Castle Dore, Cornwall
Castle Dore is a defended Iron Age settlement that was described by William of Worcester (1415-1482) as “a delapidated castle by the name of Dirford, near Golant” and Leland identified it as “Castledour”.
The defences consist of a circular rampart set within an oval one, with both ramparts constructed from material excavated from external ditches. The ditch to the inner rampart survives well but that associated with the outer rampart is now infilled on the west side of the earthwork.
Some twenty Iron Age round houses have been identified in the interior. The two best preserved houses had internal rings of six posts to support the roof timbers. Excavations have also revealed the remains of a ‘Dark-Age timber hall’ or palace of King Mark, who ruled Cornwall from Tintagel Castle. Archaeological evidence for Dark Age activity is however extremely scant, concluded that all structural phases, including the supposed Dark Age hall, and almost all the finds, fall between the 5th BC to the 1st century AD.
The area around the site was the scene of a civil war battle in 1644.
It is possible to park in a small lay-by to the south of the site from where the monument can be reached by a short walk back along the B3269 road to a gateway on the west side of the fort. This is a busy road, however, and great care should be taken. Access over the site is permitted by the owner, although there is no formal right of way.
~ Battle of Lostwithiel ~
1644 ~ Parliamentarian forces, under Sir William Waller, had defeated a Royalist army near their base in Oxford. Although not present at the battle, Parliament's commanding general is the Earl of Essex, who afterwards decides to divide his forces.
He leads part of his forces towards Royalist forces in the south west, while the other part of the army, pursue a Royalist force which has left Oxford with King Charles I. This ill-conceived decision leads to defeat at the Battle of Cropredy Bridge, where the Royalists defeat their pursuers. Following this victory, the Royalist Oxford forces chased after Essex into the South-West.
There are three main Royalist armies involved in the Lostwithiel campaign. The Oxford army, including those troops belonging to the King and Queen, totalled around 5,000 cavalry and 5,000 foot soldiers. The Western Army commanded by Prince Maurice, numbers approximately 1,500 troopers and almost 5,000 infantry. Sir Richard Grenville’s force, based at Lanhydrock to the west of Lostwithiel, consists of around 500 cavalry and just over 2,500 infantry. These combined Royalist forces total over 12,000 foot and up to 7,000 cavalry. The Earl of Essex’s Parliamentarian army is some 10,000 strong
Grenville loses control of Restormel Castle and the surrounding high ground, Prince Maurice the hills.
Eventually the royalist forces gain possession of the high ground and the passage over the river, half a mile north of Castle Dore. Further fighting takes placed to the east of Castle Dore, which results Essex’s Parliamentrian forces being overun, with some deserting their posts which is exploited by the Royalists. The remnants of the army withdraw to Castle Dore Hillfort.
Some shooting continues into the night. That evening King Charles and his troops lay under a hedge in a field near to the Parliamentarian line. Following a council of war by the Parliamentarian forces, it is agreed the impracticality of trying to withdraw their forces to the coast. Major General Skippon is left to treat, and surrender terms are agreed, allowing for the Parliamentarians to march away once their cannon, arms and ammunition had been surrendered. Parliamentarian losses are around 500 men, with Royalist losses significantly smaller.