Dunster Castle: Dunn: Torre

Dunster Castle
© S. T. Carter


  • Dunster, Somerset.
  • Scheduled Monument
  • Listed Building.


Medieval motte castle and later fortified house, covering approximately 238 ha, with 277 ha Park.

Noted in Saxon period as a frontier fortress against the Celts.

Belonged to Alunic at the time of Edward the Confessor. Included a fortified tower.


700                              c: Settled by the Saxons. The last Saxon Lord was Aluric.

1066                            c: Granted to William de Mohun who built the first structure on the site. The Tor was leveled and scarped and a timber castle built.

1086                            Castle on site.

1135-1154                   Between: William de Mohun supported Empress Matilda.

1138                            By: Built in stone.

1138                            c: William de Mohun held the castle against Henry de Tracy.

1138                            Unsuccessfully seiged by King Stephen’s troops.

1141                            William de Mohun was made Earl of Somerset by Matilda, but King Stephen never acknowledged the title.

1155                            Before: Rebuilt in stone by William de Mohun.

1197                            Described as a borough.

1222                            Market was allowed to take place in the town.

1253                            Reginald de Mohun allowed the local people to hold a market and fairs in the town.

1257                            c; Sir Reynold de Mohun enlarged and strengthened the lower ward.

1265                            Sir William de Berkeley attacked the area during the Baron’s War. The castle warden Adam Gurdon made them leave the area with a rebel force.

1266                            Building included a hall, buttery, kitchen, pantry, bakehouse, chapel, knight’s hall, a prison and three towers. The lower ward had three towers and a granary.

1279                            The Deer Park was called Small Park.

13th                              Gatehouse.

1330                            The Deer Park was called the Hanger.

1376                            Lady Joan de Mohun sold it to Lady Elizabeth Luttrell.

1404                            Lady de Mohun died and Sir Hugh Luttrell set about laying claim to the castle and lands on 17th February. He married Catherine, daughter of Sir John Beaumont. Their children were John, William, Margaret, Elizabeth, Anne and Joan.

1405                            Sir Hugh Luttrell took possession of the castle and carried out repairs. They also spent Christmas at the castle.

1420                            Gatehouse built in front of the 13 C gatehouse by Sir Hugh Luttrell. Comprising of six small rooms. Each room had a fireplace.

1428                            The Deer Park covered 100 acres. Buttresses were added to the east wall.

1428                            24th March; Sir Hugh Luttrell died. The castle was inherited by Sir John Luttrell, married to Margaret Tuchet. Their children were John and James.

1429                            c; John Luttrell was knighted.

1430-1449                   Richard Luttrell was constable.

1449                            c, February; Sir John Luttrell took possession of the manors. He was married to Elizabeth Courtney, daughter of Sir Philip Courtney, at Powderham Castle. Their children were Alexander, Hugh and Jane.

1455-1487                   During the Wars of the Roses; Was seized by Edward of York as forfeiture of the Luttrell’s being Lancastrians, and given to Sir William Herbert, future Earl of Pembroke. He held the property until the death of Richard III.

1460                            Sir James Luttrell was knighted. Later during the year he passed away.

1461                            The manors were seized by Sir William Herbert under orders of Edward IV.

1463                            Edward IV gave the lands to Sir William Herbert.

1468                            Sir William Herbert’s son, William, called himself Lord of Dunster.

1468                            Edward IV appointed Philip Beaumont as constable of Dunster Castle.

1472                            Early: Edward IV gave the keeping of the Manor to his brother, George, Duke of Gloucester.

1472                            Late: Edward IV appointed John Grogh Bailiff and Keeper of Dunster.

1475                            Lady Elizabeth Luttrell laid claim to the Manor.

1485                            Sir Hugh Luttrell won his petition to claim back Dunster and the Earl’s agents were evicted.

1485-1509                   Between: The estates were restored to Sir Hugh Luttrell.

1493                            Lady Luttrell died and her son, Hugh, inherited the castle.

15th C                          Mid; The estate was confiscated by Edward I.

15th C                          The sea receded away from the castle and the Deer Park was created.

1547                            George Luttrell built the Yarn Market.

1571                            Inherited by Sir George Luttrell, who employed William Arnold to build a house in the Lower Ward.

1589                            George Luttrell built the main building.

16th C                          Mid; The Deer Park covered 76 acres. Luttrell heraldic panel placed on the gatehouse.

1617                            William Arnold was commissioned by George Luttrell to build a new house on the site of the previous living quarters.

1633                            Small boats were still able to make their way up to the castle.

1642                            The Marquess of Hartford arrived in Somerset to gather support for Charles I, but found it was mostly Parliamentarian. Thomas Luttrell refused him entry to the castle. Lord Hartford tried to take it but failed.

1643                            January; Welsh Royalists stormed the castle but were unsuccessful in taking it.

1643                            7th June; Lord Hartford returned to the castle with Prince Maurice and Thomas Luttrell surrendered. Francis Wyndham became Governor of the castle.

1644                            The castle was besieged for 160 days by Parliament before surrendering.

1645                            The Prince of Wales stayed at the castle to avoid catching the plague.

1645                            May: Charles I sent his son, the 15 year old Prince of Wales, to Somerset to gain support. His headquarters were to be at Dunster. He stayed for two weeks with Francis Wyndham.

1645                            October: Parliamentarian Col. Robert Blake was sent to take the castle from Francis Wyndham, who was holding it for the king.

1645                            November; The Siege of Dunster began.

1646                            April 19: The siege ended after more than 5 months. Sir Francis Wyndham and his men left, peacefully.

1646                            Sir Thomas Fairfax arrived and mines were dug under the castle and the walls were breached in one place.

1649                            An order was given to demolish the castle but little demolition took place.

1649-1651                   Between; William Payne was imprisoned at the castle for speaking out about the death of Charles I.

1649-1653                   The fortifications and curtain wall were slighted. The only remains were the house.

1650                            c: The order was given to stop the demolition. Only the gatehouse remained.

1651                            Until; A garrison was kept at the site. George Luttrell paid a large recognizance and swore his allegiance to the Commonwealth in order to regain Dunster.

1680                            Francis Luttrell bought his new bride back to the castle and they refurbished it including the oak staircase.

1690                            Inherited by Alexander Luttrell. Improvements included forming a bowling green on the site of the old keep, making a new driveway.

17th C                          Most of the curtain wall was demolished.

1711                            Alexander Luttrell died and his widow, Dorothy paid off some debts and leveled the keep. She also had a private chapel built against the south side of the house. Was inherited by his son Alexander Luttrell.

1720                            Dorothy Luttrell started building a driveway which was completed by Henry Fownes Luttrell.

1737                            Alexander Luttrell (2) died and it was inherited by his daughter Margaret Luttrell, who married Henry Fownes. Henry built a new approach to the castle, formed the Deer Park and built some follies.

1747                            Margaret Luttrell married Henry Fownes and they moved into the castle. They created the Deer Park and built Conigar Tower, the folly on the hill opposite the castle.

1755                            The Deer Park was improved.

1764                            Green Court built by Henry Fownes Luttrell.

1766                            Margaret Fownes died and Henry made some changes to the house.

1780                            Henry Fownes Luttrell died and the estate was inherited by his son John.

18th C                          The Green Court was formed and the Deer Park was landscaped.

1816                            John Fownes Luttrell (1) died and his son John inherited the castle.

1857                            John Fownes Luttrell (2) died childless and it passed to his brother Henry.

1867                            Henry Fownes Luttrell (2) died George Luttrell, his nephew, inherited the castle.

1867                            Altered.

1868-1872                   George Fownes Luttrell had Salvin give the house the castellated appearance and added two towers with turrets and battlements. Driveway built.

1873                            A ball was held at the castle to celebrate its completion.

18th – 19th C                 Terraced gardens added.

19th C                          Salvin was employed to make improvements to the castle which included building the two towers.

1910                            George Luttrell died and Alexander Luttrell inherited the castle.

1920                            George Luttrell died and Alexander Luttrell inherited the castle.

1944                            Alexander Luttrell died and left a large tax liability over the castle. Purchased by Ashdale Property Company.

1949                            Purchased by the Crown Commissioner.

1954                            Commissioners of Crown Land offered to resell the castle back to the Luttrell’s. An agreement was reached and the property was reconvened.

1957                            Geoffrey Luttrell died and the castle was inherited by Lt. Col. Walter Luttrell, MC.

1965                            Field Investigation.

1969                            Listed building.

1976                            Lt. Colonal Walter Luttrell gave the house and lands to the National Trust.

1983                            Watching Brief.

1990                            Aerial photograph.

1995                            Aerial photograph.

1996                            Aerial photograph.

1998                            Aerial photograph.

2001                            Evaluation b 

2001                            Watching Brief  

2002                            Scheduled.

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