Totnes Castle: An Architectural Gem In The Heart Of Devon

Totnes Castle is the only castle in Devon (a county in the south west of England) that still has its original medieval walls. It is a small and unusual fortification, with origins dating back to before the Norman conquest of England.

Totnes Castle

Its design and location make it unique, helping to give this small town a big reputation as one of the most interesting places to visit in Devon.

Totnes Castle was built by Richard de Redvers at a time when as many as 25 castles existed in this small area; he probably rebuilt an existing Motte-and-bailey castle on the same site, which was surrounded by protective earth ramparts and moat.

Almost everything we see today dates from just after his death in 1090, when his grandson Alan rebuilt it using stone instead of wood. The gatehouse and curtain wall were also rebuilt around that time, making it the oldest example of defensive architecture in all of Devon.

Today you can see some of these original walls and structures with your very own eyes, so let’s take a closer look at what you can expect to find there…


The History of Totnes Castle

In 1068, Richard de Redvers, the Earl of Devon, built a castle on the south bank of the River Dart. It was the first castle built in England after the Norman Conquest and was designed for defence against the native British.

It was a small motte-and-bailey castle built on an earth mound with a wooden palisade, surrounded by a moat. It is likely that it was built on the site of a previous wooden Anglo-Saxon fortification. It was not an impressive castle by any means, but it was practical and did the job. His grandson, Alan de Redvers, rebuilt the castle around 1140 in stone.

It was much improved thanks to its 11-metre high curtain wall and the addition of an impressive gatehouse, with a two-storey tower on the outside corner. After that, it is likely that the castle was rarely used, although it was certainly maintained. In 1217, the castle was given to the Abbey of Tor Abbey. It remained under their control until the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 16th century.

After that it fell into disrepair and was mostly demolished. The gatehouse, however, was maintained and used as the town Gaol, until it was also demolished in the 19th century. The only remaining part of the original castle is the motte, which is a grassy mound with a hole in it.


Where is Totnes Castle?

Where is Totnes Castle?

Totnes Castle is on the south bank of the River Dart in the heart of Totnes. The exact location is on the corner of Church Street and the Castle Road. You can’t miss it — it’s right in the centre of town…

The easiest way to get to Totnes Castle is to take the train. There is a mainline train station in town that is served by trains from London. You can also drive to Totnes using the A38 and A380. There is ample parking nearby, including a large car park at the top of the hill on the east side of town.


What to See at Totnes Castle Today

The medieval earthworks are the most impressive and still visible from the surrounding streets. The earthwork defences consist of a wide moat and a bank approximately 3 metres high.

Although the earthworks have been altered over the years, their general form has remained the same since the castle was built.

The only surviving bit of the original stone structure is the small round tower that once stood at the entrance. It is now called the Keep and is built into the wall of the church next door. It was also used for storing goods and as a prison.

The small round tower that once stood at the entrance has now been incorporated into the wall of the Church next door. The rest of the wall used to be right next to the church.

However, in the 19th century, the sea wall was built along the bank of the river and the pathway was built in front of the wall. Now only the tops of the wall are visible through the bushes.


Tips for Visiting Totnes Castle

The church and the castle are both open to the public. There is a small entrance fee (see above) so make sure you have some cash on you.

The best time to visit is during the summer when the surrounding gardens are in bloom. The Castle Gardens is a wonderful place to walk and relax, and the River Dart is a great place for fishing, walking, and canoeing.

The town of Totnes is easily accessible from all parts of the country thanks to its location on the A38 and A380. There is ample parking near the town centre and many places to stay in the area. You can also visit by train, with a direct line from London.


Final Words

Totnes Castle is the only surviving example of an early castle in Devon, built the year after the Norman Conquest. It was the first castle built in England after the Conquest and was designed for defence against the native British.

The castle was built on the south bank of the River Dart by Richard de Redvers, the Earl of Devon. It was a small motte-and-bailey castle built on an earth mound with a wooden palisade, surrounded by a moat. It is likely that it was built on the site of a previous wooden Anglo-Saxon fortification. It was not an impressive castle by any means, but it was practical and did the job.

His grandson, Alan de Redvers, rebuilt the castle around 1140 in stone. It was much improved thanks to its 11-metre high curtain wall and the addition of an impressive gatehouse, with a two-storey tower on the outside corner.

After that, it is likely that the castle was rarely used, although it was certainly maintained. In 1217, the castle was given to the Abbey of Tor Abbey. It remained under their control until the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 16th century.

After that it fell into disrepair and was mostly demolished. The only remaining part of the original castle is the grassy mound, which is now known as Castle Hill.