Castle Drive, St. Mawes, TR2 5DE
Tel: (01326) 270526
Best preserved of Henry VIII's coastal artillery fortresses
The dramatic coastline around St. Mawes was the setting for the popular television series Poldark. St. Mawes Castle, on the opposite headland to Pendennis Castle, just adds to the drama.
It has three huge circular bastions like clover leaves, and gun ports covering every angle of approach. It is the finest example of Tudor military architecture.
St. Mawes is one of the most decorated of Henry VIII's castles. The 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.
Henry VIII built the castle in 1539, together with Pendennis Castle to guard against attack from the French. It is hardly surprising, when you look at the powerful deterrent of the twin castles, that this attack never came.
Above the entrance is a carved Royal Coat of Arms. The gun loops on either side of the door offer a very restricted field of fire and appear sited more for decorative effect than for defence.
The kitchen is in the basement, lit by windows at ground level in the side bastions. The water for the fort would have been obtained from a well here.
The gun platforms at here, were like Pendennis Castle, 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 has several cannons 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 Castle, like its neighbour Pendennis Castle did not see action against the French or the Spanish during the Tudor period. The defences were improved by Elizabeth I following the Spanish landings and subsequent raid on Penzance in 1595; as a precaution against a possible full scale invasion.
St. Mawes was a Royalist stronghold during the Civil War. The Royalist commander, realising the castles inherent vulnerability from a land attack being located part way down the hillside, surrendered to the Roundheads shortly after being confronted.
During the First World War the castle formed part of a system of coastal batteries protecting Falmouth. Finally in 1956 the military moved out and the Ministry of Works took over to maintain the castle as an ancient monument.
From St. Mawes Castle there is a fine view of Falmouth, and of the pretty fishing village of St. Mawes itself.
St. Mawes Castle is now managed by English Heritage.
On the western most edge of the town on the A3078.
22nd March - 31st October: Daily, 10.00am - 6.00pm (6.00pm/dusk in October)
Pendennis Castle Restormel Castle Launceston Castle
St. Mawes Tintagel Castle Trematon Castle Cornwall's History English Heritage in Cornwall