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Bossiney Castle

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;

In the civil parish of Tintagel.
In the historic county of Cornwall.
Modern Authority of Cornwall.
1974 county of Cornwall.
Medieval County of Cornwall.

OS Map Grid Reference: SX06588876
Latitude 50.66620° Longitude -4.73844°

Bossiney Castle has been described as a certain Timber Castle.

There are earthwork remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.


Earthwork remains of a ringwork 46m in diameter enclosing a slightly raised triangular shaped area of 16 by 14m with an entrance on the east. The north side of the rampart is particularly strong being up to 5.9m high externally with a 20m wide and 0.9m deep outer ditch. (PastScape)

Bossiney Castle is the little known poor relation of a glamorous and famous neighbour, Tintagel. The two sites, lying only 1.5 km apart within the same manor and parish, are quite different in their origins, role, history and setting. Tintagel Castle, suspended precipitously on the north coast cliffs, is now regarded as the 13th century folly of Richard, Earl of Cornwall, built around 1230 to link his name with a place renowned in international romance for its Arthurian associations and remembered in Cornish folklore as the seat of royalty; a memory which ultimately derived from the remarkable activity on the island in the 6th century AD, as attested by archaeology (Padel, 1988). Bossiney is a more 'standard' earthwork castle of late 11th or 12th century origin. Located at the south-west of the village of Bossiney the castle was first described and surveyed by MacLauchlan (1852): 'the castle mount is still in existence; this is where the elections for the borough were held". He shows and describes a circular rampart and ditch, but notes that it has 'more the appearance of an enormous tumulus'. This is still true. Viewed looking south-east from the road the rampart, strongest on this north side, gives the impression of a large mound or motte. Only on entering the site does it take on the appearance of a ringwork. though at the same time giving the impression of a hollowed-out motte.
It is not known who built the castle. Possible candidates are Robert of Mortain, the largest landowner in Domesday Cornwall, who in 1086 held Bossiney from St Petroc's; or an unrecorded landowner during the obscure and undocumented first half of the 12th century; or Roger de Mandeville. who held Bossiney in 1166 from Earl Reginald; or Gervase de Hornicote, first mentioned in 1182, who inherited the manors of Bossiney and Hornacott from Roger; or Gervase's son Robert, who succeeded to his father in 1207 and called himself Robert de Tintaioel- 'of Tintagel' (Padel, 1988,63). Whilst the manor recorded in Domesday Book was neither large nor important it is possible that a castle was built there to control the lands of the north coast and the routeway through them. This castle, together with those recorded in Domesday Book at Launceston and Trematon would have given Count Robert a firm grasp overeast Cornwall. It is unlikely that the castle was built by the Hornicotes. Had they done so one would expect to find a site of similar scale at their principal seat, Hornacott in North Tamerton. As no such site is known it is more likely that when the Hornicotes received Bossiney it already contained the castle. We do not know whether the castle continued to be used as the seat of their manor, which seems most likely, or whether another location was chosen. (Abridged from Rose 1992)

May date back to late C11 when manor was held by Count Robert de Mortain. May have had a bailey but the site has been damaged. The strong defensive position of an Iron Age promontory fort lies 1km north. Bossiney and Trevena (Tintagel) were, although two distinct adjacent settlements, one borough. The construction of Tintagel castle, on the site of another promontory fort, a mile west probably meant this site was deserted, although a hint of its administrative function continued until 1832, when the Reform Act meant the town lost its MPs, as this was the site of the announcement of the result of elections.
Links to archaeological and architectural databases, mapping and other online resources

Data >
PastScape   County HER   Scheduling        
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:22:04

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