Lydford Castle, Devon
Lydford, East of Launceston
The hidden remains of a bronze age fort in Lyford Forest and the remains of hut circles on the Moor, indicate that Lydford has long been an important settlement going back to pre-history. In Saxon times it formed an impotant Wessex frontier defence against the Britons in Cornwall for King Alfred.
When you arrive in Lydford you find yourself in a beautiful ancient village, where you can park off the road opposite the pub in the village.
A short walk twards the church and you'll find both the castle, as well as the site of an old Norman fort behind the church, which is also worth a visit.
Walking round the inside of the castle uou can get a sense that much of its life over the past 700 years has been as a prison, and when roofed, how dark and grim this would have been. Only upon the building of a new prison in Princetown to house French Prisoners of War, as a forerunner to Dartmoor Prison, in the nineteenth century was Lydford's Castle's life as a prison come to an end.
One thing you won't realise from your visit is that Lydford sits nestled inside an ancient Saxon fort of some size, with earth rampart's surrounding the village and a gorge to the south leading down to the River Lyd, across which there is a Ford, hence the name LydFord.
~ History ~
970's ~ During the reign of Edward the Martyr Lydford is the site of the Royal Min, from the locally mined silver. The 'Lyford Pennies' continue for almost a thousand years under successive Saxon Kings, used throughout the Kingdom and to pay off Danish invaders known as 'Danegeld'. The mint continues for until the 1050's.
1086 ~ The Domesday Book records 'The King has a borough called Lideforda, which the King Edward held on the day on which he was alive and dead. There the King William has laid waste 40 houses', in retaliation for the stubborn resistance by the local Saxons.
1195 ~ The fortified defences at Lydford with its earthworks and timber ramparts is greatly improved with the building of a castle in stone at a cost of £32. The castle is used for a prison for offenders against the laws of Forest and Stannary under Charter to King Richard I, under the custody of William Briwere.
1239 ~ King Henry III grants his brother Richard, Earl of Poitou and Cornwall, the Manor of Lydford, which includes Dartmoor Forest and castle.
1337 ~ King Edward III grants Lydford Castle and its estates to Edward, Black Prince, Earl of Cornwall.
1390 ~ The King's receivers order that lead from the roof of Lydford Castle should be removed to repair Cornish Castles, under the direction of Richard de Thorley.
1650 ~ A survey of the castle reports 'Lydford Castle is very much in decay and almost totally ruined'. However, the castle continues its role as prison with a grim reputation with the 'Law of Lydford' notorious across Dartmoor as far as Cornwall.
1660 ~ Lydford is described as a 'mean miserable village consisting of about 20 houses', with its castle now used to include captured Parliamentarians.