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Truro Castle Hill

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;

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

OS Map Grid Reference: SW823450
Latitude 50.26532° Longitude -5.05506°

Truro Castle Hill has been described as a certain Timber Castle, and also as a certain Masonry Castle.

There are no visible remains.


The castle stood at the head of the town on a raised circular area, but by circa 1270 it is described as a vacant plot. The site was levelled in 1840 for the construction of the cattle market and the foundations of the castle were revealed. These consisted of a circular wall of unmortared local slate stone 3ft thick and 75ft in diameter. There was a small room adjoining the entrance at the SE. (PastScape) The site of the castle is occupied by new County Courts, currently under construction. A watching brief, carried out by the County Museum and Cornwall Archaeological Unit, found no masonry or other material relative to the castle and it is presumed that these were swept away previously, perhaps when the former cattle market was made. (PastScape–ref. Field Investigators Comments–F1 NVQ 30-JUL-86)

Truro Castle may have been built soon after the Norman Conquest by Hamelin, the lord of the Domesday manor of Trehaverne. Henderson and Douch, however, consider it more likely to have been thrown up by Richard de Lucy in the years of anarchy between 1135 and 1154 when Stephen and Matilda contested the throne. These adulterine castles were then demolished in 1154 when order was restored by Henry II. The latter may be most likely, since as early as 1270, it is described as the 'placea' or vacant plot called 'le castel'. A deed of 1418 mentions 'castellum de guelon' or 'castle field'. In c.1540, Leland found that the castle was 'now clene down' and 'the site thereof is now usid for a shoting and playing place'. In the 18th century, Tonkin said that the site of Truro Castle was more like an old Danish camp or round than a place that had once been inhabited', and Hals that 'there is nothing left of the citydel but the situation of the place and the great heaps of downfallen and much carried away stones and rubbish'. At the beginning of the 19th century, Whitaker wrote that "it was only a small castle. This the ground of it shows when the walls are gone .... The only remains of the castle indeed are the name, a waste area, and the old mount or keep, the earth of which is nearly gone and is daily vanishing by application of it to other purposes. This artificial mount marks the centre of the castle, had the main tower upon it, and constituted the principle part of the whole". In 1839, Castle Hill was proposed as the site for a new cattle market. The Royal Cornwall Gazette reported that "the general plan ... was to cut down a portion of the mound in the centre of the hill, so as to leave a bank about 4ft high all round". In the process of the work the foundations of a circular wall, which may have been either the base of the keep or the retaining wall for the earthen mound. This wall was about 75ft in diameter, and 2 - 3ft thick. In 1984, the cattle market was relocated and the site re-developed for the new Crown Courts. A small trial excavation was conducted. This established that over most of the site, bedrock lay almost directly beneath the concrete surfaces of the cattle market, but in the west, part of a ditch over 2m deep, posssibly part of the bailey defence, was located. There was no dating evidence, however. (Cornwall & Scilly HER)

The castle is dated either as post-Conquest and the work of the Count of Mortain or as an 'adulterine' castle of the Anarchy. The tendency to suggest almost all undocumented early castles as adulterine castles of the Anarchy is probably at work here and it was most likely founded in the post-Conquest period, although the stone work may be of a later period. There is little reason to consider it, in any way, as adulterine, although abandonment before 1270 may be suggestive, although probably represents a change of government from baronial to municipal. Clearly this was the Count's administrative centre in the C11/C12. Truro was small but was to become a stannery town which suggests the castle may have been founded to protect this trade and its revenue. At some undetermined time, the residential aspect of the castle of the Counts may have moved to Moresk Castle, St Clement.
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:22:23

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