Okehampton Castle - History and Facts | History Hit

Okehampton Castle

West Devon, England, United Kingdom

Okehampton Castle was once Devon’s largest castle and was listed in the Doomsday Book.

Peta Stamper

21 Apr 2021

About Okehampton Castle

Listed in the Doomsday Book of 1086, Okehampton Castle in Devon, England, was built during Norman times and expanded in the 14th century to become the stately home of the Earl of Devon, Hugh de Courtenay.

Okehampton Castle remained in the ownership of the Courtenay family until 1538, when Henry de Courtenay entered into a dispute with Henry VIII over the Reformation and was executed in the Tower of London. Thereafter, Okehampton Castle fell into disuse. The remains of Okehampton Castle are now open to the public and managed by English Heritage.

Okehampton Castle history

Following the Norman conquest of England, Okehamption Castle was built between 1068 and 1086 by Norman lord, Baldwin Fitzgilbert who put down a rebellion in Devon in 1068. By the time of the Domesday book Fitzgilbert had the Honour of Okehampton: a group of around 200 estates across Devon guarded by castles including Okehamption.

The castle was positioned strategically along an important route from Devon to Cornwall, and was protected by a castle-guard system whereby Fitzgilbert allocated land in repayment for garrison. He also established a nearby town which had a market and grain mill. In 1173, Okehampton passed to Renaud de Courtenay by marriage and the castle later served as a military fort requisitioned by Richard I. The de Courtenays installed a new bailey.

Hugh de Courtenay, Earl of Devon inherited Okehampton in 1297, expanding the facilities to include a 690-hectare deer park to be used as a hunting lodge with a luxury residence. However, in the 15th century the de Courtenay family were caught on the Yorkist side of the War of the Roses. Edward IV confiscated the castle, although it was returned by Lancastrian Henry VI. When Henry VII took the throne in 1485, the conflict ended and Okehampton was returned to the family.

Ownership of the castle remained significant, and was close to the Battle of Sourton Down during the English Civil War. The castle was a popular destination for 18th century artists of the Sublime and Picturesque styles. In the 20th century, Okehampton was eventually brought under the protection of English Heritage as an ancient monument.

Okehampton Castle today

Today, take a free audioguide to hear the castle’s history, entwined with the stories of English kings. Walking around the motte you can see where the 4 metre-deep ditch once was, looking up at the ruins of the grand structure.

Stop to enjoy some lunch within a beautiful riverside picnic area before exploring the nearby woodland walks – a great place for keen birdwatchers and lovers of wildflowers which are scattered over the meadow, woods and motte.

Getting to Okehampton Castle

By car, Okehampton is locate a half mile south-west from the town centre, turning into Castle Road by the post office, clearly signposted. There is a free car park a short walk along a lane from the castle. By public transport, get the Dartmoor Railway line to Okehampton, a half mile away. The Stagecoach bus service X9, Beacon bus 118, and Dartline 178 all stop in the town.