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Penhallam Manor
  Penhallam Manor

North Cornwall
NGR: SX 22450 97400
Aerial photo of Penhallam Manir from the west
The ruins of the mediæval moated manor house at Penhallam stand on the level valley floor south of the confluence of two tributaries of the river Neet in the parish of Jacobstow, North Cornwall. It is thought to date from the late 12th Century and to have been abandoned at some point in the mid 14th Century. Whilst moated sites in England reach a peak during this time, Penhallam represents one of a minority in the south-west of England and one of only four in Cornwall. Excavation of its substantial remains along with its well-documented history have provided a valuable insight into the social and domestic structure of sites of this type.

The majority of moated manor houses were homes to aristocratic landowners and records show that Penhallam was part of the honour of Cardinham, held by Richard Fitz-Turold in 1087 and passed on to his descendants the de Cardinan family. It was probably this family that built the moated house here, perhaps as temporary residence or lodge for use when hunting in the deer park, which they also laid out to the west. By 1270 it had been inherited by the Champernowne family who owned it until its eventual dissolution, and was tenanted during much of the early 14th Century by the Beupre family. In 1319, Isabella de Beupre obtained a licence from the Bishop of Exeter to say mass in her oratory at 'Penhallum'.

The manor complex, a quadrangle of buildings around a central open court, appears to have been constructed during four distinct building phases. The earliest, dated to around 1180-1200, was the east range, housing a large rectangular building with an undercroft. The first floor held the main domestic apartments and had a large fireplace on the eastern wall. Shortly afterwards a solar and garderobe (toilet) were added to the northern end. The most extensive phase of building followed around 1224-1236 and included the remaining north, south and west ranges. The main hall forms most of the single storey north range; today remains of a raised dais for the high table survive at the east end, and stone benches along the north and south walls. A hearth formed from a re-used millstone was discovered in front of the dais; excavation uncovered the remains of a wattle and daub chimney hood. A passage and screen linked the hall to the solar in the east range.

The service rooms of the manor (the buttery and servery, pantry, bakehouse and kitchen) were in the west and south-west ranges. In the brew and bakehouse, a malting kiln and two bread ovens were discovered. The base of an external stair in the south-west corner of the courtyard indicates that this range had two storeys. In the south were possibly the lodgings for the chief retainers and important visitors; their accommodation included a garderobe. The eastern ground floor end of the south range contained the chapel with a raised sanctuary and altar. Some traces of benches are still visible around the walls and excavation uncovered fragments of window tracery and painted wall plaster.

Originally the manor was reached by a drawbridge over the moat which was operated from a separate gatehouse at the edge of the island. The drawbridge was lowered onto a timber bridge with stone abutments on the opposite side of the moat. Subsequently, around the later 13th Century a fixed stone bridge was substituted that ran to the gatehouse entrance from where a walled passage led to an inner gateway in the south range.

Penhallam is managed by English Heritage: it is open at all times of the year and entry is free. The site can be reached by a path through woodlands from a small car park at SX 22463 97965 or by a public footpath through nearby Bury Court. In nearby Week St Mary, just west of the church, is a small ringwork or Norman Castle, possibly the predecessor of the moated manor at Penhallam. Another moat at Binhamy near Bude is in private ownership.

Beresford, G, 1971. Berry Court, Jacobstow in Cornish Archaeology 10, pp95-96.

Wilson, DM and Hurst, G, 1970. Manors and Moats in Journal of mediæval Archaeology 14, pp189-190.
How to get there


Penhallam is managed by English Heritage: it is open at all times of the year and entry is free. The site can be reached by a path through woodlands from a small car park at SX 22463 97965 or by a public footpath through nearby Bury Court.

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Nearby sites

Kilkhampton Castle
supported by HLF and compiled by the Historic Environment Service of Cornwall County Council  
last updated: 14/09/2007