List entry

List entry Summary

This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.


List entry Number: 1297840



The building may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County District District Type Parish
CornwallUnitary AuthorityLaunceston

National Park: Not applicable to this List entry.

Grade: I

Date first listed: 07-Jun-1993

Date of most recent amendment: Not applicable to this List entry.

Legacy System Information

The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System: LBS

UID: 370141

Asset Groupings

This list entry does not comprise part of an Asset Grouping. Asset Groupings are not part of the official record but are added later for information.

List entry Description

Summary of Building

Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

Reasons for Designation

Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.



SX32843384 WESTERN ROAD 660-1/4/189 Launceston Castle Keep and attached buildings


Castle. Norman earthwork incorporating existing rock outcrop. Late C11 for Robert, Count of Mortain, a half-brother of William the Conqueror, and later Earl of Cornwall; motte fitted with stone shell keep probably late C12; internal structure removed and replaced by a high tower early C13 by Richard of Cornwall; an outer fighting platform was built at about the same time and the enclosed steps up the motte were rebuilt and a tower was erected at their foot. Local slatestone rubble except for bluestone rubble of the high tower and greenstone and purplish volcanic stone (previously erroneously stated to be from polyphant). Plan: small irregular round shell keep with south entrance and a gap with garderobe channel to north west and 2 stone staircases to the parapet built within the thickness of the wall; within this a nearly round tower with doorway into an unheated ground floor; stone staircase within wall up to a heated 1st-floor hall with 1 window opening; remains of walls flanking motte staircase to D-plan gatehouse to tower; west of the gatehouse is a semi-circular wall defending a platform (locally known as "Paradise") containing a stone-lined probable water reservoir, then a bridge, probably with a drawbridge (now C20 bridge) with wall surviving on its east side; the walk from the bridge continues to remains of curtain wall on a high embankment (other buildings listed separately). The castle and its ancillary structures have been robbed of much of the dressed stone over the centuries, but a bullnose string survives above the battered plinth. The entrance to the shell keep is of 2 orders and retains the C13 springing stones for what was probably a 2-centred equilateral arch (replacing a Norman doorway) beside which are return stones to the former lead-roofed stone-walled steep walk up the motte. Inside this doorway are remains of portcullis slots and 2 deep sockets for draw bars. On the inner face of the very thick wall is the remains of another arch, possibly older; doorway to staircase with rubble vault, on the left. Another principal feature of the shell keep is a large opening, with evidence for a garderobe sluiced by water from the parapet, probably a position to defend the curtain wall below. The other staircase (see plan) retains the jambstones of its doorway and has a draw bar slot. Evidence for roofing of at least part of the shell keep area is a square drain hole through the parapet and the survival of significant areas of render. The High Tower has an ordered 2-centred arched doorway facing south west with the wall flat for a short distance on either side, draw bar holes inside doorway. At a level slightly higher than the parapet of the Shell Keep are a series of holes presumed to be for roof timbers of a former lead roof which covered the space between the High Tower and the Shell Keep. There are also numerous putlog holes. Higher up is a ragged hole of the former hall window and there are fragmentary remains of the original parapet. INTERIOR: corbels for ceiling beam and ledge for joists and the remains of a large hall fireplace with a curved ashlar back and moulded corbels for former hood. Gatehouse at foot of steps has some voussiors of former doorway to the D-plan block on the left and a window on its left. INTERIOR: ledge for former floor and another for former roof and parapet above. History: Launceston Castle was the administrative centre for the control of Cornwall from just after the Norman Conquest until 1272 when, following Richard of Cornwall's death, his son Edmund shifted the administration to Loswithiel. Following a period of neglect, repairs were put in hand in 1341 and repairs were recorded until the C15. The castle and town were held for the King until eventually captured by Fairfax's army on 25th February 1646. The High Tower was for much of the Medieval period used as a prison. The loss of so much dressed stone from the principal architectural features is to some extent explained by the following quote from Robbins p330: "No steps led to the Keep, which was inaccessible to any but speculative builders in want of good corner stones, and these were accustomed, crow-bar in hand, to use the Castle as their quarry ...". Much of this account is based on work at the castle in 1990 and 1991. (Saunders AD: Launceston Castle: London: 1984-; Robbins AF: Launceston, Past and Preston: Launceston: 1888-: 330).

Listing NGR: SX3310884648

Selected Sources

Books and journals
Robbins, A F, Launceston Past and Present, (1888), 330
Saunders, A D, Launceston Castle, (1984)

National Grid Reference: SX 33113 84647


© Crown Copyright and database right 2015. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
© British Crown and SeaZone Solutions Limited 2015. All rights reserved. Licence number 102006.006.

This copy shows the entry on 30-Aug-2015 at 06:51:57.