Sir William and Lady Margaret
By the 1200s Hemyock had a moated fortified manor house, where the Hidons and then Dynhams lived as Medieval Lords of the Manor.
Then in 1380, King Richard II granted permission to Sir William and Lady Margaret Asthorpe (née Dynham) to convert this into a castle. They built a typical Medieval Castle with a thick curtain wall enclosing the manor house and other buildings on a rectangular site of almost an acre. It had a massive fortified Gate house with 40 foot towers, and seven other mural towers.
The 14th century was the heyday of the site as a castle. The Asthorpes left no heirs, so after their deaths, Hemyock Castle reverted to the ownership of her family; the powerful West country Dynhams. Sir John Dynham saved the lives of King Edward IV and Warwick the Kingmaker during the Wars of the Roses. He was rewarded with a Barony and high Government office.
By Tudor and Stuart times, Hemyock and Hemyock Castle had passed to the Popham family. Sir John Popham, (of Popham's Pit) as Lord Chief Justice, was responsible for sentencing Guy Fawkes to be burnt at the stake, and also for sentencing both Mary Queen of Scots and Sir Walter Raleigh to be executed.
In the Civil War, the Pophams supported Parliament against King Charles I. Hemyock Castle was garrisoned and used as a prison for Royalist prisoners. In 1644 it was besieged and captured by the Royalists. Later, it was recaptured by Parliament.
When King Charles II was restored to the throne in 1660, he ordered that it be slighted so that it could never again be held against him. The towers and walls were battered, the ancient manor house became a farm house, and stone from the damaged walls was taken to build local farm buildings and cottages. The old castle buildings and fortifications were adapted for farm animals.
This brief history indicates how a visit to the site will be useful for several Key Stages of the National Curriculum. For example:
The site illustrates several of the themes e.g. Food and Farming, Houses and Places of Worship, Domestic Life, Families and Childhood; a study of the history of the site and local community would make an excellent Local History project.
A study of, and visit to, Hemyock Castle would illustrate the core study units as well as Supplementary Study Units such as Castles and Cathedrals.
These are just a few suggestions for how a visit to, and study of, Hemyock Castle could be used by your school.
Visitors will see the ruined towers and walls of the Medieval Castle, be able to trace the Medieval plan of the Castle and moat, identify the remains of the Medieval defences such as the portcullis slot, the putlog holes that held the hourdings, and the slots for the drawbridge beams.
They will also be able to compare the design of the towers, one of which was used as a Medieval Dungeon. They can observe how the castle defences evolved and were later adapted for farm use.
There is an Interpretation Centre and Display Areas with life-size tableaux illustrating daily life and events of over the 600 years.
School groups are welcome to bring packed lunches, and eat in the outdoor picnic area by the moat.
There are toilet facilities, and ample parking for about 8 cars and/or a coach.
Prior visits by Teachers are free, and welcomed. (Please make an appointment.) We will be happy to discuss your school's requirements.
Excerpts from Hemyock Castle Schools Leaflet. © 1996.
Hemyock Castle, Hemyock, CULLOMPTON, Devon, EX15 3RJ, UK.
© 2001–2015. Prepared and published by Curlew Communications Ltd