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Kernow a'gas dynergh

The Cornish Guide - Cornwall / Kernow

The Cornish Guide - Cornwall / Kernow

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Launceston Castle

Age group: 6+

Location: EAST Cornwall


Contact: Launceston, PL15 7DR

TEL: 01566 772365  


The castle at Launceston in east Cornwall dominates the surrounding landscape - perched high on top of a large, natural mound. The Castle was the ultimate status symbol of Middle Age wealth and power.


Originally known as Dunheved, it was an impressive and strategically important building that controlled the river crossing in and out of Cornwall. The castle at Dunheved was first built as an earthwork castle, after the Norman conquest. Located high on a grassy mound overlooking nearby settlement of St Stephens. Begun soon after the Norman Conquest, its focus is an unusual keep consisting of a 13th-century round tower built by Richard, Earl of Cornwall, inside an earlier circular shell-keep. The tower top can be reached via an internal staircase but once reached, offers breathtaking views of the historic town and countryside.


The location meant that it soon became the administrative headquarters for the great Earls of Cornwall - a place where they could control the vast estates that they owned throughout the area. The castle remained with little development, apart from an inner keep that was added in the 12th century. During the 13th century, Richard, Earl of Cornwall, who was a younger brother of Henry III, began a transformation of the castle, rebuilding the edifice in stone.


The strategic importance of the castle and the town of Launceston that developed around it, the only example of a walled town in Cornwall, declined when in the late 13th century, the administrative centre for Cornwall was moved from Launceston to the Duchy Palace at Lostwithiel.


The castle has a colourful history as a prison too. George Fox, founder of the Quakers, was the most famous prisoner here. He suffered quite harsh confinement here back in 1656.

Launceston 0.5 miles, Callington 11 miles, Bude 19 miles