History of Berry Pomeroy Castle
'De Pomeroy' name goes back farther from when the castle we
see today was first built. In the Domesday book the name Ralph
de Pomeroy, one of the original Norman followers of the Conquerer
is listed as Manor of the Land. It is said that Raplh decided
against establishing himself on an existing site and instead
ventured off into the accompanying woodland to locate the
most inaccessible area he could find. Early documents show
that this area was listed as a 'messuage' (meaning a family
dwelling) or 'capitol messuage', the home where the estate
Although no evidence can be
found, it is thought that the original castle that first stood
there was most likely built in a 'scarped and palisaded' shell-keep
style and made from wood. It is in 1496 that the first reference
to the castle as it stands today is first mentioned. It appears
when Elizabeth, widow of Richard Pomeroy, was assigned a third
of both the castle and Capital Messuage. The document that
states this makes it clear that these buildings were on different
The original building was comprised
of the gatehouse, gunports, Lady Margaret's Tower and the
outer wall and evidence suggests that this was built in the
late 15th century, making it one of the last tradition, personal
castles ever to have been built in the UK. No trace of any
earlier settlement or building has yet to be discovered.
was during the time of the Pomeroy's inhabitance that one
of the castles most tragic stories occured. Two sisters lived
within the castle; Margaret and Eleanor de Pomeroy. Legend
says that both ladies fell in love with the same man but the
object of their desire only had eyes for Margaret. Eleanor,
insanely jealous, lured Margaret to what is now known as St.
Margaret's Tower and imprisoned her, leaving her to starve
In 1547 the castle was bought
from Thomas Pomeroy by Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset
and brother to Jane Seymour, wife of King Henry VIII (when
King Henry VIII died the follower to the crown was his 9 year
old son, Edward VI. Edward Seymour was declared Lord Protector
to the young king). He bought many properties but didn't visit
many, Berry Pomeroy probably included. In 1552 Edward Seymour
fell out of favour with the Royal Coury and was beheaded on
a charge of treason. For 6 years the property was laid forfeit
to the crown until Edward's son, also called Edward managed
to regain ownership of the building after complex property
It was at this time that the
castle underwent massive regeneration. Edward had the earlier
Pomeroy buildings demolished so that the only remains of the
earlier castle were the gatehouse, ramparts, Margarets Tower
and the old Kitchen and had the huge, four-storey mansion
house built at the North end of the courtyard. Building went
on from around 1560 to 1580. It's said that this building
work cost £20,000 - a small fortune in those days. After
Edward died in 1593 his son, also called Edward, added the
North Range to the castle at around 1600. Edward died in 1613
and there is a monument to him in the nearby village church.
son, Edward, was Governer of Dartmouth, an MP and was knighted
in 1603. During the civil war he sided with the Royalists
and was duly captured. During his imprisonment in London Berry
Pomeroy Castle was raided by Parliamentarians. The estate
was sequestered by Oliver Cromwell but Sir Edward was allowed
to stay at the castle until his death in 1659. His son Edward
was also a Royalist and, like his father, was imprisoned in
Exeter until 1655. After Edwards death in 1688 an inventory
was drawn up of the castle. This indicates that the castle
contained around 50 rooms although after years of neglect
the building was not in good shape. There was no money to
fund repairs or to complete unfinished work due to the vast
expense Edward had incurred in the Royalist cause.
His son, Edward was aged 55
when his father died and was MP for Exeter. Because of the
location of the castle and how badly damaged it was he preferred
to live at Bradley House in Wiltshire. It is said that Edward
stripped the castle of useful material to fund the rebuilding
of Bradley House which was completed in 1710.
Legend tells us that the castle
was further ravaged by fire around this time, ultimately leaving
it in a state of disrepair. Certainly by 1701 the castle was
in ruin as an author named John Prince, a visitor to the castle
in its heyday, wrote in his book 'The Worthies of Devon' -
"... The apartments within were very splendid; especially
the dining room, which was adorn'd, besides paint, with statues
and figures cut in alabaster […] 'tis now demolished,
and all this glory lieth in the dust…".
For nearly three centuries
the castle was left to slowly crumble away. Residents of the
nearby village took stone and material from the building to
build their own houses. This can be seen. As you approach
the castle you pass a small collection of buildings just before
you drive onto the track that takes you up to the castle.
The window decorations on these buildings are identical to
the ones remaining at the castle.
It wasn't until 1977 that the
castle was saved. It was taken over by English Heritage who
restored and strengthed the castle to how it looks today.
It was during this restoration in 178 that there was an original,
surviving wallpainting that dated back to the 15th century.
This wallpainting, hidden by years of vegetation growth, shows
'The Adoration of the Magi'.
The castle is a Grade 1 listed
building and in 2008 the original Kitchen area that had been
closed off from the public for many years was finally reopened.