Exploring Compton Castle

Compton Castle, The Hall showing the fireplace, long table and benches, roof timbers, screens and panelling of oak

A rare survivor, this fortified medieval manor house with high curtain walls, towers and a portcullis, set in a landscape of rolling hills and orchards, is a mixture of romance and history. Wander round this charming small castle's medieval kitchen, Great Hall, Solar and Sub Solar.

Explore the Great Hall

In 1931 the castle was in complete ruin, and the Great Hall needed complete restoration. It remained roofless until 1955, but is now a light and impressive room. On chilly days apple wood burns on the fire, filling the hall with aromatic smells. Look out for a model of Sir Humphrey Gilbert's ship the Squirrel in this room: in 1583, in the name of Queen Elizabeth I, Sir Humphrey Gilbert colonised Newfoundland

The Great Hall is also home to a table top shop where you can pick up a memento of your visit.


See the Sub Solar and Solar

This Solar was originally a cellar but in 1450, when the family wanted more space, this whole block to the west of the Great Hall was rebuilt. The ceiling was raised to make a comfortable new room. A climb up the fifteenth century staircase leads to the Solar; in large medieval houses the Solar was a private living room away from the noise of the Great Hall.

The Solar is upstairs, and there is usually a volunteer around to tell you about the upstairs room and answer any questions
A room view of the Solar or Withdrawing Room in Compton Castle looking towards the staircase
The Solar is upstairs, and there is usually a volunteer around to tell you about the upstairs room and answer any questions

Step back in time in the medieval kitchen

The large cooking fire was a constant danger to the rest of the house and to reduce the risk of a fire spreading, the kitchen was built in a separate building. The high barrel roof and windows let out any smoke that did not go up the three-flued chimney. 
In the kitchen a film in the first person narrative of the life and times of Sir Humphrey Gilbert, interspersed with an historical timeline of Tudor England, plays. It was created by volunteer Room Guide Rhys Ridgwell.


Don't miss the defences

No castle is complete without its defences. The manor was enlarged in the 1450s and then fortified in response to French raids on Plymouth in the 1520s. A close eye could be kept on the two portcullises from the lookout holes close to the ground, and arrows fired through loop holes, kept attackers at bay. Anyone that got through and climbed the walls met stones or boiling oil thrown down holes high up on the walls.

To the right of the hearth, the kitchen opens into one of the inner towers originally built to help defend the castle. The tower has several floors and the room directly above may have been used as a guard room.