From The Neolithic To The Sea: A Journey From The Past To The Present

Berry Pomeroy Castle

50° 26′ 56.4″ N 3° 38′ 11.76″ W

  • History
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Berry Pomeroy Castle is located about a mile north-east of the village of Berry Pomeroy in Devon. It occupies a limestone outcrop that overlooks the deep, wooded, narrow valley of the Gatcombe Brook.

The castle was built in the late 15th century by the Pomeroy family which had held the land since the 11th century. By 1547 the family was in financial difficulties and sold the lands to Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset. The castle has remained in the Seymour family ever since, although it was abandoned in the late 17th century when the fourth baronet moved to Wiltshire.

Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset, Lord Protector to the young King Edward VI, bought many properties in the late 1540's, and may never have visited Berry Pomeroy. He fell out of favour with the court and was beheaded on a charge of treason in 1552, upon which all his lands were forfeit to the Crown. It was not until 1558, after complex property dealings, that his son by his first marriage, Sir Edward Seymour, gained title to the castle. He became a considerable landowner, High Sheriff of Devon in 1583 and a Justice of the Peace in 1591. Between 1560 and 1580 he removed the earlier Pomeroy buildings inside the castle walls and erected a new four-storey house in the fashionable style of the period at the north end of the courtyard, the shell of which survives mostly to its original height

In around 1830 some of the crumbling walls were repaired by the Duke of Somerset, one of the first examples of architectural conservation work on a ruined building, probably prompted by concern over the safety of visitors.

After lying in ruins for a hundred years, in the 19th century the castle became celebrated as an example of the picturesque, and it became a popular tourist attraction.

Between 1980 and 1996 the castle was subjected to extensive archaeological excavations that clarified much of its history and overturned previously held beliefs regarding its age and cause of destruction.

Today the castle is a Grade I listed building, and is still owned by the Duke of Somerset, though it is in the care of English Heritage. The main carpark is in the quarry that was the source of much of the slate used for the Pomeroy buildings.