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Hemyock Castle
Ancient Heart of the Blackdowns

Frequently Asked Questions

How are you responding to COVID-19 Coronavirus?

No-one knows how, when or even whether this virus will develop. Our aims is to protect our visitors, our residents, and ourselves – many of whom are in the "at risk groups" – while if possible still offering public open days. See this webpage for our current response to COVID-19 Coronavirus

Who owns Hemyock Castle?

Hemyock Castle is privately owned. The manor house is a private family house. Several of the outbuildings have been converted into cottages. These are private residences.

Who funds the conservation and maintenance?

The owners pay for the conservation and maintenance. English Heritage (now Historic England) has made welcome contributions towards the high costs of specialist skilled workers and authentic materials.

What is the difference between restoration and conservation?

Hemyock Castle is a scheduled ancient monument, there are now very strict rules which govern any maintenance or conservation work. Most of the other buildings on the site are also listed, so are also covered by strict rules.

In former time, especially during the 19th century, there was a fashion for restoring old properties. General Simcoe wanted to restore Hemyock Castle to its medieval splendour. This could have left it looking like the model we display. He died before achieving this. Elsewhere, many castles and old buildings were restored. Several look very impressive, but some were wrecked.

However, today's authorities permit only very carefully controlled conservation of Hemyock Castle. Their aim is to pass an authentic monument on to future generations.

Why has there been so little excavation of the site?

As owners, we are not allowed to excavate the site. Metal detectors are forbidden. Archaeologists supervise digging or building work. Normally, the owners have to pay for this supervision.

Generally, modern archaeologists prefer not to disturb buried remains. They prefer to leave them intact for future generations.

However, there has been some limited excavation, and in 1999 a team from English Heritage (now called Historic England) performed a brief geophysical survey of part of the site. We display their report and its diagrams in our Dungeon.

The results of these surveys have raised interesting questions. We do hope to arrange further surveys.

In particular, we would like to dredge the moat. As well as clearing the deep mud, there may be much of interest: According to one story, a complete horse and cart sank into the mud, and was lost. There is probably much more to find – the (doubtless mythical) Asthorpe treasure?

Where is Hemyock Castle?

Hemyock Castle is in the heart of Hemyock village in the Culm valley amongst the Blackdown Hills in Devon, England. It is about 12 miles from Taunton, 12 miles from Honiton, 15 miles from Tiverton and 5 miles south of Wellington. Hemyock is reached easily from the M5 motorway or from the A303.

Click here for travel directions

When is Hemyock Castle open to the public?

Hemyock Castle is open on Bank Holiday Monday afternoons from 2 to 5 pm between Easter and September. The Castle is often open for special events and for Heritage Open Days in early September.

Residential guests staying in our cottages have use of the grounds.

Please do not just enter and wander around the Hemyock Castle grounds without permission: That can be very alarming and disturbing for the residents.

Is there an Entry Charge?

Yes. We do make a small charge; currently exactly the same charge since the 1980s:
One Pound for adults; 50 pence for school children.

For many years, we have also supported Heritage Open Days in early September: We offer free entry each year on a Sunday afternoon. See our Heritage Open Days

Is the site accessible to wheelchairs?

Most of the site is fairly level; reasonably accessible to wheelchairs and push chairs. However, the sloping path leading to the rear and to our Interpretation Centre has a gravel section to accommodate heavy delivery lorries. This slope and the gravel can be a problem for some wheelchairs, necessitating able-bodied assistance. Nearby in Hemyock village, there are toilets and an accessible toilet.

As regards our rental cottages: Oliver's Bay is a ground floor apartment with a level entrance. Recently its shower room has been made accessible. The ground floor of Mow Barton is fully accessible (category 3 access certificate). It has a special accessible shower and WC.

Are toilets available?

Sorry, no toilets are available on site for visitors. However, there are toilets and an accessible toilet nearby, next to Hemyock's village hall on Culmbridge Road.

Are teas available?

Sorry, at present we do not normally serve teas. However, the nearby Catherine Wheel serves meals. On Heritage Open Days, teas are sometimes available in aid of charity, and teas are available at St. Mary's Church.

Is Hemyock Castle impressive?

The remains of Hemyock castle are better described as "interesting." After being slighted (largely demolished) following the English Civil War, Hemyock Castle was not later rebuilt or restored. Remember that many of our popular expectations of castles are from seeing grand royal palaces, Victorian "Gothic," or Hollywood!

Hemyock castle is surprisingly compact: The medieval curtain walls enclosed a space little more than 50 metres square, about the same size as Bodiam Castle. It was always a small, working castle rather than a grand royal palace. Several centuries later, during the English Civil War, there wwere two brief brutal sieges. Most of the castle was later destroyed and the ruins were quarried for stone.

However, with the help of our displays and guide book, it is possible to imagine the castle and life of the times. Today, the site has a pleasant tranquil atmosphere rather than the oppressive evil atmosphere of some castles.

What is there to see?

Little can be seen from the road. Once inside, you can walk around the 2 acre site viewing the ruins and the displays. Often, we also have audio explanations & other special displays.

You can (carefully) climb the steps up the remains of the massive gate house. Although now only half its original 40 foot height, there is a commanding view from the top. Large fragments of the towers, curtain walls and moat remain, especially along the Northern side.

Displays in the Interpretation Centre show life through the centuries.

The castle Dungeon holds interesting archaeological finds.

The castle Farmyard has the ancient wooden Cider Press, and displays of traditional farming tools.

Can we take photographs?

Yes, visitors are welcome to take photographs without flash or tripods etc. for non-commercial purposes. Please respect other visitors and their privacy.

Can I bring my well-behaved dog?

Yes, well-behaved dogs on short leads are welcome at our public open days. Please be considerate to other visitors and be careful not to risk any damage to the site or our displays.

When I drive past, little is visible from the road!

Although in the centre of Hemyock village, the castle site is well screened by walls and trees. Little can be seen from the road.

How can I arrange a school or group visit?

Sorry, because of the large amount of preparation needed, and in consideration for the residents of our cottages, we can only provide access on our public open days, when we often also hold special displays.

Do you host weddings?

Sorry, at present we cannot host weddings. However, the nearby St. Mary's Church (C. of E.) is very attractive and popular.

Can we stay at Hemyock Castle?

Yes. There are four comfortable cottages in the castle grounds and alongside St. Margaret's Brook. Each cozy cottage has been carefully modernized, preserving its original charm. The cottages are called: "Mow Barton" "Oliver's Bay" "Sir William" and "Lady Margaret"

These popular cottages are normally let unfurnished, on long lets.

Click here for booking details

What is a castle?

Typically, a medieval "castle" was a private stronghold also used as an occasional residence by the owner. Often, the castle would be occupied by a garrison and the owner would live in more comfort elsewhere.

Following the advent of gunpowder and powerful cannon, many castles fell into disuse. Some were replaced by "forts" which housed only their garrisons.

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Hemyock Castle, Hemyock, CULLOMPTON, Devon, EX15 3RJ, UK.
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