1. In 1478 Edward IV ordered the defensive chain protecting Fowey harbour to be confiscated and given to Dartmouth Castle / Kingswear Castle instead. Allegedly this action was taken due to the behaviour of Fowey locals, Treffry and Michelstow.
Early Artillery. The Gun Tower of Dartmouth Castle was one of the first of its kind in Britain. But early artillery lacked even medium distance effective range hence the construction of Kingswear.
Built to house a gun platform guarding the eastern side of the River Dart, Kingswear Castle was one of Britain’s first fortifications built specifically for artillery. Its exposed position plus developments in weaponry meant its operational lifespan was short but it was reactivated periodically including during the Civil War and World War II.
HISTORY OF KINGSWEAR CASTLE
When the Gun Tower of Dartmouth Castle had been built (started 1481), it was one of the first fortifications in Britain to have been designed for cannons. But these were early days for gunpowder artillery and despite the narrow entrance, the effective range was insufficient to adequately cover the River mouth. To mitigate the Dartmouth Corporation funded a second castle at Kingswear on the opposite bank. Kingswear Castle shared a similar design to the existing fortification with work commencing 1491 and complete by 1501. The artillery was augmented by a defensive chain that was controlled from Dartmouth Castle and could be hoisted to bar the entrance into the River; ship's attempting to break through were held under the combined firepower of both Dartmouth and Kingswear Castles. Nevertheless the Dartmouth Corporation funded a further fortification, Bayard’s Cove Fort, with a few years of Kingswear’s completion.
From the start Kingswear Castle suffered from its exposed position - significantly more so than Dartmouth - which quickly rendered any iron weaponry useless prompting the installation of expensive brass cannon instead. The rapid development in gunpowder artillery, coupled with the difficult conditions, saw Kingswear Castle abandoned in the mid sixteenth century.
In the Civil War Dartmouth supported Parliament and Kingswear Castle was re-activated. The Royalists laid siege to the town in October 1643 and took the town and both castles; the defences had been designed to attack shipping not withstand a land attack. As Royalist fortunes waned Parliamentary forces under Sir Thomas Fairfax retook the area following a night assault. With their defensive position untenable both Kingswear and Dartmouth Castles surrendered. At some point thereafter Kingswear Castle suffered a significant fire that gutted the structure. Transferred to Crown management it was repaired and re-armed during the late seventeenth/early eighteenth century - most probably a response to one of the many wars with France in this period.
The castle was allowed to decline from the late eighteenth century and by 1855 was ruinous when it was purchased by Charles Seale Hayne who transformed it into a lavish Summer residence. Briefly taken into military use during Word War II, when it became barracks for a coastal defence unit manned by Royal Marines, it was purchased in 1987 by the Landmark Trust and is now let as a holiday home.