Marisco Castle, Lundy


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1016034

Date first listed: 17-Jun-1970

Date of most recent amendment: 10-Jun-1998


Ordnance survey map of Marisco Castle, Lundy
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Devon

District: Torridge (District Authority)

National Grid Reference: SS 14154 43777


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

Reasons for Designation

Lundy is a small, steep sided island in the Bristol Channel, 16m north of Hartland Point, north Devon. Aligned north-south, it is 6km long by 1km wide and supports a predominately moorland vegetation. The 100m high cliffs and tabular form give it a striking appearance, visible in clear weather from parts of south west England and south Wales. Lundy's remoteness and (until the 19th century construction of the Beach Road) its inaccessibility, combined with a lack of shelter and cultivable soils, has meant that it has escaped more recent occupation or development. It therefore preserves a remarkable variety of archaeological sites from early prehistory (c.8000 BC) onwards, representing evidence for habitation, fortification, farming and industry. There are also archaeological remains in the waters surrounding the island - over 150 shipwrecks are already recorded. Most of the island's archaeology is well documented from detailed survey in the 1980s and 1990s.

A shell keep castle is a masonry enclosure, extending around the top of an earlier motte or castle ringwork, and replacing the existing timber palisades; there are a few cases where the wall is built lower down the slope or even at the bottom. The enclosure is usually rounded or sub-rounded but other shapes are also known. A shell keep is relatively small, normally between 15 and 25m diameter, with few buildings, and perhaps one tower only, within its interior. Shell keeps were built over a period of about 150 years, from not long after the Norman Conquest until the mid-13th century; most were built in the 12th century. They provided strongly fortified residences for the king or leading families and occur in both urban and rural situations. Shell keep castles are widely dispersed throughout England with a marked concentration in the Welsh Marches. The distribution also extends into Wales and to a lesser extent into Scotland. They are rare nationally with only 71 recorded examples. Considerable diversity of form is exhibited with no two examples being exactly alike. Along with other castle types, they are major medieval monument types which, belonging to the highest levels of society, frequently acted as major administrative centres and formed the foci for developing settlement patterns. Castles generally provide an emotive and evocative link to the past and can provide a valuable education resource, both with respect to medieval warfare and defence, and to wider aspects of medieval society. All examples retaining significant remains of medieval date are considered to be nationally important. The shell keep castle known as Marisco Castle is unusual both in its form and in the subsequent treatment of the original structure. Despite having been ruined twice in its history, much survives of the 17th century garrison building and the house used by the owner during the Civil War. Excavations have demonstrated well the nature and quality of surviving buried remains.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


The monument includes Marisco castle, situated in a prominent cliff-top setting at the south east corner of Lundy. The history of a castle on this site begins with the construction of a shell keep and bailey on the order of Henry III in 1243. In 1643, during the Civil War, the royalist Thomas Bushell restored the castle `from the ground at his own charge'. The present remains seem to date from this restoration as well as including subsequent additions and comprise a keep, a parade ground revetted with stone, a curtain wall on the north side, a fosse or outer ditch on the north and west sides and a storage cave to the east. The keep is built of granite with battered walls, rectangular in plan and with domed chimneys at each corner. The crenellations have been filled in and the walls brought up to the height of the chimneys. This now forms a courtyard to protect the cottages which have been inserted into the interior during the 19th century. An additional cottage was also constructed during the 19th century attached to the north wall of the keep. The construction of the keep now visible appears to be wholly the work of Thomas Bushell with later modifications. The earlier medieval foundations will survive beneath the present building. The east side of the castle has a terrace revetted with stone and with a bastion on the east corner. This is known as the Parade Ground. This was part excavated in 1984 and 1985 by archaeologists from the National Trust and subsequently the wall footings were consolidated. On the north side there are extensive remains of a curtain wall showing both medieval and 17th century fabrics. Outside these features are the remains of a fosse or outer ditch. To the west the outer ditch is confused by the construction of later boundaries and a trackway although the outline of its course can be traced through these features. Within the enclosure are the remains of the Old House to the south side of the parade ground and the `smithy' which was revealed by the 1984 excavations. The Old House was a substantial building of the 17th century, probably built by Bushell as his own residence. This survived until the construction of the Manor Farm house in the village in the late 18th century. This is now a consolidated ruin. The smithy has been excavated and part backfilled to protect the remains of a furnace, floor cobbles, drains and interior partitions from erosion by visitors and stock. To the east of the parade ground and below it is Benson's Cave. This is a man made tunnel with a guard house of brick. It is 19.5m long and 2.5m wide and is reputed to have been made in the 18th century by Thomas Benson, the criminal MP, who used it for concealing contraband. It may have been constructed as a powder store during the refurbishing of the castle in 1643. During the 19th century it was used for smoking fish. Marisco castle, the keep and bailey walls are also listed Grade II*. The refurbished cottages inside the keep and the house attached to the north wall are excluded from the scheduling although the ground beneath these buildings is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number: 27644

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Langham, A M, Lundy Bristol Channel, (1960)
Thackray, C, The National Trust Archaeological Survey, (1989)
Thackray, C, The National Trust Archaeological Survey, (1989)

End of official listing