A highlight property for English Heritage, Pendennis offers the Henry VIII castle, complete with internal reconstructions, and a range of additional structures/defences built in the subsequent years. The sister castle of St Mawes and the later St Anthony Head Battery are visible across the Carrick Roads.
1. In 1596 the Spanish specifically set out to capture Pendennis but, as with 1588, bad weather drove them away. Nevertheless significant upgrades, including angled bastions, were added to the castle in the subsequent years.
2. As the invasion fears of the eighteenth/nineteenth centuries subsided, especially after Nelson’s victory at Trafalgar (1805), Pendennis was utilised as a supply base for the British Army.
3. As protection against German E-Boat (fast surface attack craft) strikes, an electrically activated minefield was installed during WWII which was controlled and activated from newly built observation posts at Pendennis.
Little Dennis Blockhouse
Notes: Castle is a major tourist attraction and well sign-posted. Ample parking in near vicinity of castle. In Summer a (passenger) ferry runs to St Mawes.
Built on a peninsula jutting out into the Carrick Roads, Pendennis Castle was one of Henry VIII’s Device forts. After a narrow escape from a Spanish attack in the Elizabethan period, the castle first saw action the Civil War where it suffered a lengthy siege from Parliamentary forces. Constantly upgraded through its life, it remained in use until WWII.
HISTORY OF PENDENNIS CASTLE
Pendennis was one of thirty artillery castles commissioned by Henry VIII due to the increased tensions following the Act of Supremacy in 1534 which made the King, rather than the Pope, "supreme head" of the English church. This, coupled with an alliance between France and the Holy Roman Emperor, made the possibility of a French or Spanish invasion seem a distinct possibility. Along with her sister castle at St Mawes, Pendennis gave protection to the Fal estuary and the Carrick Roads. Built on a narrow peninsula jutting out into the Carrick Roads between 1540 and 1545 it was a new concept in castle construction; designed specifically for massed artillery capable of laying down fire in any direction. Situated on the high ground the Tudor castle was also augmented by a smaller gun tower at the waterline (Little Dennis). Earthworks provided protection against land attack.
The invasion scare of the 1540s passed without incident but conflict with Spain, culminating in the Spanish Armada of 1588 and subsequent invasion attempts, resulted in Pendennis remaining garrisoned and even upgraded. It was not however until the Civil War that Pendennis saw action. Falmouth and Pendennis was held by Royalist forces with the local tin trade being an important source of income for the Crown. But by 1646 Parliamentary forces were driving into the South West pushing the Royalists into the sea. The castle was placed under siege by General Fairfax and after a three month siege a lack of food forced surrender leaving just distant Harlech as the sole remaining mainland Royalist garrison.
Defences were next upgraded in the eighteenth century in response to fears of a French invasion with additional gun batteries being added to protect the landward approaches whilst Half Moon Battery was added for concentrated fire power over the Carrick Roads. These defences continued to upgraded throughout the latter half of the nineteenth century and during the World Wars.