Berry Pomeroy Castle, Totnes, Devon
by Miriam Bibby & Elizabeth Craig-Johnson
The remains of an Elizabethan mansion within the walls of an earlier 15th century Tudor castle built by the Pomeroy family. Berry Pomeroy is unusual in that although the manor is ancient, having existed under the name of “Berri” since possibly before the Norman Conquest, the castle foundation is not old. Sir Ralph de Pomeroy is listed as the owner of the feudal barony of Berry in the Domesday Book, but though this was the site of the caput, or head of the barony, there was apparently no castle, simply an unfortified manor house nearby.
Berry Pomeroy Castle, 1822
The foundation of the castle probably dates from the Wars of the Roses or early Tudor times. Construction may have begun in the lifetime of Henry Pomeroy, owner of Berry Pomeroy from 1461 until 1487, or alternatively that of Sir Richard Pomeroy, his heir. It seems likely that the impetus to build came from the lawlessness of Devon in those uncertain times during the Wars of the Roses and their aftermath, particularly since the Pomeroys were Yorkists. Raiding by the French has also been suggested as a reason for the formidable defences, which include a curtain wall, gunports, towers and a dry moat. Berry Pomeroy is thought to be one of the last castles in Britain to adopt these very traditional features.
In 1547, Edward Seymour, the Duke of Somerset, purchased Berry Pomeroy from the Pomeroy family. After his execution, his heir made plans for a new building within the walls of the castle, removing some of its internal structure in the process. Intending it to become the most spectacular house in Devon, Seymour started building his new four-storey house in 1560. Enlarged by his son from 1600, it was never completed and abandoned by 1700. It is reputed to be one of the most haunted castles in Britain.