WEEK ST MARY CASTLE

Week St Mary Castle was an earth and timber ringwork fortification that was probably built in the late eleventh century by Richard FitzTurold. A prosperous village grew up adjacent to the site and this retains its medieval layout clearly demonstrating the close relationship between castle, church and market.

History

 

The boundary between Cornwall and Wessex was traditionally the River Tamar, a vast natural barrier that almost severed the peninsula from the mainland. However, by the ninth century AD the West Saxons were starting to encroach into Cornwall and the small hamlet of Wich was one of numerous Saxon settlements that emerged at this time. Located just two miles to the west of the River Tamar, the settlement occupied a ridge of high ground and was in close proximity to an earlier hillfort at Ashbury suggesting the region was already on an existing trade route between Bude, Launceston and inner Cornwall. By the time of the Norman Conquest, Wich was a small village and in the Domesday survey of 1086 it was held by Richard FitzTurold who was the steward to Robert of Mortain, Earl of Cornwall. It was probably Richard who raised the castle on the site.

 

Week St Mary Castle was built upon a spur of high ground that projected to the west of the village. It consisted of a small earth and timber ringwork fortification approximately 42 metres in diameter. The circular rampart, which would have been topped with a timber palisade, was surrounded by a ditch which was crossed by a causeway on the north-east side leading to the entrance. At least one bailey existed to the east abutting the site of St Mary's church. Further manorial structures were located to the south.

 

The castle passed through Richard's descendants, who took the name de Wick and were still occupying the site in the twelfth century. During the thirteenth century the village was granted a charter authorising a market and fair but by this stage the castle had probably gone out of use. Over the subsequent years 'Wick' became corrupted into 'Week' whilst St Mary was added to distinguish it from similarly named settlements.

 

 

Bibliography

 

Allen, R (1976). English Castles. Batsford, London.

Cornish, J.B (1906). Ancient Earthworks.

Daniel, J (1854). A Geography of Cornwall.

Higham, R.A (1999). Castles, Fortified Houses and Fortified Towns in the Middle Ages. University of Exeter Press, Exeter.

King, C.D.J (1983). Castellarium anglicanum: an index and bibliography of the castles in England, Wales and the Islands.  Kraus International Publications.

Preston-Jones, A (1987). Week St Mary. The Archaeology and Interpretation of a Parish. Historic Environment Service, Cornwall.

Salter, M (1999). The Castles of Devon and Cornwall. Folly Publications.

Spreadbury, I.D (1984). Castles in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. Redruth.

What's There?

Week St Mary Castle is a ringwork fortification but only low earthworks survive. The village retains its medieval layout enabling the visitor to appreciate the close relationship between castle, church and market. The castle site is open access countryside.

Ringwork. The castle was a ringwork fortification but its earth bank is now just a fraction of its former size.

Ringwork Ditch.

St Mary's Church. The placing of the church, castle and market suggests all three were founded concurrently. However, the current church dates from the 1400s although it does incorporate some thirteenth century masonry.

Getting There

Week St Mary is sign-posted from the A39 either via the turning at Box's Shop or Coppathorne. There is a car park in the village square. The castle itself is found just to the north of St Mary's church.

Car Parking Option

EX22 6XH

50.751278N 4.500331W

Week St Mary Castle

No Postcode

50.752602N 4.501519W