Sources for Pendennis Castle

The following lists provide a summary of the main sources for our knowledge and understanding of Pendennis Castle.

Tinted engraving of Pendennis Castle by Nathaniel and Samuel Buck
Pendennis Castle in 1734, as engraved by Nathaniel and Samuel Buck

Primary Sources

The National Archives

Some of the most important documents relating to Pendennis Castle in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries are held by The National Archives at Kew, London. Most of these are records of the Ordnance Office, which was responsible for the construction and repair of fortifications, for the engineers who built them, and for the artillerymen stationed at them.

The Ordnance Office was effective from the 16th century until 1854, when it was replaced by the War Office. There is an extensive list in R Linzey, Fortress Falmouth: A Conservation Plan for the Historic Defences of Falmouth Haven, 2 vols (London, 2000), pp 288–9. Selected records are:

  • WO 30/66 [report of a survey of the coast of Cornwall, August to September 1796 (Pendennis and St Mawes)]
  • WO 33/578 [South West Coast Defence Scheme for Falmouth, 1911]
  • WO 44/312 [Pendennis – plan showing existing and proposed defences (records of the Western District, 1849)]
  • WO 55/2269 [Pendennis Castle: buildings owned or hired by the Ordnance. Works services, requisitions and reports, 1744]
  • WO 55/2329 [Pendennis Castle, 1806; a statement of Ordnance land, buildings etc]
  • WO 55/2998 [Pendennis Castle, 1851; a statement of Ordnance land, buildings etc]
  • WO 78/2636 [plan of Pendennis Castle and Falmouth harbour, 1868, with contours added in 1898]
  • WO 78/2757 [Pendennis Castle, Falmouth: record plans of barracks and buildings, 1904]
  • WO 78/5070 [Falmouth: six index plans of defences, 1912]
  • MPH 1/670 [two plans of Pendennis Castle in 1793, by Elias Durnford]
  • MPHH 1/95 [plans of Falmouth and Pendennis, with alterations, 1828]
  • WO 192/275 [Half-Moon Battery record book, 1932–57]
  • WO 192/278 [Falmouth Fire Command record book, 1807–1946]
  • WO 199/1161 [Fixed Defences Falmouth, June 1941 to August 1944]
  • WORK 14/420 [Pendennis Castle, Falmouth, Cornwall, transfer from the War Office, 1920–23]
  • WORK 14/1582 [Pendennis Castle, Falmouth, Cornwall, military occupation: alterations and maintenance, 1939–58].

British Library

  • Add MS 58438 [letters from Philip Melvill, lieutenant governor of Pendennis Castle in Cornwall (1797–1811), to his wife, Elizabeth, in Bristol, 1804–5]
  • Kings MS 45 [Colonel Christian Lilly's report on the state and condition of Pendennis in 1714–17]
  • Harleian MS 1326 [report by Sir Richard Morryson and Sir John Ogle, 1623]
  • Harleian MS 6252, fol 41v [John Norden's plan of Pendennis]. 

Published Primary Sources

Visual Sources

British Library

The National Archives

  • MPF 263 [John Norden's plan of Pendennis, of 1603, a fine early plan of the completed Elizabethan fortress, showing details of the guns intended to be mounted]
  • WO 78/2636 [plan of Pendennis Castle in 1866, which shows the Victorian fortress]
  • WO 78/5070 [plan of the Fal estuary, c 1909, which shows the combined defences of Pendennis, St Mawes, St Anthony Head and the submarine minefield. It includes arcs of fire for the guns and the electric lights for night fighting, thereby giving a good idea of how the defences protected the estuary] 

National Army Museum

  • Charles Tomkins, c 1800, painting of a view of the interior of Pendennis Castle with the Pendennis Artillery Volunteers [see History of Pendennis Castle]
  • Charles Tomkins, c 1800, painting of Lieutenant-Colonel Burgess of the Pendennis Artillery Volunteers at Pendennis

Other Visual Sources

  • S and N Buck, 1734, 'The North East View of Pendennis Castle in the County of Cornwall'
  • Peter Gilson's private collection of Victorian, Edwardian and later photographs record many aspects of the castle and headland, and the garrison soldiers. Several are reproduced in R Linzey, Fortress Falmouth: A Conservation Plan for the Historic Defences of Falmouth Haven, 2 vols (London, 2000)

Plans, Drawings and Photographs in the Historic England Archive

Items in the Historic England Archive at Swindon relating to Pendennis Castle include items derived from records of the Office of Ordnance and from the Ministry of Public Buildings and Works and its successor bodies:

  • A file of 674 sheets, mainly survey drawings, dating from 1610 to 2011. Among the earliest is a plan of Pendennis Castle by Joseph Heath, 1752, drawn in a semi-topographic style, which shows the fortress after Colonel Lilly's recommendations had been carried out (in the 1730s). It includes, for the first time, significant detail of internal buildings [PF/PEN]
  • Three albums of historic photographs and postcards, collected by the Ministry of Public Buildings and Works and English Heritage, dating from c 1901 to 1988 [FL00956, FL00957 and AL0851]

More details of these and many other items can be found in the online catalogue. Some material is not yet listed online, 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 archive price list.

Secondary Sources

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

Published Works

Andrew, J and Harris, D, 'An ancient wall at Pendennis Point, Falmouth [16th century]', Cornish Archaeology, 24 (1985), 183–4

Anon, Pendennis and St Mawes Castles (HMSO guidebook, London, 1963; revised 1985)

Carpenter, A, The Cannon of Pendennis and St Mawes Castles, Cornwall (Plymouth, 1984)

Coate, M, Cornwall in the Great Civil War and Interregnum, 1642–1660, 2nd edn (Oxford, 1963), 194–5, 207–11 and 215–19

*Colvin, HM (ed), The History of the King's Works, vol 4: 1485–1660, part 2 (London, 1982)

Donnelly, JA, 'A study of the coastal forts built by Henry VIII', Fort, 10 (1982), 105–26

Dorman, J, The Later Defences of Falmouth, 1895–1956, Ravelin Special No 4, Kent Defence Research Group (1990)

Douet, J, British Barracks, 1660–1914: Their Architecture and Role in Society (London, 1997)

Drake, D, St Mawes Castle and Pendennis Castle (Office of Works guidebook, London, 1937)

Harrington, P, The Castles of Henry VIII (Oxford, 2007)

Jenkins, SC, 'Pendennis Castle, Cornwall', Fort, 25 (1997), 169–210

Jenkins, SC, 'Pendennis Castle and the Victorian defences of Falmouth harbour', Archive: the Quarterly Journal for British Industrial and Transport History, 36 (2002), 43–53

Johns, C, Johnson, N and Sharpe, A, Pendennis Headland: The Defences 1540–1956 (Truro, 1992)

Linzey, R, The Castles of Pendennis and St Mawes (English Heritage guidebook, London, 1999)

*Linzey, R, Fortress Falmouth: A Conservation Plan for the Historic Defences of Falmouth Haven, 2 vols (London, 2000)

Morley, B, Henry VIII and the Development of Coastal Defence (London, 1976)

Morley, B, The Castles of Pendennis and St Mawes (English Heritage guidebook, London, 1988; revised 1995)

Morley, B and White, P, 'Pendennis Castle', Archaeological Journal, 130 (1974), 283–9

Pasfield Oliver, S, Pendennis and St Mawes: An Historical Sketch of Two Cornish Castles (Truro and London, 1875) [accessed 28 Sept 2012]

*Pattison, P, Pendennis Castle and St Mawes Castle (English Heritage guidebook, London, 2009) [buy the guidebook]

Saunders, A, Fortress Britain: Artillery Fortification in the British Isles and Ireland (Liphook, 1989)

Unpublished Works

A copy of most of the reports listed below should be held by the relevant local Historic Environment Record (sometimes referred to as the Sites and Monuments Record). Many of these can be searched via the Heritage Gateway website.

Several watching briefs, building analyses and excavations were carried out at Pendennis, mainly by the Cornwall Archaeological Unit, between 1988 and 1998. These are detailed in R Linzey, Fortress Falmouth: A Conservation Plan for the Historic Defences of Falmouth Haven, 2 vols (London, 2000), but significant are:

Johns, C, 'Pendennis Castle Bell Bastion (One Gun Battery): recording and analysis', Cornwall Archaeological Unit, Cornwall County Council (October 1997)

Johns, C and Thomas, N, 'Pendennis Headland: the Hornworks defences 2: 1. Hornworks reconstruction: evaluation trenches and watching brief; 2. Counterscarp footpath: evaluation trenches; 3. Hornworks lower car park: acer test pits, watching brief', Cornwall Archaeological Unit, Cornwall County Council (1995)

Linzey, R, 'An analysis of the Battery Observation Post, Half Moon Battery, Pendennis Castle, Falmouth', English Heritage, Central Architectural Practice (1992)

Shiel, D, 'Report on geophysical survey: Pendennis Castle', Geophysical Surveys of Bradford (1994)

Stivey, K and Keefe, S, 'A brief guide to the gun collection at Pendennis Castle', English Heritage (2005)

Taylor, J, 'Pendennis Castle, Falmouth, Cornwall: Royal Artillery Barracks [archaeological building recording final report]' (Southampton, 2002)

Tyres, I, 'Tree-ring analysis of oak timbers from Pendennis Castle, near Falmouth, Cornwall', English Heritage, CfA Reports 38/2004 (2004)

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