Sources for Berry Pomeroy Castle

The following lists provide a summary of the main sources for our knowledge and understanding of Berry Pomeroy Castle. They do not represent a complete list of all the resources currently available.

Primary Sources

Extracts from many of these sources, together with bibliographical details, are included in:

  •  Brown, S (ed), ‘Berry Pomeroy Castle’, Devon Archaeological Society Proceedings, 54 (1996 for 1998), 1–335.

The tenurial records of the Pomeroy lands in Devon and Cornwall from the 12th to the mid 16th centuries, including Berry Pomeroy but making no apparent reference to the castle, and an important collection of Seymour letters, 1558–1749, some relating to Berry Pomeroy or dated from it, are published in:

The political activities of Henry Pomeroy and Sir Richard Pomeroy, possible builders of the castle, are summarised in the Calendar of the Patent Rolls preserved in the Public Record Office (1891–), in the following volumes:

  • 1441–6, 153; 1452–61, 138; 1461–7, 28, 33, 192, 303; 1467–85, 109, 490; 1485–94, 160, 348; and 1494–1509, 108, 227, 379.

Inquisitions post mortem for Sir Richard Pomeroy, and the assignment of dower to his widow, Elizabeth, in November 1496, contain the first recorded mention of the castle and a brief description mentioning the surviving gatehouse, a great chamber, four other chambers and a kitchen:

  • Calendar of Inquisitions Post Mortem: Henry VII, vol 1 (1898), 514, 516–17.

The Civil War compounding records relating to Sir Edward Seymours III and IV are calendared in:

  • Calendars of the Proceedings of the Committee for Compounding 1643–60 (1889–92), 11,126–7.

The most important source for the use, appearance and demolition of the castle in the 17th century is the entry on the Seymours in the Revd John Prince’s Worthies of Devon. Prince was the vicar of Totnes 1675–81 and of Berry Pomeroy 1681–1723, and effectively the Seymours’ family chaplain. The first, printed volume, written in 1697 and published in Exeter in 1701, contains an elegiac and doubtless eyewitness account of the Seymour mansion’s appearance, heyday, abandonment and partial demolition:

  • Prince, Revd J, Worthies of Devon, new edn (London, 1810); CD version 2004, Archive CD Books.

The second, unpublished, manuscript volume, completed in 1716, includes an admiring biography of Sir Edward Seymour IV and throws much new light on the later 17th-century use and history of the castle. This is held at the Plymouth and West Devon Record Office:

  • Plymouth, PWDRO 373.

There is a revealing room-by-room manuscript inventory of the castle and its furnishings in 1688 in the Devon Record Office:

  •  Exeter, DRO 3799–M3.

Thomas Risdon mentions Edward Seymour II’s creation of a ‘very stately house’ at Berry Pomeroy in about 1632:

  • Risdon, T, Survey of the County of Devon (London, 1811).
Engraving of the south view of the castle by Samuel and Nathaniel Buck, made in 1734
The engraving of the south view of the castle by Samuel and Nathaniel Buck, made in 1734, depicts it as already a tree-grown ruin, differing only in one detail – St Margaret’s Tower is shown full-height, with battlements – from its present appearance

Visual Sources

The earliest known image is the engraving of the south view by Samuel and Nathaniel Buck, dated 1734:

  • S and N Buck, 1734, ‘The South View of Berry-Pomery Castle’, published in Views of Ruins of Castles and Abbeys in England, Part 2 (London, 1726–39).

From the 1790s a large number of sketches, watercolours and engravings were made of the Romantic ruins shrouded in ivy and foliage. Notable among them are distant views from the Gatcombe valley by Thomas Rowlandson painted about 1818 and the set of six lithographs of exteriors and interiors engraved by W Gauci after CF Williams, about 1840. Some are included in:

  • Cocks, JVS, Devon Topographical Prints 1660–1870: A Catalogue and Guide (Exeter, 1977).

Details of many post-1790 representations of Berry Pomeroy Castle and its surroundings are listed in the online catalogue Etched on Devon’s Memory.

Photographs in the Historic England Archive

Items in the Historic England Archive at Swindon relating to Berry Pomeroy include:

  • late 19th-century photographs of visitors at the castle (OP06353–6354)
  • photo (1860–99) of the guardroom by Francis Frith and Company (AL0352/078/01)
  • photographs taken in 1901 by Alfred Newton and Sons (BB98/05824–6, BB98/06418).

More details of these and many other items can be found in the online catalogue. Some material is not yet listed in the online catalogue, including a large collection of aerial photography; for a full search, please contact the search team.

Copies of images and documents can be ordered through the website or by contacting the archive. For details of current charges for these services see the archives price list.

The Jacobean Seymour monument in St Mary's Church, Berry Pomeroy, lit by rays of sunshine
The Jacobean Seymour monument in St Mary’s Church, Berry Pomeroy: at the top is Edward, Lord Seymour, builder of the Elizabethan mansion, who emphasises with his baton the family’s descent from ‘Protector Somerset’; below are Edward Seymour II, initiator of the Jacobean extensions, and his wife, Elizabeth

Material Sources

Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Exeter

The site archive and most of the finds from the 1980–96 excavations are held by Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Exeter (RAMM).

Parish Church of St Mary, Berry Pomeroy

The church contains many features of relevance to the history of the castle and its owners, including:

  • The altar tomb of Sir Richard Pomeroy (d.1496). Sir Richard probably built the castle and certainly rebuilt the church.
  • A late 15th-century rood screen, richly carved and including 24 painted panels of saints (now much defaced) in the Flemish Antwerp style, which may be by the same artist as the wall painting in the castle gatehouse.
  • The imposing early 17th-century Seymour monument, erected for Sir Edward Seymour II, 2nd Baronet, and almost certainly carved by masons employed at the castle. The two flanking columns with strapwork-decorated pedestals are almost identical to those of the castle loggia.

The Manor House

Near the churchyard gate, the Manor House (a private residence, not open to the public) probably stands on the site of the manor house of the Pomeroys, where they lived before the castle was built. Within are two 16th century doorcases, closely matching the dimensions and style of those still surviving in the castle.

Secondary Literature

Published Works

Items marked * represent key works in which our understanding was significantly altered, summaries showing the state of knowledge and theories at particular dates, or recent works detailing the latest discoveries.

Andriette, EA, Devon and Exeter in the Civil War (Newton Abbot, 1971)

Anon, The History of Totnes, its Neighbourhood, and Berry-Pomeroy Castle, in Devonshire (Totnes, c 1825)

*Brown, S (ed), ‘Berry Pomeroy Castle’, Proceedings of the Devon Archaeological Society, 54 (1996 for 1998), 1–335

Brown, S, Berry Pomeroy Castle (English Heritage guidebook, London, 1997)

Chope, RP, Early Tours in Devon and Cornwall (reprint 1967) [includes several descriptions of the Romantic ruins]

Cressy, D, England on the Edge (Oxford, 2006), 332–3

*Ellis, AC, Some Ancient Churches around Torquay, with Other Notes on the Respective Parishes (Torquay, 1936) [includes a surprisingly accurate attempt to elucidate the castle’s post-medieval building history]

Kelly, F and Airs, M, ‘Berry Pomeroy Castle: an interim review of its 16th century development’, in The Tudor and Jacobean Great House, ed M Airs (Oxford, 1994)

Kenyon, JR, ‘Early artillery fortifications in England and Wales: a preliminary survey and reappraisal’, Archaeological Journal, 138 (1981), 205–40

*Kightly, CS, Berry Pomeroy Castle (English Heritage guidebook, London, 2011) [buy the guidebook]

Palfrey, I, ‘The Royalist war effort revisited: Edward Seymour and the Royalist garrison at Dartmouth, 1643–44’, Transactions of the Devon Association for the Advancement of Science, 123 (1991), 41–55

Powley, EB, The House of de la Pomerai: the annals of the family … (Liverpool, 1944)

Powley, EB, Berry Pomeroy Castle (Liverpool, 1956)

Rose-Troup, F, The Western Rebellion of 1549 (London, 1913)

St Maur, H, Annals of the Seymours: being a history of the Seymour family, from early times to within a few years of the present (London, 1902)

Seymour, JME, ‘The Lord Protector and the Seymours of Berry Pomeroy’, Devonshire Association Report and Transactions, 133 (2001), 1–16

*Slade, HG, Berry Pomeroy Castle (English Heritage guidebook, London, 1990)

Storey, RL, The End of the House of Lancaster (London, 1966) [includes documents relating to the lawless state of Devon in the 15th century]

Watkin, HR, ‘Berry Pomeroy Castle’, Journal of the British Archaeological Association, ns 33 (1927), 136–9 

Unpublished Reports

Brown, S, ‘Berry Pomeroy Castle east terrace, 1996: the archaeological watching brief’, English Heritage (1996)

Davies, J and Manning, T, ‘Wall painting condition audit, Berry Pomeroy Castle, Devon’, English Heritage AML Report 58/1997 (London, 1997)

Hillam, J and Groves, C, ‘Tree-ring analysis from oak timbers from Berry Pomeroy Castle, Devon, 1992’, English Heritage AML Report 19/1993 (London, 1993)

Hughes, MR, ‘A report to English Heritage: botanical survey of Devon properties: Berry Pomeroy Castle’, English Heritage (1991)

Manning, T and Stewart, S, ‘Technical examination of the “Adoration of the Magi”, Berry Pomeroy Castle’, English Heritage (1995)

'step into englands story