How many of you know that Exmouth once had a castle? We know there was a castle in the town from the Elizabethan chronicler Raphael Holinshed who wrote about Exmouth in 1577: “Here was sometime a castle”. He continued “but now the place hath no other defence than a barred haven, and the inhabitant’s valour." Nobody knows who built it but in The Domesday Book of 1086 it is recorded that “Walter’s Man, Walter had land in Raddon." Now, this gives us a clue as to where the castle once stood but still not who built it and when.

One theory is that is that it was there at the time of King Alfred the Great who it is said laid the foundations of the British Navy in the Exe Estuary. As the threat of the Danish Invasion loomed it could have been that the king thought the sheltered entry to the estuary at what was to become Exmouth was a good place to build a castle on the higher land in land from the shore and establish his naval fleet.

It was actually probably built by Walter The Thane who held Raddon under the orders of Walter de Clavill 2nd, son of the man who was given the Manor of Withycombe from William The Conqueror. It is believed to have been demolished by Henry 2nd in the 12th century.

But to disprove that we have an account that during the English Civil War in 1646 General Fairfax of the Parliamentarians laid siege to Exmouth Castle for six weeks from the beginning of February until 15th of March when he pummelled it with 27 muskets, 13 pieces of cannon and 12 barrels of powder. For years it was thought that any castle was on the sands so as to protect the entry to the estuary up to Exeter but that is simply not the case. Yes, there were probably crude wooden forts on the sands but none that would have survived a siege for six weeks. Further evidence is in the cannonballs found many years ago in the ruins of old shops in Chapel Street and near Tower Street - these could not possibly have been fired from the beach area as that would have been behind the besieging force, but from inland. So where was this famous castle then?

The castle stood in a commanding position or it would not have survived six weeks of siege. Colonel Arundell of the Cavaliers would have held out for this time on a site he knew the Parliamentarians would have difficulty taking. By this time the castle had probably been demolished several centuries before, and what was laid siege to in 1646 was in fact the remains of the castle and still referred to as such due to the rocky high ground on which it stood and the stone ruins still visible. It is probably time I put you out of your misery and told you where it was - unless you have already guessed.

The clue is in the word Raddon and from which our modern Raddenstile Lane is derived. It is of course in the most obvious of places in the town, on high ground abutting on to Boarden Barn and facing what is now called Gussiford Lane. If you stand either at the top of Fore Street or Bicton Street looking at the junction of Boarden Barn and Gussiford Lane the round castle stone wall links these two roads as the attached picture shows. This was a strategic place to have a stronghold, it being the junction of roads to Exeter and East Devon.

The castle ruins formed a quarry from which stones were used to build many buildings in Exmouth – who knows, you might be living in a house that once formed part of the town’s castle! Castle Park House, which is now flats, sits high on the site of what was once Exmouth’s castle.

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