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St. Catherine's Castle

Catherines _castle1 

Introduction to site

St Catherine’s Castle is situated on the tip of the rocky headland known as St Catherine’s Point at the entrance to the River Fowey estuary. This prominent site has potentially been of varying importance since prehistory; for example, the Ordnance Survey map of 1880 shows extensive earthworks suggestive of a late prehistoric cliff castle here. A D-shaped two storey blockhouse was commissioned on the site between 1538 and 1540 by Henry VIII to strengthen the harbour defences as part of a response to increased military threat from Spain and France in the aftermath of the Reformation. It replaced two earlier blockhouses on opposite sides of the estuary at Fowey and Polruan, still visible today.

Access and Facilities

Catherines _castle4St. Catherine's Castle can be accessed by the coastal path to the south-west of Fowey.

There is a car park at Tower Park, Fowey, from which a public footpath leads to Readymoney Cove to access the coastal path. This path is signposted for St. Catherine's Castle.

The site is free to visit, and is open any reasonable time in daylight hours.

There are public toilets and seasonal refreshments available at Readymoney Cove, and public toilets and refreshments within the town of Fowey.

There are bus services to Fowey. Visit the Traveline website for customised sustainable transport options. There are also ferries to Fowey from Polruan, Bodinnick and Mevagissey (see the Fowey harbour website for more details).

Location

View our interactive Access to Monuments map to find this and other nearby sites.

More information

Catherines _castle2The castle was built on a prepared platform in the rock on the highest point of ground giving it uninterrupted and all encompassing views along the estuary and out to sea. Splayed gun ports on the ground and first floors would have allowed for observation and small arms fire. A parapet walk flanked by high battlements containing further gun embrasures would have given further protection. Steep slopes fall away from the blockhouse walls to a curtain wall and rectangular bastion which meets the precipitous cliffs either side. This was added prior to 1734 and subsequently modified during major refurbishment of the site in 1855 during the Crimean War. At this time a battery for two guns was added, built onto a level platform below and slightly east of the blockhouse, with a magazine for storing ammunition built into the rock beside the entrance to the curtain wall. A series of square granite plaques commemorates the refurbishments and documentary evidence of 1887 records the Crimean War battery as being armed by two 64-pounder rifled muzzle-loading guns manned by Artillery Volunteers. The practice battery was abandoned by the end of the 19th century as the guns became obsolete.

Catherines _castle3During World War II St Catherine’s Point became a gun battery and observation post. The south-westerly of the two Crimean gun emplacements was modified to take a 4.7 inch naval gun and a large protective concrete shelter and neighbouring pill box were constructed. A further gun was mounted on the higher ground to the west of the site, whilst the blockhouse became the firing point for a controlled minefield laid across the mouth of the Fowey estuary. The site was dismantled after the war.

Related links

Sources/Further Reading