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Pengersick Castle

A Grade I Listed Building in Breage, Cornwall

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Latitude: 50.1064 / 50°6'23"N

Longitude: -5.3833 / 5°22'59"W

OS Eastings: 158178

OS Northings: 28410

OS Grid: SW581284

Mapcode National: GBR FX2D.JYD

Mapcode Global: VH131.MLX8

Plus Code: 9C2P4J48+HM

Entry Name: Pengersick Castle

Listing Date: 10 July 1957

Grade: I

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1311147

English Heritage Legacy ID: 65781

Also known as: Pengersick Castle and associated building platform

ID on this website: 101311147

Location: Pengersick, Cornwall, TR20

County: Cornwall

Civil Parish: Breage

Traditional County: Cornwall

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cornwall

Church of England Parish: St Germoe

Church of England Diocese: Truro

Tagged with: Manor house

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6/81 Pengersick Castle

Fortified manor house. Circa 1510 with earlier remains; annex 1927-28; repaired and
annex altered 1968. Probably built for William Worth of Worth in Devon (initials on
label stops) and improved by Milliton family (of Meavey, Devon); in decline from
second half C16. Snecked granite rubble with granite dressings and quoins, some
volcanic rock re-used; battlemented parapet concealing chimneys; flat asphalt roof to
tower, flat lead roof to turret, dry slate on annex.
Plan : although there is documentary evidence for a house here from at least C13, the
building to which the surviving remains belonged was almost entirely newly built
circa 1510. The site is the bottom of a small shallow valley and the entrance was on
the (uphill) east side. There were 2 approximately rectangular courtyards, a large
one (now garden) of stabling and ancilliary buildings to the east and a smaller
domestic one (now farmyard) adjoining to the west and offset so that the north walls
were continuous. The existing tower, at the external angle between the 2 courtyards,
defended the house from the south-west (towards the shore). Its principal (east)
front was set forward into the east court to confront the visitor, the dominant and
most prestigous element of the house. Abutting it to the right was the hall range,
entered through a 2 storey porch (doorway removed to Pengersick Farmhouse qv) with,
right again, the open hall stopping just short of the northern curtain wall. The
tower and hall made up the front of the house proper, the hall block being common to
both courtyards. Beyond it lay the domestic courtyard with a back gate probably at
the north end of the west range. Again, the northern boundary seems to have been a
curtain wall and there was a small block (possibly a tower) at the north-west corner
(Barn and adjoining wall at Pengersick Farm qv), of which much remains. Nothing is
known of the rest, but the kitchen and service could have made up a far west range
with accommodation returning the south. Of all this the only surviving elements are
the tower itself and, in the east court, part of the west end of the south range
(Outhouse, Pengersick Castle qv), sections of the west wall of the east range and
fragments of walling from the north side; of the west court, the base of the north-
west block and parts of the north curtain remain. The tower has its own external
door to the north, making it virtually independent. On plan there is a single square
room at each stage with the square newel stair turret extruded diagonally from the
north-east corner.
The 4 storey tower is battered with plinth, string course at second floor and
battlemented parapet; east (principal) front is single bay and lapping it, projecting
forward of the right corner, a square battered stair turret reaching above roof
level. The ground floor has a pair of dumbell-shaped gun-loops immediately above the
plinth with 3 matching 4-light mullioned windows lighting the floors above, the
lowest set at a safe height. These are casement-moulded with king-mullions and 4-
centred heads to the lights, the lowest without a hood mould (allowing for enfilading
from stair). Above this the second floor window has a hood and that at the top a
hood and labels each with serif 'w'; 2 granite water spouts. The single bay stair
turret has 4 matching casement-moulded mullioned windows, 2 below the string and 2 at
wider intervals above; the bottom window has a pistol loop just below the sill and
off-centre. All leaded lights of 1928. It is a well-organised elevation, domestic
but strict with adequate provision for defence. Right of this a 2 storey 3 bay annex
of 1928 with slate roof and right gable stack; early worked stones used
indiscriminately. Off-centre right 1968 kitchen door with 3 equally spaced single
light windows over. The hall range used to join onto the north face of the tower;
roof weatherings survive; in front the 2 window annex gable end and above to the
right at third floor level only a 2-light mullioned window (without casement
mouldings). The single bay stair turret projects forward lapping the left corner and
plinth, string and parapet continue across it. The door is in the turret up 2 steps
(originally 1); a tall 4-centred outer arch with a fat roll moulding stops on double-
offset plinth blocks. Set back within this arch a second smaller order of roll
moulding frames the 4-centred doorway itself with frond spandrels and a blank
tympanum. The intrados of the outer arch is cut away for a defensive slot at the
crown; to the left a pistol loup. Above 4 matching 2-light casement-moulded
mullioned windows at unequal spacing with a small ventilator to right towards the
top. On the west and south faces the string course and parapet continue but the
plinth is a simple set-off. The west wall has 2 dumbell-shaped gun-loops to the
ground floor, a small defensive single light window to the first floor with a small
venitlator far right, small ventilator at either end on the second floor and a 2-
light casement-moulded mullioned window towards the right at the top floor; 2 granite
water spouts. The south face again has 2 dumbell gun-loops on the ground floor, a
very small defensive window far left on the first floor, blind second floor and 2-
light casement-moulded mullioned window left of the top floor. The plinth returns
from the east and the offset returns from the west; where the 2 meet curtain wall of
the east courtyard abutted.
Interior : this tower is seen as a self-contained refuge, equivalent to a castle
keep. The 4 rooms within progress upwards from completely defensive basement to
completely domestic third floor; each floor offsets so that they become larger. The
base of the stair forms a lobby (original paved floor) inside the door, which has
drawn-bar holes; this space has several purposes and is carefully thought out with
access to pistol loup by the door and under the stair as well as access to the
basement gun room. This is approached through 4-centred hollow chamfered arch and
down 3 original steps; short 4 centred vault through the thickness of the wall (and
on floors above too). The basement floor is of 1968. The north wall has one and
remains of another keeping hole and was otherwise unpierced until access to the annex
in 1927. The other 3 walls each have 2 round arched embrasures (those to east must
have been reached by a firing step). Some parts of these sills are of 1968, but much
is original with evidence for the sill steps allowing elevation of small-calibre guns
(e.g. falconets. They are not suited to use with hand guns).
The newel stair is well made. Its windows have relieving arches, curved granite
lintels and sills; below the first to the east a pistol loop. The drum walls retain
original pointing, keyed for plaster which was apparently never applied. The only
means of access to the rest of the house is by a small 2 doored lobby. Between them
a defensive slot accessible from the first floor room (?parlour) and aligned on some
vanished ascent up to the Tower from the hall; the outer doorhead mutilated 1927.
The first floor room is entered through a 4-centred multi-moulded doorway with draw
bar and bolt holes on the inside and embrasure for the lobby slot in right reveal. 2
original chamfered beams with complex finial stops, the rest of the ceiling 1968. At
centre of the south wall a moulded 4-centred fireplace and to its right a very small
defensive window in depressed 4-centred reveal. Centre of the west wall another
small defensive window in a tall 4-centred reveal and in the south-west corner Tudor
arch to a privy in the wall thickness with ventilator and keeping hole (its doorway
re-uses moulded stones from the mid, C15 house). On the stair up the next window has
a drop slot in the sill for defence of the outside door.
The door to the second floor room is 4-centred with a single thick roll moulding and
inventively-resolved stops. This room has large areas of blank wall and is probably
the site of the painted panelling recorded by Borlase. It comemorated the marriage
of William Milliton and Honour Godolphin (approximately 1535) and a portrait of them
(over the fireplace?) was flanked by a schematic view of Godolphin and an accurate
view of Pengersick (drawn from near the entrance gate with the east court added in
false perspective). Centre of the west wall is a 3 centred fireplace with roll and
cavetto mouldings undulating at centre of the lintel over a knob (motif from ogival
form eg Trecarrel, Lezant qv). To left a very small defensive window and far right a
privy off as below but with the door set formed slightly due to inadequate wall
thickens. 2 original beams with large chamfers and bar stops.
The third floor room has a smaller 3-centred fireplace in the north wall and a window
in each wall. Because of the reduced wall thickness, the privy for this floor is a
minimal one off the stair (with a ventilator). Access to the roof is from the top of
the turret where an interesting stepped compartment was partially reconstructed in
1968. It has 2 keeping holes and 2 windows, so it was probably intended for
accommodation of the lookout. The stair roof is an incorrect restoration (1968).
Investigation revealed no evidence for a cross beam, only of stout joists.
The roof is now flat, but may have been pyramidal originally. Wide stone parapet
walks: and ashlar chimney shafts behind the central merlons north, south and west
(slate caps C20). The battlements are clearly defensive and each sill has a pocket
for a hand gun fork. Access to the turret roof was by ladder; battlements to west
north.and east but the south was originally open and infilled (later C16?) with a
flat-coped wall when the range of firearms rendered the position vulnerable.
Within the annex loft, plaster marks and stone weatherings; on the first floor, the
mutilated connecting door to the tower.
There is no parallel to this building in the south-west (except perhaps a putative
towers at Trerice). The need for short term defense on a site so vulnerable from the
south coast at a time of constant threat from French and Spanish raids is obvious,
but the form that the house took as a consequence is original. There is a well
recorded history; in 1335 Henry 'Le Fort' Pengersick was excommunicated for wounding
a priest. In 1526 John Milliton was implicated in the disappearance of valuables
from the wreck of the King of Portugal's ship San Antonio. On the death of William
Millton in 1556 the estate was divided among his 7 daughters and the castle declined
into ruin thereafter.
Sources : Drawing of panelling by William Borlase CRO; Drawing by Buckler, Bodleian
Library, Oxford; various prints including those by Buck (mid C18) and Hooper (early
Cl9): information from John Schofield.

Listing NGR: SW5817828410

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