Antiquities: Castles and mansions

Magna Britannia: Volume 6, Devonshire. Originally published by T Cadell and W Davies, London, 1822.

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'Antiquities: Castles and mansions', in Magna Britannia: Volume 6, Devonshire, (London, 1822) pp. cccxlv-cccxlviii. British History Online [accessed 13 April 2024]

In this section

Ancient Castles, and Sites of Castles, and Castellated Mansions.

The remains of Lidford castle, in which was formerly the prison of the stannaries, are near the church. The castle, of which the walls are standing, was a plain embattled building, about 48 feet square, with an outwork on the north side of it, projecting forwards to the edge of a steep precipice: there are no remains of the walls upon this outwork.

At Dartmouth are the remains of an ancient castle, and of a circular tower called Paradise Fort. The walls of King's Weare castle are standing; and there are the ruins of a fort opposite Dartmouth castle.

What remains of Afton castle, some time the seat of the Aftons, afterwards of the Stucleys, is a square embattled building with a small tower at one corner; the windows are of the later Gothic. Berry Pomeroy castle, the seat of the Pomeroys, appears to have been a very large mansion. It has an ancient gateway, with a round tower at one corner: the arms of Pomeroy were, not many years ago, to be seen over the gateway. The greater part of the mansion, which stands on the brow of a steep hill, among woody scenery, was probably built or altered by the Seymours: it has large transom windows, in the style of the sixteenth century. This mansion is in ruins and much overgrown with ivy.

Figure 18:

View of Berry Pomeroy Castle

Compton castle, the seat of the Comptons, and afterwards of the Gilberts, is still standing, converted into a farm-house. There are small remains of Gidley castle, the old seat of the Prous family: an apartment, 22 feet by 13, with remarkably thick walls, has a vaulted chamber under it, with pointed arches. At Hemiock are considerable remains of the castle, which was a seat of the Dynhams. The east entrance has a pointed doorway, and there are remains of five of the towers, some of them covered with ivy; one of them is about 20 feet in height. An old moorstone doorway, made use of in building the farm-house, was not part of the castle, but brought from a distance.

Figure 19:

View of Compton Castle

At Exeter, Plympton, Oakhampton, and Tiverton, were castles, all of which had belonged to the earls of Devonshire. Exeter and Tiverton castles were dismantled as fortresses after the civil war. Plympton had been destroyed at a much earlier period. The whole that remained of Exeter castle was taken down about the year 1774, except a lofty gateway, with circular and segment arches, rudely constructed, still to be seen in the garden of Edmund Granger, Esq. At Plympton there remains only some of the walls of the keep, the internal diameter of which was 40 feet; the walls were about eight feet and a half thick, and, in some parts, they are now about 12 feet high. The vallum on the west side of the castle is 100 paces from east to west, and about 67 from north to south; very high and deep. On the north side is a deep moat: the vallum on the south side also is very deep. There are but small remains of Oakhampton castle, which is about half a mile from the town of that name. Part of the site of Tiverton castle is occupied by a modern mansion. Within the site, at the south-west angle, is a square tower, with Gothic windows. It is commonly called the chapel, but has a fire-place. At the south-east angle is a small round tower, quite perfect: on the east side a gateway, groined, in the style of the fourteenth century, the outer arch pointed, and ornamented with roses. On the other sides, the lower parts of the walls only are remaining.

Figure 20:

Remains of Exeter Castle

Ancient Mansions.

Bradfield Hall, in the parish of Uffculme, the seat of the Walronds, is a perfect ancient mansion, probably of the early part of the sixteenth century. It consists of an irregular building in the centre, with two wings very much projecting. The hall has a roof of five obtuse arches of timber, with angels at the springings; and a cornice enriched with quatrefoils and other ornaments. The drawing-room which adjoins the hall, has a pannelled ceiling, richly ornamented with pendents: it is wainscotted, and has pilasters, much enriched with carving: the dining room has a similar pannelled ceiling. In the drawing-room, are the arms of Walrond, and the alliances of that ancient family, with which the outside of the house also is decorated.

The hall at Buckland abbey-house was fitted up in 1576, with wainscotting, in the style which prevailed at that time. The drawing-room is fitted up also with wainscotting in small pannels, and Corinthian pilasters. The frieze, which enriched an ancient outside window, with three mullions and tracery, is at one end of this room, and a similar one in an adjoining passage.

At Chudleigh are several walls and arches which belonged to the Bishop of Exeter's palace at that place. There are remains also of the Bishop's palaces at Bishop's Tawton and Paignton.

Figure 21:

Old Mansion at Bradley

Bradley, the seat of the Yardes, near Newton Bushell, is an ancient mansion of the fifteenth century. (fn. n1) It originally formed a quadrangle, but two of the sides have been taken down: the chapel and hall remain, and the gateway. Collacombe, the old seat of the Tremaynes, is of the Elizabethan age, with transom windows, one of which is 20 feet in height, and contains 3200 panes of glass. One of the chimney-pieces bears the date of 1574. The vicarage-house at Colyton was built by Thomas Brerewood, vicar, in 1529, as appears by an inscription over the door, with the device of the vicar, a bundle of briers bound together, and the arms of Bishop Voysey, who probably was a benefactor to the work. Over the window of a sitting-room is this inscription: "Peditatis totum, Meditatio totum."

Dartington hall, formerly the seat of the noble family of Holland, appears to have been built in the reign of Richard II., whose cognizance occurs in the porch. It consisted of two quadrangles: the outer quadrangle, 245 feet by 157, is nearly complete; the north side is now occupied by a barn and stables. The great hall, which, with its appendages, separated the two quadrangles, is about 69 feet by 38; the height of the side-walls 30 feet, of the roof 50 feet. The principal apartments, which lay to the west of the hall, and formed the inner quadrangle, have been taken down, except the western wall, with arched windows, which formed part of a gallery, 100 feet in length.

The palace at Exeter is a very ancient structure; the chapel appears to have been built in the reign of Henry III. It is probable that the palace was finished by Bishop Quivil, who had a licence for embattling it in 1290. The spacious hall, which has been divided into several rooms, was probably roofed by Bishop Grandisson, whose arms, with those of his brother-inlaw, William, Earl of Salisbury, were lately discovered painted on the beams. The rich chimney-piece, erected by Bishop Courtenay, in the reign of Edward IV., has been engraved for the Vetusta Monumenta, published by the society of Antiquaries.

Ford House, near Newton Abbot, was built by Sir Richard Reynell, in the reign of James I. Fulford House is a fine old mansion, built by Sir John Fulford, about the middle of the sixteenth century. The great hall is ornamented with carved work. At Mohun's Ottery, are some remains of the mansion built in the reign of Henry VI., but the chapel and hall were pulled down a few years ago. The door-way and some ancient windows still remain. Morwell House, said to have been a country seat of the Abbots of Tavistock, exhibits considerable remains of its original state. It is built in a quadrangular form. Opposite to the porter's lodge, are the hall and parlour; from these projected the kitchen and offices, which have been destroyed: on the east side is the chapel. At Pinhoe are some remains of an ancient mansion, on an estate which belonged successively to the families of Street and Cheney. Sydenham House, in Maristow, formerly a seat of the Wise's, now occasionally the residence of J. H. Tremayne, Esq., is an ancient structure of the early part of the seventeenth century, occupying three sides of a quadrangle. Whiddon, in Chagford, formerly the seat of the Whiddons, appears to be about the same age.


  • n1. Some parts of an older mansion appear to have been retained when this was built.