Notes: Castle parking is located in Castle Lane - you will see a sign pointing you in this direction at the roundabout. If you miss the sign you’ll end up on the adjacent hill looking down on the castle.
WHAT IS THERE TO SEE?
Significant ruins of a motte and bailey castle situated in a wood. There is access on top of the motte but regrettably not on top of the top crowning it. Note the castle is only open during the Summer months.
1. Baldwin FitzGilbert (also known as Baldwin de Meules) had accompanied William I in the invasion of England in 1066 and was richly rewarded. The Domesday book of 1086 shows extensive landholdings in Devon. In addition to his castle of Okehampton, he was appointed as castellan of Exeter Castle.
2. During the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries Okehampton castle was owned by the Courtenay family
Towering over the River Okement, the castle at Okehampton started life as a Norman outpost serving the military campaign of conquest and control in the West Country. Aside from this early military function though the castle is not recorded as having any active service thereafter and principally served as a hunting lodge.
HISTORY OF OKEHAMPTON CASTLE
With rebellion against the Norman invasion brewing in the South West, William I (the Conqueror) appointed one of his closest supporters as Sheriff of Devon. Baldwin FitzGilbert (also known as Baldwin de Meules) was granted permission to build his own castle and he chose Okehampton where he constructed a traditional motte-and-bailey castle aimed at dominating the nearby Saxon settlement of Ocmundtune as well as several nearby trade routes.
The initial castle, as built in the early eleventh century, was largely a timber affair although the tower topping the motte had stone foundations and may have been partially a stone construction. A prosperous market developed around the castle, as noted in the Domesday book, but little further information is known about the castle at this time. It certainly isn’t recorded as playing any part in the civil war between King Stephen and Queen Matilda.
By the late thirteenth century, having lacked any significant modifications, the castle was outdated. Furthermore its role as a military stronghold had become superfluous with the owners having moved their focus to their primary residence at Tiverton. Modifications were made to make the castle an attractive retreat for hunting.
Unlike most other castles in the area Okehampton took no part in the Civil War perhaps because it was too ruinous. Thereafter the castle was allowed to slowly decay until it was taken into trust in 1917.