Musket and gunpowder smoke are not things you’d ordinarily associate with sunny Salcombe, but delve deep enough into the town’s archives and you’ll discover the battle for Salcombe Castle, the last Royalist stronghold of the English Civil War.
Leading the brave resistance against Oliver Cromwell’s Parliamentarians, was Sir Edmund Fortescue, who originally rebuilt the castle to ward off French and Spanish pirates at a cost of £135 6s 11d, and named it “Fort Charles”.
Today, this handsome ruin still sits at the mouth of Salcombe Harbour, just off the beach at North Sands, on a rocky outcrop passable on foot at low tide. It was here that Sir Edmund, Sheriff of Devon, and his garrison of eleven officers, forty-three non-commissioned troops, a chaplain, a surgeon, and two laundresses, defended the castle in the name of the king.
Inventory records show the besieged Royalists survived on thirty-six hogsheads of meat, ten hogsheads of punch, six hundred weight of tobacco, and ten casks of cider. Surrounded by a battery of three guns, Sir Edmund’s stubborn resistance lasted from January 1645 up until May 1646.
When Sir Edmund finally capitulated it was under the “favourable terms” of Colonel Ralph Weldon, commander of Plymouth, who allowed the whole of Sir Edmund’s garrison to march out of the fort “unmolested” to the sound of pipe ‘n’ drum.
Upon his marching orders, and having stuck to the rock like a limpet for all of sixteen gruelling months, Sir Edmund refused to hand over the keys to the fort, and so they remained in the possession of his trusted descendants.
Barred from all of his majesty’s councils, Sir Edmund remained defiant to the terms of parliament up until his death in 1647, aged thirty-seven. His portrait was hung in his family home at Fallapit House, near East Allington, but his most famous legacy remains in the ruins of Salcombe Castle, a monument to the very last of the Royalist enclaves.
Discover the historic seaside town for yourself – one of the South Hams’ most beautiful resorts – when you book a stay in one of our Salcombe holiday homes.