Feature Image of Totnes Castle

Everything you need to know before you visit Totnes Castle

Totnes Castle has a long and fascinating history, dating back to the 11th century. This Norman castle was built by Baldwin de Brione and was later taken over by the Earl of Devon. Today, the castle is managed by English Heritage and is open to the public.

LocationTotnes, Devon, England (Google Map Location)
Open for VisitorsYes
Owned byEnglish Heritage
Rooms AvailableTourism and Filming

Totnes Castle History

Totnes Castle
Totnes Castle, by kitmasterbloke, is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Totnes Castle is a Norman motte and bailey castle in Totnes, England. The original motte and bailey castle was built in the 11th century by the first Norman earl of Devon, Baldwin Fitz Gilbert.

In 1264 during the Baron’s War between King Henry III and his rebel barons, the castle was besieged and captured by the royalists. It changed hands several times during the war and was finally recaptured by the king’s forces in 1265. The castle remained in royal hands until 1322, when it was granted to Edmund of Woodstock, Earl of Kent. Edmund did extensive repairs and alterations to the castle, including constructing a new gatehouse.

In 1385, Totnes Castle was attacked and captured by Richard II supporters, who opposed King Henry IV’s seizure of power. The castle remained in rebel hands until 1388 when royalist forces retook it.

The castle continued to be used as a Royalist stronghold during the Civil War (1642-1646). In 1646, it was besieged and captured by Parliamentary troops. Most of the castle was destroyed to prevent it from being used again as a military fortress. The castle was used as a courthouse and prison until 1825 when it was sold to the Duke of Somerset. The Duke carried out some restoration work, and it gradually became a popular tourist destination. Today, the castle is managed by English Heritage and is open to the public.

Totnes Castle Architecture

Totnes Castle Architecture
Totnes Castle Architecture, by Pymouss, is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

Totnes Castle was built in the typical Norman style of the time, with a large central keep surrounded by an inner and outer bailey. The castle is mainly made of wood, with the great hall and keep being the only stone structures. The rest of the castle is constructed in wattle and daub technique, where wooden stakes are driven into the ground and then covered with twigs, mud, and dung. This construction was common in England then, but very little evidence remains today.

The castle has high ceilings and large windows in the great hall, which would have been used for feasts and other ceremonies. The castle’s keep is the oldest part of the castle, and it overlooks the gardens. It was built in the 11th century and was used as a residence for the castle’s owners. It is now open to the public. There are several private rooms as well as a chapel. The north gatehouse still stands to full height and comprises two storeys with an archway on the ground floor approached by a flight of steps from the bailey. A spiral staircase in one corner of the gatehouse leads up to the parapet, with views over Totnes town and towards Dartmoor.

The gardens of Totnes Castle were first designed in the 12th century and are located on the castle’s south side. They were originally intended as a food source for the castle’s residents, but over time they became more ornamental. The gardens are now home to various flowers, trees, and shrubs.

The gardens are divided into four sections: the Outer Bailey, the Middle Bailey, the Inner Bailey, and the Keep Garden. Each section has its unique features.

  • The Outer Bailey is the largest section of the gardens and is home to a pond.
  • The Middle Bailey is located between the Outer Bailey and Inner Bailey. It is home to a herb garden.
  • The Inner Bailey is located between the Middle Bailey and Keep Garden. It is home to a vegetable garden.
  • The Keep Garden is located on top of the keep.

Totnes Castle Facts

  • The castle was besieged and captured by the rebel Robert Fitzwalter during the Anarchy in 1141.
  • In 1191, Lady Matilda de Lancelotti took control of the castle after murdering her husband, Richard de Redvers.
  • The castle was retaken by royal forces in 1218 and remained under royal control until being granted to Edmund Crouchback, Earl of Lancaster, in 1272. 
  • The castle saw action during the First Barons’ War in 1264 when Simon de Montfort’s rebel barons captured it.
  • Totnes Castle was used as a prison from medieval times until 1887.

Frequently Asked Questions

When was Totnes castle built?

The original motte and bailey castle was built in 1066 AD. 

Who built Totnes castle?

Totnes Castle was first built as a motte and bailey castle by Judhael of Brittany shortly after the Norman Conquest in 1066 AD.

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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