Notes: The castle has a dedicated car park and is well sign-posted from Lostwithiel. For travel to the site of the Battle of Lostwithiel, please see the dedicated webpage.
WHAT IS THERE TO SEE?
Scenic ruins of a thirteenth century castle set in an extremely picturesque environment. The shell keep remains in it’s entirety and the circular keep within allows visitors impressive views over the surrounding area.
1. During the medieval period tin wasn’t mined but was collected from deposits close to streams and rivers and then purified by using the water to wash away the surplus minerals.
2. Restormel assumed the role of the administrative centre for Cornwall from nearby Launceston Castle due to being closer to the sources of the tin from which the bulk of revenue from the area was raised.
3. By the mid-fourteenth century Restormel would have been a comfortable lodging with piped water and surrounded by a deer party.
Originally built to control and suppress the turbulent South West in the years following the Norman invasion, Restormel controlled the main crossing point over the River Fowey. After seeing action in the Civil War, it then became a picturesque ruin until taken into the care of the State.
HISTORY OF RESTORMEL CASTLE
Although no mention of a castle is made in the Domesday book, it is likely that a castle was built at Restormel no later than 1090. Twenty years earlier the South West had acted as a redoubt for Godwin’s supporters following their defeat at the Battle of Hastings. A rebellion centred on Exeter in 1068 was followed by a general uprising in Cornwall and Devon in 1069; both events would have influenced the decision to build a castle at the strategic crossing of the River Fowey. Initial an earth and timber ringwork castle, it was later rebuilt in stone and this is the structure visible today; built circa-1270 it served predominantly as the central administrative hub Cornwall relieving nearby Launceston Castle of that role.
Restormel Castle saw no military role until the Civil War. In the Summer of 1644 the Parliamentary commander Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex invaded the South West. He sought to relieve Lyme and Plymouth, both of which were under siege by Royalist forces, and severe the flow of Cornish tin that was funding the King’s war machine. His campaign failed and he found himself cut-off from a mainland retreat by an army headed by the King himself; Essex fell back to Lostwithiel hoping to achieve an evacuation to sea via the port of Fowey. As Essex occupied Lostwithiel, Restormel Castle was held briefly by the Parliamentary force but, on the morning of 21 August 1644, Sir Richard Grenville stormed the castle with a Royalist force. The Battle of Lostwithiel would continue until 2 September when the Parliamentary force surrendered.
Restormel Castle then remained in Royalist hands until the following year. After the Battle of Naseby (1645), the Royalist cause was lost and Parliamentary forces commenced an assault on the South West. Restormel Castle was evacuated as they retreated to the West; an action that saved it being slighted following the war. However it was subsequently abandoned and allowed to drift into decay and ruin albeit it became the centrepiece of a landscaped view. Visited by Queen Victoria in 1846 and the future Edward VII in 1865, the castle passed into the hands of the Ministry of Works in 1925 and English Heritage in 1984.