St Mawes Castle

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English Heritage castles and monuments in CornwallSt Mawes, Cornwall TR2 3AA. Tel 01326 270526

Facilities: Picnics welcome. Gift shop. Souvenir guide available. Toilets. Parking.

How to get there.
Road: in St Mawes on A3078.
Foot: Ferry: St Mawes Ferry Company from Falmouth, Prince of Wales Pier (Tel: 01326 - 313234).
Car: via King Harry Ferry at Feock on B3289 (Tel: 01872 - 72463).

Map Reference: SW 842328

St Mawes Castle, Roseland Peninsula, CornwallThe dramatic Cornish coastline around St Mawes was used as the setting for the popular television series Poldark. The impressive St Mawes Castle, built between 1539 and 1545 just adds to the drama of this evocative landscape. From the castle at St Mawes there are fine views across the estuary towards Falmouth and Pendennis Castle, and of the pretty fishing village of St Mawes itself with its little boat-filled harbour, the passenger ferry tracking across the Fal, and the splendid coastline. St Mawes is also the start of some delightful walks along the coastal path.

Henry VIII, built St Mawes and its larger sister castle, Pendennis, as part of a defensive chain of fortresses to protect the south coast of England. St Mawes was built half way down the hillside on the eastern shore of the River Fal estuary to provide protection to the large inland expanse of water known as the Carrick Roads. St Mawes was constructed with a central tower overlooking three huge circular bastions attached on the sides in a clover leaf pattern, providing a wide area for gun placements, with gun ports covering every angle of approach to the estuary.

St Mawes is one of the finest examples of Tudor military architecture, being one of the most decorated of Henry VIII's castle forts. The castles stonework was embellished with string courses, elaborately carved gargoyles and detailed windows. The Royal Coat of Arms is carved into the stonework above the entrance, with more carved inscriptions throughout the interior of the castle, proclaiming loyalty to Henry and the Crown.

The central tower was designed with four floors. You enter the tower by a bridge to the third level. The elaborate decorations were continued inside the tower, with wooden carvings of a cherub, a monk, Tudor roses and fleur-de-lis surviving to the present day. The gun platforms at St Mawes, were like Pendennis well designed, with the towers upper gun deck being built with ventilation shafts above the gun placements to disperse the smoke. The forward gun room at the castle has several canons on display to the general public; you can still see the sockets in the walls that held the large beams to support the gun tackle needed to manoeuvre the large cannon.

St Mawes, like its neighbour Pendennis did not see action against the French or the Spanish during the Tudor period. The defences were improved by Elizabeth I in preparation for a full scale invasion, following the Spanish landings and raid on Penzance and Mounts Bay in 1595; but this never materialised. St Mawes was a Royalist stronghold - along with Pendennis - during the English Civil War. The Royalist commander at St. Mawes, realising the castles inherent vulnerability from a land attack being located part way down the hillside - surrendered to the Roundheads shortly after being confronted. The castle at Pendennis commanded by Sir John Arundel and assisted by Sir Henry Killigrew, was in a much better strategic position, perched securely on top of the hill and although completely cut off by Parliamentarian forces, resisted the siege for six months.

English Heritage in CornwallEnglish Heritage in CornwallEnglish Heritage Sites in Cornwall:

Chysauster Ancient Village | Launceston Castle | Lostwitiel Castle | St. Mawes Castle | Pendennis Castle | Tintagel Castle

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