Notes: Castle is easily found in Tiverton and is well sign-posted. The castle has a dedicated car park.
WHAT IS THERE TO SEE?
Much of the medieval Tiverton Castle is now gone; the bulk of the remains are the Round Tower (modified in Tudor times) and partial ruins of the curtain wall. Nevertheless the site is well worth a visit and boasts an impressive collection of Civil War era armour.
3. Tiverton was once a "rotten borough" represented by two MPs despite its small size. Its most famous MP was Lord Palmerston, who commissioned the vast lines of nineteenth century fortresses around Britain's key naval dockyards.
Corner Turret. The only surviving round tower from the medieval curtain wall. The windows were Tudor era modifications.
Originally a Saxon Royal Manor, Tiverton Castle was built in the early twelfth century when it was granted to Richard de Redvers whose descendants later became the Earls of Devon. The castle seemed to have a relatively peaceful history until the Civil War when it was stormed by Parliamentary forces under Sir Thomas Fairfax.
HISTORY OF TIVERTON CASTLE
Situated at the point near where the Rivers Exe and Lowman merge, the area around Tiverton has been fortified for thousands of years. An Iron Age hillfort (known as Cranmore Castle) was positioned on Exeter Hill overlooking the modern town which was established by Saxon settlers around AD 650. A Royal Manor from the start, by the time of the Norman Conquest it was owned by Gytha Thorkelsdóttir, mother to King Harold II. No evidence exists of a castle being constructed here in the immediate wake of the Norman invasion of 1066 nor after William I's campaigns to suppress the 1067 revolt against his rule centred on Exeter. However its status as one of the former Royal dynasty’s Manors probably meant it suffered greatly as William advanced West.
In 1106, Henry I granted the manor to Richard de Redvers who built Tiverton Castle in the form of an earth and timber motte-and-bailey structure. For his support to her cause during the Anarchy Richard's son, Baldwin, was created Earl of Devon around 1141. His descendants rebuilt the castle in stone during the thirteenth century in a quadrangular configuration with round towers at each corner. It passed to the Courtenay family in 1293 although it the title, Earl of Devon, was not granted until 1335. The gatehouse was substantially rebuilt around 1350.
Tiverton Castle remained the primary residence of the Courtenay family until 1539 when Henry VIII executed the then owner Henry Courtenay, Earl of Devon after his alleged involvement in a plot against the King. His son and heir, 12 year old Edward Courtenay, was imprisoned in the Tower of London and all his properties were confiscated. The castle then passed through various owners before being restored to Edward upon the accession of Mary I. However, Edward himself was implicated in a plot against the Queen and he was exiled abroad dying in Padua in 1556. The castle was sold to Roger Gifford and thereafter let to tenant farmers. The castle's defensive and residential elements were unused and allowed to decay.
The castle was hastily reactivated during the Civil War. Tiverton, like much of the South West, was held by the Royalists. The town, but not the castle, was briefly taken by Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex in 1644 as he moved his forces into the South West in an attempt to wrestle the area from Royalist control. His defeat at the Battle of Lostwithiel in August 1644 terminated his campaign with the King’s forces resuming control but, following the decisive Royalist defeat at the Battle of Naseby (1645), Parliamentary forces once again advanced into the area. An army under Major General Massey entered the town on 15 October 1645 placing the Royalist garrison within the castle under siege. Within days the main bulk of the Army had arrived under Sir Thomas Fairfax complete with heavy artillery; after several days of bombardment a lucky shot broke one of the drawbridge chains enabling the castle to be stormed by Fairfax's men. Having taken custody of Tiverton Castle, Fairfax established his Winter Quarters there. The castle's defences were partially demolished after the Civil War to prevent its further use as a military stronghold and it subsequently passed through multiple owners as a residential property.