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Listed Building
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Statutory Address:

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Cornwall (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SW 82430 31783



SW83SW CASTLE DRIVE 843-1/2/42 Pendennis Castle 23/01/73


Castle, built as part of coastal defences for Henry VIII; built on site of probable prehistoric hillfort. 1540-1545; gatehouse, attached curtain wall and state rooms later C16; 1st governor was John Killigrew, who as with other such castles was obliged to maintain the garrison out of his own pocket. Fortifications extended in 1597 to the design of an English military engineer, Paul Ivey for Elizabeth I. Probably at this time extensions (since removed) were added to the Governor's quarters and the gatehouse of the main keep. The outer gatehouse and enclosure c1611, gatehouse probably rebuilt early C18. Attached to the outer gatehouse projecting inwards on either side are 2 blocks of 1779, an accommodation block and a guardhouse block with cells; further changes to the outer defences were made in the C18 and C19. MATERIALS: granite ashlar keep, state rooms and gatehouses, moulded string courses and widely-spaced battlements for gun positions; lead roofs to main block; octagonal stack with moulded top to north-east side of state rooms, other stacks to merlons of embattled parapet; carved animal head gargoyles; dry slate to outer gatehouse and attached blocks with central rubble stacks; part of these and other walls are rubble with granite dressings; vertically-set rubble alternating with horizontal rubble on bedrock to battered outer defences. PLAN: circular keep; octagonal internally with 3.36m thick walls surmounted by octagonal stair turret at the junction with rectangular state room block, linked to small-plan gatehouse projection (to south-west) with octagonal stair turret to the inner angle; attached polygonal 16-sided curtain wall. Polygonal-on-plan outer defences with bastions at the angles. The Outer Gatehouse has a wing at right angles behind each side flanking the carriageway. There is another wing left of the guardhouse on the left as you go in. Within the entrance passage are 2 deep refuges, one containing a windlass for winding up the former drawbridge. EXTERIOR OF MAIN BUILDING: 2-storey-over-basement keep with staggered splayed (both internally and externally) gunports, under basket arches to 1st floor, round openings to ground floor. Segmental-arched bridge, replacing drawbridge, crossing moat to entrance with moulded 4-centred arch, original portcullis, blind panel and drawbridge slots above, and Royal Coat of Arms above parapet string. Projecting left of entrance is the front end of the state rooms (Governor's Quarters) with canted 1st-floor oriel, former gunport, carried on moulded corbelling and its sidelights within deep splay; small gunport below. Further splayed gunports under 4-centred arches to 1st-floor side walls of castle gatehouse/state rooms; 2 inserted openings with sashes to left-hand side; mullioned windows to ground floor, external ashlar chimney breast to left-hand side and small doorway to rear of entrance projection. One of the ground-floor gunports has been altered to create a window. The basement is lit by small 2-light mullioned windows with sills at the level of the gun terrace between the keep and the curtain wall. There is a small 2-cell garderobe on this terrace just to the right of the entrance. EXTERIOR OF OUTER GATEHOUSE: moulded pediment over stepped doorway with rusticated pilasters; recessed round-arched inner doorway, ashlar stack over small penthouse behind parapet. Elevations facing carriageway are 4-window ranges with segmental arches over C20 windows with glazing bars including a 12-pane sash; wide granite steps with wrought-iron railings in front of doorways. INTERIOR OF MAIN BUILDING: keep has granite newel stair connecting the 3 floors and continuing up to a lookout. There are 4-centred arched doorways, some with double-planked oak doors. Granite-flagged basement kitchen has a chamfered basket-arched fireplace with later oven on its right and a recess cut on the left; large central pier to give extra support to the floor above and a latrine built into the thickness of the outer wall. Ground floor is a gun platform with 7 ports and a gardrobe with a pit; keeping places for gunpowder on the right of each gun position; 1st floor has similar details to its gunports and there is a flat-headed chamfered fireplace. State rooms have larger newel stair. There are 2 rooms on each floor, also there is the gatehouse itself which has a room above the entrance in which to operate the portcullis and there is a small closet at the rear. Ground-floor parlour has C18 ovolo-moulded painted pine panelling and a mid C19 iron grate within a panelled chimney-piece with consoles. Kitchen beyond has shallow 4-centred arched fireplace with keeping place and oven, and granite corbels to support hearth-stone of corbelled fireplace in room above. This chamber has C18 fielded panelling, moulded plaster ceiling cornice and panelled window shutters. Adjoining Governor's Chamber has bolection-moulded panelling, granite corbelled fireplace by a corner and a window seat in former gun position on its left. Panelled off in the other front corner is a latrine closet. Beside this, in the side

wall, is a blocked doorway which was cut through to provide access to former extensions. HISTORY: Pendennis and its sister castle at St Mawes were built to defend the approaches to Carrick Roads, one of the largest natural harbours in the country with extensive areas of deep water suitable for mooring large vessels and with enough room for a whole fleet of warships. This, and the harbour's strategic position at the entrance to the English Channel, plus the urgent need to prevent raids on the fast developing towns on its shores, made their construction imperative. The 2 castles were capable of considerable fire-power with impressive range and they contained all the available military innovation of their time. This technology was updated from time to time and served as an effective deterrent from attack. In 1644 Queen Henrietta Maria took shelter here previous to her embarkation for the Continent. The first real threat to the castle came in 1646 during the Civil War, when, with a small force under the leadership of the 86 year old Colonel John Arundel of Trerice, it withstood a siege of 5 months. After losing about 300 men from starvation, Arundel and the surviving 900 men surrendered. They were granted full honours of war and marched out "with colours flying, trumpets sounding, drums beating, matches lighted at both ends, bullets in their mouths, and every soldier twelve charges of powder". (Saunders A: Exploring England's Heritage, Devon and Cornwall: London: 1991-: 74 AND 75; Price M and H: Castles of Cornwall: Bodmin: 1980-: 44-53; Spreadbury ID: Castles in Cornwall and The Isles of Scilly: Redruth: 1984-: 42-51; Kelly: Kelly's Directory for Cornwall: London: 1910-: 106).

Listing NGR: SW8243431784


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

Legacy System number:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
Price, M, Price, H, Castles of Cornwall, (1980), 44-53
Saunders, A , Exploring Englands Heritage Devon and Cornwall, (1991), 74 75
Spreadbury, I D , Castles in Cornwall and The Isles of Scilly, (1984), 42-51
'Kellys Directory' in Cornwall, (1910), 106


This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

End of official listing

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Date: 10 Apr 2002
Reference: IOE01/06394/20
Rights: Copyright IoE Mr Peter Gliddon. Source Historic England Archive
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