Berry Pomeroy Castle: a defended residence and Tudor mansion


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1017855

Date first listed: 13-Jan-1915

Date of most recent amendment: 10-Feb-1993


Ordnance survey map of Berry Pomeroy Castle: a defended residence and Tudor mansion
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Devon

District: South Hams (District Authority)

Parish: Berry Pomeroy

National Grid Reference: SX 83897 62213, SX 83912 62308


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

Reasons for Designation

Berry Pomeroy Castle was a defended residence into which was built a Tudor Castle. The first house was built in the late 15th century as a residence for the Pomeroys. Such houses were often the homes of local landowners, and generally comprised a hall, private chambers, service rooms, kitchens and accommodation for retainers arranged around a single or double courtyard. Usually such houses were built of stone and served as both homes and venues in which to entertain. The defended residence at Berry Pomeroy is unusual not only as a rare survival of this class of monument, but as a defended example and because it exhibits a number of architectural features which are good examples of the military technology of the time. Within the earlier defended residence, a Tudor mansion was later constructed and this forms much of what remains visible today. The mansion was constructed in two stages. The earlier stage, which involved the demolition of much of the interior of the 15th century residence, was itself remodelled and enlarged as part of the later prodigy house which was never completed. The earlier stage is of interest because it appears to have been a pioneering example of the high compact unadorned houses that became a feature of later Elizabethan and Jacobean architecture. Berry Pomeroy, in its present form, is a particularly impressive ruin in its Tudor manifestation, and is associated with a notable county family descended from the Great Protector Somerset. Recent excavations have added to our understanding of the site.


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


Berry Pomeroy Castle which is a Listed Building Grade I, is located about 1km north-east of the village of Berry Pomeroy and 3km east of Totnes. It is situated on a north-facing slope overlooking a deep, narrow, limestone gorge through which the Gatcombe Brook flows from east to west. The earliest remains visible today date from the late 15th century, when a defended residence with dry moat was built within a deerpark belonging to the Pomeroy family. The 15th century domestic buildings were later replaced by a tall, compact Tudor mansion. A scheme to enlarge the mansion and add terraces was started in the late 16th century, but never completed. The monument includes the defences, the mansion, and in a separate constraint area, a well-preserved section of the terraced roadway which led to the mansion from a turning off the road between Totnes and Torquay. The original 15th century defences survive along the south-east side of the site and include a gatehouse, corner tower ('St Margaret's Tower'), and connecting curtain wall. The curtain wall continues for short distances along both the south-west and north-east sides. In addition, there are remnants of another corner tower at the north-east angle, where a stone buttress containing a guardroom extends down the steep valley slope on this side. The guardroom protects a doorway and flight of steps leading from the mansion to the rock face, where it is thought that there was a spring providing fresh water. The corner towers and gatehouse all have gun-ports at basement level. The gun-ports were originally intervisible, and provided a continuous line of fire along a defensive dry moat. Part of the line of the moat is still visible alongside St Margaret's Tower, and another section has been located by excavation outside the gatehouse. The remains of the Tudor mansion stand four storeys high to roof level. The house was built inside the 15th century defences on a courtyard plan and comprised two wings extending back from a hall range to the curtain wall. Soon after, the fourth side of the courtyard was infilled with an additional range. Around the year 1600, a scheme to greatly enlarge the mansion was begun but never finished. A magnificent state range was built along the north-west side of the site, extending beyond the limits of the old defences. This new range contained a hall fronted by a loggia built in the Renaissance style, a kitchen, and a long gallery on the top floor, as well as family and guest apartments. Terraces were begun at both ends of this range and another was planned on its north-west side, overlooking ponds in the valley below, but these were abandoned before completion. Another range of service buildings was planned to extend over the infilled moat along the west of the site, but this was never undertaken. A level area terraced into the lower hillslope to the south-east of the mansion may represent part of a garden, or possibly the site of one of the ancillary buildings which must have existed, but which are not represented amongst the ruins within the castle walls. The earliest documentary reference to a castle at Berry Pomeroy occurs in 1496. There is no firm evidence to indicate occupation on the present site much before this date. In 1547, the castle was sold by Sir Thomas Pomeroy to Edward Seymour, first Duke of Somerset (Protector Somerset). We cannot be sure that the Protector ever visited the site. By contrast, his son Edward, known as Lord Seymour, made Berry Pomeroy his home. It seems likely that it was this Edward who built the courtyard mansion, and his son, Sir Edward Seymour 1st baronet, who started the grand scheme of enlargement. The site was abandoned sometime between 1688 and 1701. The building was then stripped of valuable building materials. The remains enjoyed the reputation of a (haunted) romantic ruin, and have been much visited over the past three centuries. The stonework has been consolidated at various times within this period by the Duke of Somerset's estate workers. English Heritage are currently undertaking repairs. Excluded from the scheduling is the kiosk and the tea room as well as the surface of the drive south-east of the castle, although the land beneath these features is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.


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

Legacy System number: 21706

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Ellis, S M, Ghost Stories and Legends of Berry Pomeroy Castle
Mortimer, TC, Berry Pomeroy Castle, (1942)
Powley, E B, Berry Pomeroy Castle: Illustrated Official Guide, (1966)
During site visit by P P Jeffery, Brown, SR, Berry Pomeroy Castle, (1992)
Griffiths, D, Berry Pomeroy Castle, Interim Report on the 1980 Excavation, 1980,
SX86SW-010, SMR Officer, Berry Pomeroy Castle, (1991)
Title: SX86SW 1:10,000 Map sheet Source Date: Author: Publisher: Surveyor:

End of official listing