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Plympton Castle

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Plympton Earl; St Maurice; Plinton'

In the civil parish of Plymouth.
In the historic county of Devonshire.
Modern Authority of Plymouth; City of.
1974 county of Devon.
Medieval County of Devon.

OS Map Grid Reference: SX54465575
Latitude 50.38372° Longitude -4.04870°

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

There are masonry footings remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.
This is a Grade 2* listed building protected by law*.


Plympton Castle consists of fragments of a skell keep, the rubble wall 8ft thick and about 50ft in external diameter around the motte-top, with a large rectangular bailey to the west. The castle is said to date from the first year of Henry I. In 1136 the castle surrendered and was levelled to the ground, but it appears to have been rebuilt and then confiscated by the Crown in 1204 (VCH; Renn).
A recent survey of the motte and surviving fabric suggests the following sequence:
1. The castle was established in or after 1100 but before 1130, by either Richard de Revers or his son Baldwin, and was probably initially timber-built. It was destroyed after its surrender to the royal army in 1136.
2. It was rebuilt in 1141 by Baldwin de Redvers in stone, possibly as a shell-keep. This was reinforced with timber put-logs to counteract the instability of the motte-top.
3. At some stage, an inner circle tower was built in the centre of the motte-top, it having a final form similar to Launceston Castle. It is not possible to tell when the inner tower was added, the available historical evidence suggesting the periods 1184-1224, or even as late as 1297-1340, after Hugh II Courtenay had inherited the de Redver's land.
The castle was confiscated in 1204 by King John (as stated by VCH), as a guarantee of payments for royal favour by Earl William de Vernon, who recovered the castle in 1205. Its subsequent history is sketchy, as its owners major interests often lay elsewhere. It was besieged by Robert Courtenay on behalf of the King in 1224 and surrendered after 15 days. Subsequently, it appears to have been used mainly as the administrative centre for the barony. In 1294, habitable houses and gardens are referred to at the castle, and in 1297 repairs were undertaken as routine maintenance. There is further evidence of maintenance in 1382, but by Leland's time, the walls were standing but the lodges has fallen into decay. It is described in similar terms in 1539 when the Courtenay estates fell to the Crown, and again repairs were undertaken, It was finally destroyed in 1647 according to local tradition (Higham, Goddard and Rouillard 1985).
Remains of castle keep on motte. Probably C12, but may be early C13. Killas rubble walls about 3m thick and surviving in places to about 4m high; putlog holes.
PLAN: circular on plan with evidence for doorway to its S side with deep draw-bar slot on its right (Pevsner notes 2 slots and suggests that they were for reinforcing timbers). It has been suggested that there was also a central tower within the keep as at Launceston Castle. Large bailey to west with very high earthworks.
HISTORY: in 1136 the castle was besieged and razed by King Stephen. The present building may date from the 1140s when Baldwin de Redvers recovered his estates and was made Earl of Devon by the Empress Matilda. However, as recent investigations of the stone keeps of both Launceston and Restormel Castles (Cornwall CC) have suggested C13 dates, then perhaps this castle too may be later than has previously been thought. A thorough examination of the evidence may give a more precise dating. Grade II-star (Listed Building Report). (PastScape)
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:22:04

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