Featured image of St Mawes Castle

The History of St Mawes Castle

LocationFalmouth, Cornwall, England (Google Map)
Open for VisitorsYes
Owned byEnglish Heritage
Rooms AvailableYes (Wedding, Events)

St Mawes Castle is a 15th-century artillery fort located in Falmouth, Cornwall. It was built under the instruction of Henry VIII and played a major role in the Device Programme of the King to protect Carrick Roads waterway at River Fal from attacks from France and the Roman Empire. Now, the castle is managed by English Heritage and listed as a Grade I building. It is open to the public, so you can go and explore the history and architecture of the castle.


St Mawes Castle was built when there were a lot of international tensions going on between England, France, and the Roman Empire between 1540 and 1542. King Henry VIII decided to build a Device fort to protect the South Coasts. The total amount invested in the castle’s construction was £5,018, and it was supervised by Thomas Treffry, who also looked after Pendennis Castle’s construction at that time. At that time, St Mawes, along with its sister castle, Pendennis Castle, offered the defence system to Carrick Roads, one of the largest natural harbours in England. Both castles helped defenders to overlap fire across the water.

During the English Civil War, the St Mawes Castle was occupied by the Royalists, supporters of King Charles I. However, because of not being defensible enough from land attacks, it was surrendered to Parliamentary forces in 1646. In the late 17th century, a leaf-covered dome was added to the castle’s turret to be used as a navigational aid.

The castle was used as a fort between the 18th and 19th centuries. However, In the early 1850s, the castle was redeveloped as per new military technology under the fear of fresh conflict with France. The barracks and substantial gun batteries were added to the old fashioned St Mawes Castle.

In the late 18th century, the lower gun battery with three flanks was built in the St Mawes castle. During the Napoleonic Wars, the gun battery armed the castle with twelve guns. In 1870, the battery was attacked by 64 pounder guns and got damaged. In 1898, it was remodelled again with the capacity of housing two six-pounder quick-firing guns and a heavy machine gun. After 1905, the St Mawes guns were removed because the conflicts between England and France were resolved. Between 1920 and 1939, the state opened the castle for tourists and visitors.

St Mawes Castle was brought into service in the Second World War. The naval artillery and anti-aircraft guns were installed in the castle to defend it against German attacks. The castle again started operating as a tourist attraction after the end of the War. Since the 21st century, the castle has been operated by English Heritage. St Mawes Castle weddings are also organised here. Check out St Mawes Castle opening times and visit it whenever you are near Falmouth.


St Mawes Castle
St Mawes Castle”, by Tom Parnell, is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

St Mawes Castle is a Henrician castle built using slatestone rubble and granite. It has a beautiful clover leaf design, and the main features you can notice in it are a four-storey circular tower or keep and three circular bastions located around it. The castle’s unique architecture is believed to be influenced by Stefan Von Haschenperg, a Moravian engineer who constructed other artillery forts during the 16th century. Since its original construction, the castle has undergone many alterations, but its Henrician structure has never been touched.

The interior of St Mawes castle is decorated with stone and wooden carvings and inscriptions from Henry VIII’s time. It also includes many craved works related to the sea. The main castle is entered from the gatehouse, a polygonal 15 feet tall building built from stone. You will notice gun loops and murder holes all across the gatehouse. The castle’s yard is about 20 by 59 feet and has been located on the site since 1735. It includes a stone bridge, which crosses the wide moat and connects it to the castle.

The central tower of St Mawes castle is 47 feet tall and has 8 feet thick walls. You will find the basement in it. The second storey of the castle includes four chambers with big windows and fireplaces. The third floor of the castle includes a large single room, which was earlier used for storing guns. And the fourth floor was earlier used as a parapeted gun platform.

You will also notice five forward bastions in the castle, earlier used as gun platforms. They include various artillery pieces from the 18th and 19th centuries. Many other Gun batteries and auxiliary buildings are spread on the St Mawes Castle’s site.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who built St Mawes Castle?

St Mawes Castle was built by Henry VIII as an artillery fort between 1540 and 1542. He hired Tomas Treffry, under whose direction the castle got its unique clover leaf design.

What are St Mawes Castle opening times?

St Mawes Castle opening times are 10 am to 5 pm all days of the week. The opening times may vary on public holidays.

Have you visited this castle before? If yes, why not share some beautiful pictures with us!
You can email us your pictures of the castle at castrumtocastle@gmail.com. Please use the name of the castle in the subject line.
Also, don’t forget to mention your name and social media profile link if you want the credits!

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