What do we know about the history of nearby Lydford Castle? It certainly gained a grim reputation as a judicial centre and jail for the Forest of Dartmoor and the Stannaries.
Devon offers many interesting attractions, and its castles feature high in that list. Probus members enjoyed a fascinating and wonderfully illustrated talk on the history of these castles by Robert Hesketh, the author of many books on Devon, its countryside, towns and colourful history.
Following their conquests in 1066, the Normans built castles to subdue the turbulent English. Rougemont Castle was built in response to the Exeter rebellion in 1068 and hilltop castles were established in Lydford, Okehampton, Totnes and many other towns and cities. Their most important resource was clean water, without which the garrison’s only option was surrender. Robert used his many photographs to illustrate the ingenious external fortifications and the baronial opulence of the accommodation in later edifices.
Over the centuries, warfare technology developed and this required major changes in castle design. The arrival of explosives and heavy shells was a good example. Castles became a major expense for the country’s rulers.
Robert’s talk ended with views of Castle Drogo which was the last to be built, being completed in 1930. Castle Drogo is the most romantic of all the castles and was designed by Sir Edward Lutyens for the grocery tycoon Julius Drewe. It is currently undergoing a major refit by The National Trust.
Peter Lane thanked Robert for his most interesting presentation saying he was surprised how many castles there are in Devon. Probus holds its Club Lunch in the Bedford Hotel in July.
Anyone interested in the Tavistock Probus Club may contact the secretary on 01822 615669.