Pendennis Castle

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
For the GWR steam locomotive, see GWR 4073 Class 4079 Pendennis Castle.
Pendennis Castle
Falmouth, Cornwall, England
Pendennis Castle.jpg
Pendennis Castle keep
Pendennis Castle is located in Cornwall
Pendennis Castle
Pendennis Castle
Coordinates 50°08′50″N 5°02′52″W / 50.14722°N 5.04777°W / 50.14722; -5.04777
Type Device Fort
Site information
Owner English Heritage
Open to
the public
Condition Intact with later modifications
Site history
Built 1539
Built by Thomas Treffry

Pendennis Castle (Cornish: Kastel Penndinas)[1] is a Device Fort, or Henrician castle, on the west side of the estuary of the River Fal, near Falmouth in Cornwall. Together with St Mawes Castle its companion fort on the opposite east bank, it was built by King Henry VIII between 1539 and 1545 to guard the entrance to River and to defend Carrick Roads from the perceived French and Spanish threat of naval attack.[2] The castle comprises a simple round tower and gatehouse enclosed by a lower curtain wall. It is now in the ownership of English Heritage.


Plan of the castle

Pendennis Castle was built as one of a chain of forts running along the coast of the southern half of Great Britain from Hull in the east to Milford Haven in the west. The building programme was in response to the threat of invasion by the French and Spanish, following the rejection of the Roman Catholic religion by King Henry VIII and the adoption of Protestantism at the Reformation. The Pope had asked the catholic kings of France and Spain to invade England to perform a restoration of the Catholic faith. The English were aware that the French and Spanish were familiar with the strategic area of the Carrick Roads, perhaps as an anchorage from which to launch a land invasion, having had a naval battle there shortly before, and knew it to be largely unprotected. It thus appeared urgent to Henry that defences were required.

Siege of 1646[edit]

Map showing location of Pendennis Castle

Pendennis Castle played an important role in the Civil War and was the last Royalist position to be held in the Westcountry and was the last Royal castle to fall in England. A Royalist garrison withstood there a five-month siege (March 1646 to 17 August 1646) from Parliamentarian forces before surrendering with honour. The Parliamentarian forces attacked the castle from both land and sea, when the Royalist garrison at Pendennis, largely formed of Cornishmen was under the command of the 70-year-old John VII Arundel (1576-1654) of Trerice. Pendennis was the third from the last stronghold, before Raglan Castle and Harlech Castle, to hold out for the Royalists. About 1,000 men, women and children survived the 155-day siege at the castle before being forced to surrender due to of starvation.[3] Previously it had given sanctuary to Queen Henrietta Maria, and the Prince of Wales (the future King Charles II), before their escape to France.[4][5]

List of Governors[edit]

The first Governor appointed by King Henry VIII was John III Killigrew (d.1567) of Arwennack, Falmouth[6] whose monumental brass survives in Budock Church. The Governorship became virtually hereditary in his family for several generations.

Associated fortifications[edit]

Crab Quay[7] lies below Pendennis Castle on the northeast face of the headland. It is the most suitable location for a landing, and a battery was built here in the late 17th or early 18th century, first recorded on a map of 1715. Below Crab Quay battery are five "D"-shaped concrete platforms just above the water level. These were the foundations for searchlights supporting the Middle Point battery. All surface structures belonging to Middle Point were demolished in the 1960s.

The Little Dennis Blockhouse was built as part of the wider defences of the castle in the 1540s. The blockhouse was a stone, D-shaped building overlooking the River Fal and the sea. It was dismantled in 1654.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Place-names in the Standard Written Form (SWF) : List of place-names agreed by the MAGA Signage Panel. Cornish Language Partnership.
  2. ^ Philip Payton. (1996). Cornwall. Fowey: Alexander Associates
  3. ^ BBC News 2006 – Pendennis Castle
  4. ^ Pendennis Castle – history
  5. ^ Philip Payton (1996). Cornwall. Fowey: Alexander Associates
  6. ^ Dunkin, Edwin Hadlow Wise, The Monumental Brasses of Cornwall with Descriptive, Geneaological and Heraldic Notes, 1882, pp.36-7
  7. ^ Jenkins, S., "Crab Quay Battery", Fort (Fortress Study Group), No. 37, 2009, pp. 3–14
  8. ^ "Little Dennis Blockhouse", Historic England, retrieved 10 May 2015 

Further reading[edit]

  • Colvin, H. M. (ed) (1982). The History of the King's Works, Vol. IV, 1485–1600, Part II. London: H.M. Stationery Office
  • Fry, Plantagenet Somerset (1980) The David & Charles Book of Castles. Newton Abbot: David & Charles ISBN 0-7153-7976-3
  • Harrington, Peter (2007). The Castles of Henry VIII. Oxford: Osprey ISBN 978-1-84603-130-4
  • Jenkins, S., "Pendennis Castle, Cornwall", Fort (Fortress Study Group), No. 25, 1997, pp. 169–235
  • Linzey, Richard (1999). The Castles of Pendennis and St. Mawes. London: English Heritage ISBN 1-85074-723-7
  • Morley, B. M. (1976). Henry VIII and the Development of Coastal Defence. London: H.M. Stationery Office ISBN 0-11-670777-1

External links[edit]