Coastal Heritage and the Climate Crisis

Hurst Castle © David Gill

English Heritage has issued its Coastal Heritage at Risk report (23 September 2022). Six castles are identified as at risk. Two are in the Solent: Hurst Castle and Calshot Castle. The dramatically situated Tintagel Castle in Cornwall sustained some £40,000 worth of damage in the winter storms of 2021/22. Piel Castle in Cumbria is facing damage due to rising sea levels. The other sites are at Bayard’s Cove Fort in Devon, and Garrison Walls in Scilly.

Piel Castle, Cumbria © David Gill

Coastal heritage locations in East Anglia and the south-east are also facing similar pressures due to rising sea levels and extreme weather conditions. Some of the issues are explored in the EARC Heritage Report:

Gill, D. W. J., M. Kelleher, P. Matthews, T. M. Pepperell, H. Taylor, M. Harrison, C. Moore, and J. Winder. 2022. From the Wash to the White Cliffs: The Contribution of the Heritage Sector. Eastern Academic Research Consortium (EARC) <>.

Totnes Castle: Guidebook


Totnes Castle in Devon forms one of the Shell Keeps in Devon and Cornwall. The castle was placed in State Guardianship in 1947, and S.E. Rigold wrote the first MPBW pamphlet guide in 1952. This continued as the DOE pamphlet guide (1979) [8 pp.; price 5p] with the blue header making a reference to the fuller ‘blue guides’ available at other sites.

1987 (2nd ed. 1990)

This was expanded, with very slightly adapted text as an English Heritage guide (1983; 2nd ed. 1990 [30p]). It doubled in length and included black and white photographs, a single page plan, and a reconstruction by Alan Sorrell. The description now preceded the history.

Dartmouth Castle: Guidebooks

1951 (repr. 1954)

Dartmouth Castle was placed in the care of the Office of Works in 1909, although the War Office retained the right to use the structure. It was finally placed in State Guardianship in 1970.


B.H. St. John O’Neil wrote the first guide to the castle in 1934, followed by a paper guide in 1951. It was followed by a Ministry of Public Buildings and Works souvenir guide in 1965. This was written by A.D. Saunders. The printer was W.S. Cowell of the Butter Market, Ipswich. This guide took the format: Introduction; Early Defences; The Building of the Castle; Kingswear Castle; Bayard’s Cove; Sixteenth-Century Repairs and Additions; The Civil War; Later History; Description.

1988 (2nd ed.)

Saunders’ guide continued into the period of English Heritage. It was reprinted in 1983, with a second edition in 1988. This carried the branding of Gateway supermarkets. The format was altered, starting with a description and then the history. An expanded third edition appeared in 1991.

1991 (1993)

Blackbury Camp

Blackbury Camp © David Gill

The Iron Age hillfort of Blackbury Camp is in Devon. It is approximately 200 m by 100 m, and the ramparts stand up to 3 m high. Excavations at the site revealed a supply of slingstones used to defend the settlement.

Blackbury Camp is in State Guardianship. It is one of several hillforts in the care of English Heritage.

Three Shell Keeps in Devon and Cornwall


In 1969 the Ministry of Public Buildings and Works (MPBW) produced a ‘souvenir guide’ of the Three Shell Keeps by D.F. Renn. This covered Launceston and Restormel Castles in Cornwall, and Totnes Castle in Devon.


Totnes Castle was placed in state guardianship in 1947, and a short guide by S.E. Rigold appeared in 1952. This continued as a Department of the Environment ‘paper’ guide (with blue header) (1979), and then as an English Heritage guide (1990).

1998 [2009]
Launceston Castle was placed in state guardianship in 1951. The guide by T.L. Jones appeared in 1959. This was replaced by the English Heritage guidebook by A.M. Saunders in 1985.


Restormel Castle was placed in state guardianship in 1925. The guide was prepared by C.A. Ralegh Radford in 1935. This was contemporary with the guides for Lydford and Tintagel Castles. The Restormel Castle guide was reprinted in 1947, and for the Department of the Environment in 1980. It contains a short history with a section on the periods of construction; this is followed by a description, with a plan on the centre pages.

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