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Berry Pomeroy Castle (Devon, England)

Begun in the late 15th Century, Berry Pomeroy was established much later than most other English castles. It was constructed by the Pomeroy family on land they had owned for over 400 years on a favoured site in what was one of their deer parks. There is no evidence, written or otherwise, to suggest any previous castle or fortification on this site. It first appears in the records when Sir Richard Pomeroy died in 1496 as owner of the ‘honour, castle and manor of Bury’.

The castle was likely built by the Pomeroy family in response to the disturbed state of Devon in the build-up and midst of the War of the Roses, in which the Pomeroys supported the Yorkist cause. This is evident in the serious fortifications and defensive measures at the site, for example the gunports, curtain wall, and ramparts.

Berry Pomeroy Site Plan, Whitley. H. Michell 1915
Berry Pomeroy Site Plan, Whitley. H. Michell 1915

In 1547 the castle was bought by Edward Seymour (1st Duke of Somerset). He was beheaded in 1552 after falling out of favour at which point the castle was forfeited to the Crown. In 1558 his son, another Edward Seymour (1st Baronet of Berry Pomeroy), managed to reacquire the property.

Between 1560 and 1580 Edward removed all the previous Pomeroy buildings from within the castle walls and erected the mansion that still remains today. After his death his son, another Edward (2nd Baronet of Berry Pomeroy), built the current north range. After supporting the Royalist cause in the Civil War this Edward was captured and imprisoned in London. His son, another Edward (3rd Baronet of Berry Pomeroy) was also imprisoned later in the War, in Exeter, but after the Civil War he became Deputy Lieutenant of Devon. He died in 1688.

Berry Pomeroy Castle reconstruction
© Historic England (illustration by Terry Ball and Richard Lea)

His son, Edward (4th Baronet) was aged 55 when his father died, and a politician. Because of Berry Pomeroy's distance from London and the poor condition of the castle, he preferred to live at Bradley House in Maiden Bradley, Wiltshire, which he had also inherited. Although there is no documentary evidence, it is likely that he stripped the castle of useful materials to fund the rebuilding of Bradley House which he completed in 1710.

By 1701 the castles was described in contemporary records as abandoned and ruinous.

Today the castle is still owned by the present duke, a direct descendant of the Berry Pomeroy Seymours. It is managed by English Heritage.

On a less factual note, Berry Pomeroy Castle is claimed to be one of the most haunted in Britain.

Reputed ghosts include:

~ ‘the Child Isabella’, the ghost of a 9 year old girl rumoured to be the illegitimate offspring of a Pomeroy noble and a servant girl who haunts the kitchens.

~ The White lady who haunts the dungeons and St. Margaret’s Tower, supposedly the ghost of Lady Margaret Pomeroy who was imprisoned by her older sister for being prettier, she spent many years languishing in the filthy dungeons below the castle before starving to death.

~ A Blue Lady, said to be a daughter of the Pomeroy family who was forced into an incestuous relationship with her father, resulting in a child she killed to save from suffering the same fate as hers. She is said to roam St Margaret’s Tower, and a baby wailing has often be claimed to have been heard.

These are just 3 of the ghosts that are claimed to wander the castle grounds. It must be feeling pretty crowded! (If you believe in that sort of thing, that is...)

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