I took time out to visit Lydford when I was working in Devon a few weeks ago. I had visited the Gorge previously but had never had time to explore this lovely Saxon village. It sits just back from the main A386 route and as I drive into the centre, I pass rows of pristine cottages with beautifully tended gardens before parking in the small, free car park.
The castle sits on the other side of the lane; it's in a bit of a state , the roof has gone but it still commands an imposing stance over the village from it's high, earthwork mound. It is the second of two castles that have sat here, the first being built shortly after the Norman Conquest but that has all but disappeared.
The existing castle was built in 1195 although all that remains of this is the three storey tower in front of me. It was rebuilt again in the 13th century which saw a ditch excavated around the base of the tower and soil piled up against the tower walls to the height of the first storey. The remaining floors were rebuilt to form a "keep" and the old prison was filled in. The bailey and earthworks were also added to the northwest side.
Adjacent to the castle is the church of St Petroc, a 6th century Welsh monk who travelled throughout the west country until his death in 564AD. Initially, the church was little more than a shelter where St Petroc stayed during his ramblings. The Celtic people in Devon had been Christianised by the 4th century by the Romans, and after they departed, few advancements were made until St Petroc reintroduced the religion via his teachings. The church was finally dedicated him in 641AD at which time it would have been a wooden structure of Saxon origin.
This Saxon church was replaced well after the Conquest, around 1237 and it was added to in 1261 and the mid 1400s. Today, the church remains in superb condition, a lasting tribute to its Norman stonemasons.
I thoroughly enjoyed my two hours here in Lydford, it has a timeless air to it and if time had permitted, I'm sure there are many more "finds" to unearth in this sleep backwater.
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