St. Mawes Castle

By the village of St. Mawes, near Falmouth, Cornwall. Maintained by English Heritage.

Built by Henry VIII, to protect the coastline against French raiders. This was an early gunpowder-based fortification, built before the it was appreciated that the power of cannon made tall walls obsolete.

St. Mawes Castle was built in the years 1540-1545, as one of a series of artillery forts (Pendennis Castle and Deal Castle are others) built under Henry VIII to strengthen the south coast of England against seaborne attack. In 1539, Charles V of Spain and Francis I of France signed a ten-year treaty, and began to assemble an invasion force to restore England to Catholocism. St. Mawes Castle, and Pendennis Castle on the opposite headland, guarded Carrick Roads (the mouth of the river Fal), a large and safe anchorage. Although the Spanish-French invasion never materialised (Francis and Charles were at war again by 1541), the castle was armed and garrisoned, and continued in service well into Elizabeth's reign.