A brief history of Compton Castle

A distant view of the north front of Compton Castle, Devon

Today Compton Castle is the home of the Gilbert family, but the land was originally held by the de Compton family. The marriage of Joan de Compton to Geoffrey Gilbert, in 1329 brought the two families together and the Gilberts have been adding, altering and renovating the castle ever since.

The rise, decline and rise of Compton Castle

Compton has grown from a manor house to the fortified structure you can now visit. The manor was enlarged in the 1450s and then, in response to French raids on Plymouth in the 1520s it was fortified. By 1800 the family had moved to Bodmin, Cornwall, and Compton fell into ruin and was sold. Commander Walter Raleigh Gilbert bought the castle and surrounding orchard back in 1931 and started its restoration. Fragments of the original stonework were found amongst the ruins in 1955 and were used as the basis for the Great Hall’s windows.


The American connection

The world would be a different place without the Gilbert men and their exploration of North America. In 1583, in the name of the Queen Elizabeth I, Sir Humphrey Gilbert colonised Newfoundland. Two years later his half brother, Sir Walter Raleigh started planning the Roanoke Colony in North Carolina. Sir Humphrey’s youngest son Raleigh Gilbert continued exploring, settling the Popham Colony in Maine, in 1607. It only survived one year, succumbing to a bitter winter.


The life and times of Sir Humphrey Gilbert

Why not take a look at this video to find out more about Humphrey Gilbert? The video is also screened in the Medieval Kitchen at Compton Castle.