A history of Pendennis Castle.
Standing guard over the entrance to the Carrick Roads is one of the finest surviving coastal fortresses in England. We’re lucky to be so close to such an important historic monument here at the Greenbank and want to tell you why we think it’s so special.
Built as one of a pair with St Mawes Castle by Henry VIII, Pendennis castle defended the entrance to the Carrick Roads and Falmouth harbour for more than 400 years. It was specifically designed to be round so that guns could be fired from all angles if the anticipated Spanish or French invasions were to arrive.
But the attacks never came and the first action the castle saw was during the Civil War in 1646. It was one of the last royalist strongholds to fall. Around 1000 men, women and children survived a 155 day siege under attack by the parliamentarian forces from both land and sea, before being forced to surrender due to starvation.
The centuries that followed saw a cycle of the castle falling into disrepair during peacetime, and rearmament and reinforcements as the threat of war resurfaced. As military technology began to advance in the late nineteenth century, the defences at Pendennis were updated as the castle was about to embark upon a key role in both World Wars.
A submarine minefield was laid across the entrance to the Carrick Roads in 1885. Electricity and telephones followed, and searchlights, accurate range-finders and bigger, more powerful guns were installed along with full-time staff.
The improvements were just in time for the First World War, as Pendennis became the command centre for coastal artillery defences for West Cornwall. Strongpoints and trenches were built to defend the castle from the land and thousands of troops were trained here before heading to war in France and Belgium. The surrounding waters were also home to Royal Navy convoys, minesweepers and anti-submarine vessels.
As the Second World War began, defences were updated and newer guns were installed as Pendennis resumed its control of coastal defences. The castle was to play a critical part in defending against torpedo boats, using radar to launch long range precision attacks on enemy ships.
World War two was the last military action Pendennis Castle would see. When peace finally returned, the castle became a training post for the Coast Artillery Branch of the Army until it was disbanded in 1956. A year later the castle opened to the public and has become one of Falmouth’s most loved attractions ever since.
Now under the careful care of English Heritage, Pendennis Castle plays host to a fantastic variety of events throughout the year, with pirates, ghost hunting and medieval jousts among the highlights. Find out more on the Pendennis Castle website. http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/pendennis-castle/