Originally known as Hawley's Fortalice, Dartmouth Castle was built in 1400 by the then mayor of Dartmouth, John Hawley, and interesting and controversial figure, often thought to be the prototype of the flamboyant 'Shipman' in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. Since then it has undergone many changes, and very little of the original fortalice remains.
Between 1481 - 1495 the present Gun Tower was built, probably the earliest surviving English coastal fortress purpose-built to mount 'ship-sinking' heavy cannon. Open-air gun platforms and other additions were made during the 16th century by Henry VIII and there were further improvements in the 17th century
in order to accommodate new military technology.
However it is the 19th century Old Battery which remained in military use throughout the First and Second World Wars
that now forms the most substantial part of the remaining castle.
Unusually the church of St Petrox sits right in the middle of the fortifications in a way vaguely reminiscent of St Michaels Mount.
For opening times, admission prices, etc. please go to the English Heritage web site detailed below.
Roughly contemporary with the second phase of development at Dartmouth Castle on the other side of the river, Kingswear Castle was built between 1491 - 1502, again as a coastal artillery tower for use with heavy cannon. Between the two of them they could cover the whole of the mouth of the river with the limited range artillery available at the time.
Within 50 years, due to improvements in technology, Kingswear Castle was redundant and was left to decay until in 1855 it was turned into a summer residence by a rich young bachelor, Charles Seale Hayne. It is now owned by the Landmark Trust and is available for holiday lettings.