Kingswear, Devon, England
Dartmouth Castle hangs on a cliff edge at the narrow entrance of the Dart Estuary in Devon on the south west coast of England.
Surrounded by trees and adjacent to St Petroc’s church, the small limestone and slate coastal fort, or fortalice, consists of two towers, one round, one square, built over four floors and linked together at the top. Gun platforms protrude at either side of the towers and sections of a curtain wall are still visible at ground level. The square tower has carved gun ports on the seaward facing side and the round tower low gun ports, musket slits and a basement for defensive weapons.
The entrance to the restored castle is on the ground floor of the square tower where visitors can see the openings made especially to accommodate hand guns.
As well as visiting the castle, visitors can view items on display at the ‘Victorian Gun Battery’ Exhibition, enjoy the small riverside gardens or visit the gift shop, there are also refreshments available. The castle and grounds are open every day (except Christmas) from 10am with closing times changing depending on the season.
An unusual way to arrive or depart from the castle is to take a river boat from the town’s quay and then a minute’s walk to the castle entrance.
The fort was built in 1388 for John Hawley. The gun tower was added between 1481 and 1495 and the open air gun platforms being added in the 16th century by Henry VIII.
The castle was taken by the Royalists after a month of battle during the Civil War. They added an earthwork fort to protect the landward side and held the castle for three years until it was attacked by the Parliamentarians under the command of Sir Thomas Fairfax in 1646.
The castle was also used during both the First and Second World Wars and is now under the care of English Heritage. It is classed as the earliest surviving coastal gun tower fortress specifically to carry ‘ship sinking’ heavy cannon in England.
John Hawley, the castle first owner and mayor of Dartmouth was alleged to be the inspiration for the ‘Shipman’ in Chaucer‘s Canterbury tales.
Other Castles in the Area
Berry Pomeroy Castle, Devon
Kingswear Castle, Devon