Back in late December, before Lockdown #3, I managed to get out and about in the local area to go for a walk with my daughter around Plympton Castle. The castle is an interesting one in that it is now surrounded – mostly – by urban expansion, and it lies – seemingly- hidden from the majority of Plymothians.
I often enjoy a walk in the area and up to the castle, which only requires a short walk up a slope. The castle is tiny in comparison to the grand castles of the country, and even some of the more localised structures that are preserved by English Heritage (such as Totnes Castle or Berry Pomeroy Castle).
However, I actually find this modest structure quite appealing. It does not make any large boastful claims but yet is pleasantly displayed in the local area (as shown in the photographs).
A castle was built in the manor of Plymouth back in the 1100s. This was the period of vast castle construction led by the Normans, with the de Redvers family controlling Plympton and other manors in the region. However, the de Redvers family came into hot bother during the civil war of the middle of the twelve century, during the period known as “the Anarchy”. Baldwin de Redvers rebelled against King Stephen, and the result was the loss of Plympton Castle and exile for Baldwin.
However, “the Anarchy” was a war of many twists and turns. Baldwin de Redvers was able to return to England and the display board states that ‘it is likely that he then rebuilt the walls of the castle in stone.’
The castle saw more action during rebellions of the 1200s, this time in the reign of Henry III, when it was put under siege for two weeks. By the end of the thirteenth century the castle passed into the hands of the Courtenays; this family were notable due to becoming the earls of Devon. However, the castle became neglected by the 1400s.
The notice board outlines the later uses of the castle by the time of the Victorian period:
In the 18th and 19th centuries the bailey was used for fairs and circuses; cock fighting, bull baiting and maypole dancing.
Today the castle is maintained by Plymouth City Council, with it open all year round for visitors to have a look. It may be small and modest, but the history is fascinating and the “action” that this castle saw is more than can be said for other ones in south Devon, such as Totnes Castle. It is a little local wonder.