University Press) p. 192-3
  • Spreadbury, I. D., 1984, Castles in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly (Redruth)
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 1 p. 75
  • Fry, P.S., 1980, Castles of the British Isles (David and Charles) p. 284
  • Price, M. and H., 1980, Castles of Cornwall (Bossiney Books) p. 19-32
  • Renn, D.F., 1973 (2 edn.), Norman Castles of Britain (London: John Baker) p. 291-3
  • Pevsner, N. revised by Enid Radcliffe, 1970, Buildings of England: Cornwall (Harmondsworth) p. 132-3
  • Renn, D.F., 1969, Three Shell Keeps (HMSO) p. 16-21
  • Colvin, H.M., Brown, R.Allen and Taylor, A.J., 1963, The history of the King's Works Vol. 2: the Middle Ages (London: HMSO) p. 804-5
  • Toy, Sidney, 1953, The Castles of Great Britain (Heinemann) p. 62-3 plan
  • Toy, Sidney, 1939, Castles: A short History of Fortifications from 1600 BC to AD 1600 (London) p. 60-1
  • Oman, Charles W.C., 1926, Castles (1978 edn Beetham House: New York) p. 109-111
  • Harvey, Alfred, 1911, Castles and Walled Towns of England (London: Methuen and Co)
  • Mackenzie, J.D., 1896, Castles of England; their story and structure (New York: Macmillan) Vol. 2 p. 11-12 online copy
  • Hext, 1891, Lostwithiel and Restormel (Truro) p. 203-24
  • Turner, T.H. and Parker, J.H., 1859, Some account of Domestic Architecture in England (Oxford) Vol. 3 Part 2 p. 361 online copy
  • Lysons, D. and S., 1814, Magna Britannia Vol. 3 Cornwall p. ccxli, 176-8 online transcription
  • Buck, Samuel and Nathaniel, 1774, Buck's Antiquities (London) Vol. 1 p. 26
  • Grose, Francis, 1783 (new edn orig 1756), Antiquities of England and Wales (London) Vol. 1 p. 39-41 online copy, Vol. 8 p. 46 [online copy >]
  • Borlase, William, 1754, Antiquites, historical and monumental, of the county of Cornwall (Oxford) p. 356-8


  • Camden, Wm, 1607, Britannia hypertext critical edition by Dana F. Sutton (2004)
  • Chandler, John, 1993, John Leland's Itinerary: travels in Tudor England  (Sutton Publishing) p. 78, 86
  • Toulmin-Smith, Lucy (ed), 1907, The itinerary of John Leland in or about the years 1535-1543 (London: Bell and Sons) Vol. 1 p. 205 online copy


  • Creighton, O.H., 2010, 'Room with a View: Framing Castles Landscapes' Château Gaillard Vol. 24 p. 37-49
  • Preston-Jones, Ann and Rose, Peter, 1986, 'Medieval Cornwall' Cornish Archaeology Vol. 25 p. 135-185 online copy
  • Radford, C.A.R.,1974, 'Restormel Castle' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 130 p. 292-4
  • King, D.J.C. and Alcock, L., 1969, 'Ringworks in England and Wales' Château Gaillard Vol. 3 p. 90-127
  • Toy, S., 1933, 'The Round Castles of Cornwall' Archaeologia Vol. 83 p. 220-6 (plans)
  • Clark, G.T., 1889, 'Contribution towards a complete list of moated mounds or burhs' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 46 p. 197-217 esp. 202 online copy
  • Couch, T.Q., 1879, 'Restormel' Journal of the British Archaeological Association Vol. 35 p. 155-8 online copy
  • Boger, D., 1874, 'The Black Prince at Restormel, 1354 & 1363' Journal of the Royal Institution of Cornwall Vol. 5 p. 142-144 online copy
  • Clark, 1862, Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 17 p. 310-12 online copy
  • MacLauchlan, 1849, Royal Institute of Cornwall 31st report p. 28-9 (slight)

Guide Books

  • Nicholas Molyneux, 2003, Restormel Castle (London: English Heritage)
  • Wheatley, Genevieve, 1995 (rev 2002), Restormel Castle Information for Teachers (English Heritage) online copy
  • Radford, C.A.R.,1986, Restormel Castle (London: English Heritage)
  • Radford, C.A.R.,1980 (2edn), Restormel Castle (HMSO)
  • Renn, D.F., 1969, Three Shell Keeps (HMSO)
  • Radford, C.A.R.,1947, Restormel Castle (HMSO)
  • Seymour, W.H., 1922, Restormel Castle: a Brief History

Primary Sources


  • Higham, Robert and Creighton, Oliver, 16 May 2009, 'Castle Studies in Transition: a forty-year reflection' Castles, Landscapes and Lordship: Aspects of Castle Studies (Paper read at Royal Archaeological Institute/Yorkshire Archaeological Society Medieval Section Conference at York)
  • Thomas, N and Buck, C., 1993, An archaeological and historical survey of Restormel Castle (N/CAU)