St Mawes Castle

Has been described as a Certain Artillery Fort

There are major building remains

NameSt Mawes Castle
Alternative NamesSt Mose; St Marys; St Maudet; Pendinas; La Vousa
Historic CountryCornwall
Modern AuthorityCornwall
1974 AuthorityCornwall
Civil ParishSt Just In Roseland

St Mawes artillery castle was built between 1540 and 1543, as one of a chain of coastal defences constructed by Henry VIII to counter the threat of French and Spanish invasion following the English Reformation. It is situated on a broad headland at the mouth of the River Fal on the south coast of Cornwall. St Mawes was built just above an earlier fortification dating to the late 1530s, which was probably a preliminary attempt to fortify this coastline. From the 17th to 20th centuries, the slopes of the headland around the artillery castle were modified by successive phases of gun batteries as well as World War II searchlight emplacements. A lower gun battery was also built just below the castle (see associated records). The Henrician castle consists of a central keep with three semi-circular bastions arranged about it in clover-leaf pattern. The main entrance is on the landward side of the keep, approached through a hexagonal guardhouse and then by a stone bridge over a deep dry moat. Originally there may have been a drawbridge. The keep is of three storeys and housed a kitchen in the basement, accommodation for ordinary soldiers on the first floor, accommodation for the governor and chief officers on the second floor and an open gun platform on the roof reached by a winding staircase. In the late 17th century a lead-covered dome, called a cupola, was added to the castle's stair turret as a daymark - a maritime navigational aid. The part-circular forward bastion provided the castle's main gun deck on the ground floor and a raised gun platform on the upper floor. The castle was built under the direction of Thomas Treffry and it is constructed of local slatestone rubble with granite employed on many of the architectural features. There are many carved and incised decorative elements to the design including the Royal Arms over the keep, carved sea monsters, shield plaques, gargoyles as well as dedicatory and laudatory inscriptions to Henry VIII. (PastScape)

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

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 ReferenceSW841327
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Copyright Peter Mattock All Rights Reserved
Copyright Peter Mattock All Rights Reserved
Copyright Peter Mattock All Rights Reserved
Copyright Peter Mattock All Rights Reserved
Copyright Peter Mattock All Rights Reserved
Copyright Peter Mattock All Rights Reserved
Copyright Peter Mattock All Rights Reserved
Copyright Peter Mattock All Rights Reserved
Copyright Peter Mattock All Rights Reserved
Copyright Peter Mattock All Rights Reserved
Copyright Peter Mattock All Rights Reserved
Copyright Peter Mattock All Rights Reserved

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  • Goodall, John, 2011, The English Castle 1066-1650 (Yale University Press) p. 420
  • Harrington, Peter, 2007, The Castles of Henry VIII (Oxford: Osprey)
  • 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. 35-7
  • Saunders, Andrew, 1997, Channel Defences (London; Batsford/English Heritage)
  • Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 22
  • 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. 289-90
  • Price, M. and H., 1980, Castles of Cornwall (Bossiney Books) p. 33-44
  • Morley, B.M., 1976, Henry VIII and the Development of Coastal Defence (London) p. 13-4, 18-9, 40
  • Pevsner, Nikolaus; revised by Enid Radcliffe, 1970, Buildings of England: Cornwall (Harmondsworth) p. 189-90
  • 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. 792-3
  • Oman, Charles W.C., 1926, Castles (1978 edn Beetham House: New York) p. 113-5
  • 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. 12-13 online copy
  • Oliver, S.P., 1984, Pendennis and St Mawes: an historical sketch of two Cornish castles (Redruth: Dyllansow Truran) (facsimile of the 1875 edition)
  • Lysons, D. and S., 1814, Magna Britannia Vol. 3 Cornwall online transcription
  • Buck, Samuel and Nathaniel, 1774, Buck's Antiquities (London) Vol. 1 p. 28


  • 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. 73, 75, 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. 200, 202, 248, 322 online copy


  • Jenkins, S.C., 2007, 'St Mawes Castle, Cornwall' Fort Vol. 35 p. 153-172 online copy [colour plates >]

Guide Books

  • Pattison, Paul, 2009, Pendennis Castle and St Mawes Castle (London: English Heritage)
  • Linzey, Dick, 1999, Pendennis and St Mawes (London: English Heritage)
  • Morley, B., 1988, The castles of Pendennis & St Mawes (London: English Heritage)
  • Anon. 1985, Pendennis and St Mawes castles (London. English Heritage)
  • Anon, 1963, Pendennis and St Mawes castles (HMSO)
  • 1947, Saint Mawes Castle (guide) (Ministry of Works, Ancient Monuments and Historic Buildings)
  • Drake, 1934, Saint Mawes Castle (HMSO)

Primary Sources