Compton Castle

Has been described as a Certain Fortified Manor House

There are major building remains

NameCompton Castle
Alternative Names
Historic CountryDevonshire
Modern AuthorityDevon
1974 AuthorityDevon
Civil ParishMarldon

Medieval fortified house, seat of the Gilberts. Circa 1320 manor house with work of circa 1450, extended and fortified in circa 1500 to early C16. Restored circa 1930-55. Hall rebuilt 1954-5. Built of local limestone rubble with red sandstone and white Beer-stone dres- sings and granite corbels, lintels and copings. Slate roofs. Only parts of the screens passage survive of the early C14 four-bay hall which was reconstructed in C20. At the west end the solar and withdrawing room with a polygonal bay window to the west, a large tower on the south west and a chapel projecting at right angles to the hall to the north west are all circa mid C15. The chapel has Perpendicular four-light windows and a pointed turned vaulted roof with a priest's room above. At the east service end of the hall the buttery and pantry and offices including angle towers to the north east and south east and the kitchen wing to the south east with another tower on the south east corner are all circa 1500. Also of circa 1500 is the north front wall in line with the end of the projecting chapel and service wings which forms a small court in front of the hall. This front elevation is almost symmetrical and has a contemporary corner tower to the right hand (north west) to balance the left hand (north east) tower, both gabled (although in different directions) and with corbelled oriels. The main portcullis entrance is slightly to left of centre with its corbelled machicolations and battlements to the high courtyard wall, the Perpendicular north window of the chapel on the right hand and the service room to the left. To the far left another portcullis to the postern gateway. Outer walls to the east, west and south with another tower on the south east corner circa early C16. All the towers are square with gabled roofs. Compton was abandoned by the Gilbert family in circa 1750 and became a farm. It was bought back by the Gilberts in C20

As well as reconstructing the hall Compton was thoroughly restored. Originally the land was held by the Comptons. Joan daughter and heiress of William de Compton married Geoffrey Gilbert who built the house in circa 1320. (Listed Building Report)

Despite the demolition of parts of its service buildings, the buried and earthwork remains of the medieval fortified house at Compton Castle survive well complementing the standing fabric of the house which is Listed Grade I, and providing a context for it. The inner and outer courts will contain buried remains which relate to the construction and use of the house, while the earthworks of the associated formal garden and fishpond are likely to contain stratified environmental remains relating to the post-medieval usage of the site and its surrounding landscape.

This monument includes the buried and earthwork remains of a medieval fortified house, an associated fishpond and later garden features, at Compton Castle. The house faces north across a shallow valley. Its double courtyard plan contains the hall, chapel, private chambers and service ranges of a 14th century manor house, heavily rebuilt in the later 15th to early 16th century by the Gilbert family. The present house, which is Listed Grade I, contains substantial parts of the latter period of construction, which was contained within a high enclosing wall with a watch tower at its south east corner. The front wall of the outer courtyard was heavily defended with a central gatehouse with portcullis, capped with machicolated battlements. To the rear of the house, parts of the service ranges surrounding the inner courtyard have been removed, their foundations underlying later lawns and paths. In the later 16th to early 17th century, a third courtyard was laid out to the north, fronting the house, with a large threshing barn on its west side. Between this courtyard and the road, which lies to the north, slight earthworks remain of terraced formal gardens, divided from the orchard to the east by a stone rubble faced ha ha, while earthworks of a fishpond in the valley floor to the west measure 40m from north to south and at least 20m from east to west and up to 1.5m deep, with a dam at the west end 10m wide and up to 1.2m high. A stream runs along the north side of the pond beside the road. At the south west corner of the fishpond, a tree hole 8m in diameter and 1m deep has a circular mound 4m in diameter at its centre. (Scheduling Report)

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 ReferenceSX865648
Latitude50.4725303649902
Longitude-3.60028004646301
Eastings286540
Northings64850
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Books

  • Emery, Anthony, 2006, Greater Medieval Houses of England and Wales Vol. 3 Southern England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press) p. 519-22
  • 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. 53-5
  • Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 55-6 (plan)
  • Mildren, James, 1987, Castles of Devon (Bossiney Books) p. 73-7
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 1 p. 121
  • Fry, P.S., 1980, Castles of the British Isles (David and Charles) p. 212
  • Pevsner, Nikolaus, 1952, Buildings of England: South Devon p. 90
  • Mackenzie, J.D., 1896, Castles of England; their story and structure (New York: Macmillan) Vol. 2 p. 26 online copy
  • Timbs, J. and Gunn, A., 1872, Abbeys, Castles and Ancient Halls of England and Wales Vol. 1 (London) p. 475-7 online copy
  • Turner, T.H. and Parker, J.H., 1859, Some account of Domestic Architecture in England (Oxford) Vol. 3 Part 2 p. 147 and plate, 352-3 online copy
  • Lysons, D. and S., 1822, Magna Britannia Vol. 6 Devon p. cccxlv-cccxlviii online transcription

Journals

  • Doyle, C., 2006, 'The castle in the hills' Heritage Vol. 127 p. 56-62
  • Higham, R.A., 1988, 'Devon Castles: an annotated list' Proceedings of the Devon Archaeological Society Vol. 46 p. 142-9
  • Kenyon, J.R., 1981 'Early Artillery Fortifications in England and Wales: a Preliminary Survey and Re-appraisal' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 138 p. 227
  • Haslam, R., 1981 Nov 5, Country Life Vol. 170 p. 1546
  • Seymour, D. J., 1955 - 1958, 'The Smaller Manor Houses of Medieval Devon' Transactions of the Torquay Natural History Society Vol. 12 p. 10
  • Everett, A.W., 1956, 'The Rebuilding of the Hall of Compton Castle' Transactions of the Devonshire Association Vol. 88 p. 75-85
  • Simpson, W.D., 1952, 'Compton Castle' Country Life
  • Everett, A.W., 1939, 'Compton Castle' Transactions of the Devonshire Association Vol. 71 p. 343-45
  • Thompson, A.H., 1913, The Archaeological Journal Vol. 70 p. 544-6
  • Gibbs, R., 1904-5, 'Compton Castle' Devon and Cornwall Notes and Queries Vol. 3 p. 209-16 online copy
  • Compton, C.H., 1883, 'Compton Castle' Journal British Archaeological Association Vol. 39 p. 337-43 (history of descent)
  • Spence, C., 1867, 'Compton Castle' Exeter Diocesan Architectural Society (new ser) Vol. 1 p. 29-54 (slight)
  • Hills, G.M., 1863, 'Compton Castle, Devonshire' Journal British Archaeological Association Vol. 19 p. 1-12

Guide Books

  • (Gilbert, W.R. and Garnett, O.), 2005, Compton Castle, Devon (National Trust)
  • Gilbert, W.R., 1979, Compton Castle, Devon (National Trust)
  • 1971, Compton Castle Guide Book (National Trust)
  • Anon, 1957, Compton Castle Guide Book (National Trust)