Marisco Castle, Lundy Island

Has been described as a Certain Masonry Castle

There are masonry footings remains

NameMarisco Castle, Lundy Island
Alternative Names
Historic CountryLundy Island
Modern AuthorityDevon
1974 AuthorityDevon
Civil ParishLundy

Marisco Castle is situated in a prominent cliff-top setting at the south east corner of Lundy. The history of a castle on this site begins with the construction of a shell keep and bailey on order of Henry III in 1243. In 1643, during the Civil War, the royalist Thomas Bushell restored the castle 'from the ground at his own charge. The present remains seem to date from this restoration as well as including subsequent additions and comprise a keep, a parade ground revetted with stone, a curtain wall on the north side, and a fosse or outer ditch on the north and west sides. The keep is built of granite with battered walls, rectangular in plan and with domed chimneys at each corner. The crenellations have been filled in and the walls brought up to the height of the chimneys. This now forms a courtyard to protect the fishermen's ottages which have been inserted into the interior during the 19th century. The cottages were remodelled as holiday cottages in the late 20th century. The construction of the keep now visible appears to be wholly the work of Thomas Bushell. The earlier medieval foundations will survive beneath the present building. The east side of the castle has a terrace reveted with stone. This is known as the Parade Ground. This was part excavated in 1984 and 1985. On the north side there are extensive remains of a curtain wall showing both medieval and 17th century fabrics. Outside these features are the remains of a fosse or outer ditch. Within the enclosure are the remains of the Old House to the south side of the parade ground and the smithy which was revealed by the 1984 excavations. The Old House was probably built in the 17th century by Bushell as his own residence. This survived until the construction of the Manor Farm house in the village in the late 18th century. (PastScape)

The shell keep castle known as Marisco Castle is unusual both in its form and in the subsequent treatment of the original structure

Despite having been ruined twice in its history, much survives of the 17th century garrison building and the house used by the owner during the Civil War. Excavations have demonstrated well the nature and quality of surviving buried remains.

The monument includes Marisco castle, situated in a prominent cliff-top setting at the south east corner of Lundy. The history of a castle on this site begins with the construction of a shell keep and bailey on the order of Henry III in 1243. In 1643, during the Civil War, the royalist Thomas Bushell restored the castle 'from the ground at his own charge'. The present remains seem to date from this restoration as well as including subsequent additions and comprise a keep, a parade ground revetted with stone, a curtain wall on the north side, a fosse or outer ditch on the north and west sides and a storage cave to the east. The keep is built of granite with battered walls, rectangular in plan and with domed chimneys at each corner. The crenellations have been filled in and the walls brought up to the height of the chimneys. This now forms a courtyard to protect the cottages which have been inserted into the interior during the 19th century. An additional cottage was also constructed during the 19th century attached to the north wall of the keep. The construction of the keep now visible appears to be wholly the work of Thomas Bushell with later modifications. The earlier medieval foundations will survive beneath the present building. The east side of the castle has a terrace revetted with stone and with a bastion on the east corner. This is known as the Parade Ground. This was part excavated in 1984 and 1985 by archaeologists from the National Trust and subsequently the wall footings were consolidated. On the north side there are extensive remains of a curtain wall showing both medieval and 17th century fabrics. Outside these features are the remains of a fosse or outer ditch. To the west the outer ditch is confused by the construction of later boundaries and a trackway although the outline of its course can be traced through these features. Within the enclosure are the remains of the Old House to the south side of the parade ground and the 'smithy' which was revealed by the 1984 excavations. The Old House was a substantial building of the 17th century, probably built by Bushell as his own residence. This survived until the construction of the Manor Farm house in the village in the late 18th century. This is now a consolidated ruin. The smithy has been excavated and part backfilled to protect the remains of a furnace, floor cobbles, drains and interior partitions from erosion by visitors and stock. To the east of the parade ground and below it is Benson's Cave. This is a man made tunnel with a guard house of brick. It is 19.5m long and 2.5m wide and is reputed to have been made in the 18th century by Thomas Benson, the criminal MP, who used it for concealing contraband. It may have been constructed as a powder store during the refurbishing of the castle in 1643. During the 19th century it was used for smoking fish. Marisco castle, the keep and bailey walls are also listed Grade II-star. (Scheduling Report)

Castle keep and bailey walls. Built in 1243 by Henry III, remodelled as cottages in circa mid C19 and again as holiday cottages by Landmark Trust in late C20. Stone rubble, C20 corrugated sheet metal roofs inside walls. Keep is approximately square on plan with projecting towers on east and west sides. Inside the keep fishermen's cottages were built in circa mid C19 against the outer walls on the north-east and south sides. These cottages have been largely rebuilt in the C20. In 1887 a lean-to outshut was built outside against the north side of the keep to house the terminal of the telegraph cable.

Exterior: The low square keep has slightly battered walls, battlements and round turrets on the corners and as chimneys. Projection at centre of east side with tower breaking forward of centre. The entrance into the keep is through the side of a projection on the west side. The walls of the keep are blind except for a few small windows and putlog holes on the east side. On north side an outshut (now cottage) with lean-to corrugated asbestos roof. Inside keep the cottages are 2 storeys and have C20 2-light casements with glazing bars and brick lined openings.

Including bailey walls: remains of battered stone rubble revetments to south, east and north east and fosse on landward side to north west where gate was situated.

Interior: The interiors of the cottages are late C20.

Historical note: Marisco Castle was built in 1243 after Henry III had executed William de Marisco in 1242 for treason. The de Marisco family, who held Lundy from the C122 to 1321 were pirates who terrorised this coast, but as reputed descendants of a royal bastard they made claims to the throne. The Castle was refortified during the Civil War. (Lundy:A and M Langham). (Listed Building Report)

Gatehouse Comments

Marisco Castle was built in 1243 after Henry III had executed William de Marisco in 1242 for treason. The de Marisco family, who held Lundy from the C12 to 1321 were pirates who terrorised this coast, but as reputed descendants of a royal bastard they made claims to the throne. The original de Marisco residence was in a more settled and residential location at Bulls Paradise.

- Philip Davis

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

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 ReferenceSS141437
Latitude51.1629295349121
Longitude-4.65948009490967
Eastings214170
Northings143770
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink
Copyright Robin Oakley All Rights Reserved
Copyright Robin Oakley All Rights Reserved
Copyright Robin Oakley All Rights Reserved
Copyright Robin Oakley All Rights Reserved
Copyright Robin Oakley All Rights Reserved
Copyright Robin Oakley All Rights Reserved

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Books

  • 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. 68-9
  • Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 60
  • Ternstrom, Myrtle, 1994, The castle on the island of Lundy: 750 years, 1244-1944 (privately published. ISBN 0952306204)
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2 p. 553
  • Fry, P.S., 1980, Castles of the British Isles (David and Charles) p. 259
  • Gardner, Keith S., 1972, The archaeology of Lundy: a field guide (Landmark Trust) p. 14-15, 255
  • Langham, A and Langham, M., 1970, Lundy (Newton Abbot: David and Charles) p. 75-8
  • 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. 732-3
  • Powicke, 1947, Henry III and the Lord Edward (Oxford) Vol. 2 p. 756-8 (history)
  • Winmill, C C., 1928, Report on Marisco Castle (Society Pres. Ancient Buildings)
  • Loyd, 1925, Lundy, its History and Natural History (London) p. 25-30
  • Wall, C., 1906, in Page, Wm (ed), 'Ancient Earthworks' VCH Devon Vol. 1 p. 577-8
  • Chanter, J.R., 1877, Lundy Island: a Monograph, Descriptive and Historical; with Notices of its Distinguishing Features in Natural History (London: Cassell, Petter and Galpin) (Reprinted 1997, Appledore: Westwell Publishing)
  • Grose, Francis, 1785 (new edn orig 1756), Antiquities of England and Wales (London) Vol. 6 p. 191-6 online copy

Journals

  • Ternstrom, M., 2007, 'The De Marisco family of Lundy' Transactions of the Devonshire Association Vol. 139 p. 41-68
  • Ternstrom, Myrtle, 2006, 'Lundy's History: The Course of Change' Lundy Studies p. 31-62 online copy
  • Higham, R.A., 1988, 'Devon Castles: an annotated list' Proceedings of the Devon Archaeological Society Vol. 46 p. 142-9
  • Dunmore, S., 1982, 'The castle in the Isle of Lundy' Proceedings of the Devon Archaeological Society Vol. 40 p. 153-62
  • Gardner, Keith S., 1968 May, 'Lundy: the Archaeology of an island that has been the haunt of pirates, smugglers and saints' Current Archaeology Vol. 8 p. 196-202
  • Chope, R P., 1925, 'Lundy Island- review of L R W Loyd, Lundy, its history and natural history' Devon and Cornwall notes and queries Vol. 13 p. 361-67

Guide Books

  • Loyd, L.R.W., 1925, Lundy: Its History and Natural History (London: Longmans Green)
  • Jukes, H.W., 1920, Lundy Island, Descriptive and Illustrated
  • Saint Claire, A., 1910, A short history and illustrated guide to Lundy Island (Barnstaple: Henry Pincombe)

Other

  • English Heritage, 2009, Heritage at Risk Register 2009 South West (London: English Heritage) p. 109 online copy