St. Mawes Castle

St. Mawes Castle guards the eastern entrance to the estuary known as Carrick Roads. It is the companion of Pendennis and exactly contemporary. These two Henrician coastal forts offer some interesting contrasts. In each a squat round tower is the chief feature, but instead of having a square residential block slapped on in front of it, the St. Mawes tower is elaborated by three attached semi-circular bastions with parapets at a lower level. A distinctive stair turret caps the tower. St. Mawes is unlike Pendennis but like the majority of Henry VIII’s forts in being low lying and thus able to challenge enemy shipping at close quarters. Both castles share Henry’s other fortifications, the rounded merlons designed to deflect cannon …

Pendennis Castle

Pendennis Castle crowns a headland a mile east of Falmouth. The name suggests a Dark Age hillfort but any remains are buried beneath the later rampart. What now stands is an Elizabethan artillery fortress surrounding one of Henry VIII’s coastal forts. Erected in 1540-45, when the Reformation had made England a target for invasion, the castle protected the entrance to Carrick Roades, the large inlet pf the sea which could have offered a sheltered landing place to the fleet of the Catholic powers. St. Mawes Castle was placed on the opposite shore and the guns of the two forts commanded the mile-long sheet of water between them. Pendennis is unusual among the Henrician coastal forts in having such an elevated …

A Cornish Pilgrimage – Falmouth

The road veers right and begins the steady climb to the heady heights of Pendennis Point. My modest car huffs and puffs as traffic files patiently behind me. A barrier to my left clouds the seascape and the temptation to peep is too immense. I stop the car and stride eagerly to the wall and peer over. The scene is impressive, revealing a small section of old Falmouth harbour. A vast warship, presumably undergoing maintenance prior to setting out to defend the shores dominates the visible harbour view. As the road continues to twist and climb en route for the summit, hungry seagulls swoop overhead, groups ever-increasing as we approach the peak and assembled tourists. Surprisingly, parking is free, hence …