Restormel Castle is one of the places we would not have found except for the English Heritage map and book. [see “English Heritage” passes.., July 2015] It is back a winding road — almost everything in Cornwall seems to be back a winding road — and there were only a few cars in the parking lot.
Nonetheless, it is an impressive place to see if for no other reason that it is a circular castle. Castles often may have a round keep or tower, but the walls are usually straight. Several signs proclaimed the Black Prince had used the place. I couldn’t remember who the Black Prince was.
A wood and stone fortification was built around 1100 to control traffic crossing the river Fowey. Later in the century and in the early 13th century, a local lord rebuilt the place completely in stone and gave the castle its current design.
The wealth of the area was built on the Cornish tin trade, but pollution from the mining caused the Fowey harbor to silt up literally leaving the place a backwater.
The King of England took back possession of Restormel in 1337 and the place remained a Crown property and part of the Duchy of Cornwall thereafter.
It was primarily used for show. Edward the Black Price did indeed stay at the castle in 1354 and 1365 summoning his feudal vassals to pay him homage as the Duke of Cornwall. But he was not a resident, and gradually the castle was stripped of its contents which were moved to other residences.
Parliamentary forces briefly occupied Restormel in the 1642-1646 Civil War, but it was recaptured by Royalists in 1644. During that period, many castles were deliberately damaged so they could not be used militarily in the future. That may have happened there because by the middle of the next century the castle was in ruins.
Nineteenth century romantics extolled such old ruins. Even the British royal family visited Restormel on holiday (vacation) in 1846.
Who was the Black Prince? The name was familiar to me. There is a statue of him sculpted by Queen Victoria’s daughter at Inveraray Castle in Scotland (see October 2014). It is thought he derived his name from his black armor, but the French whose lands he plundered might have thought it referred to his heart.
Son of Edward III, he was the first Duke of Cornwall and was also Prince of Wales. A skillful warrior, he defeated the French and Spanish in battle, but he died a year before his father and never became king. His son became King Richard II.
Click on photos to enlarge.