ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

A Guide to Dunster Castle

Updated on December 31, 2014

Found on the edge of Exmoor National Park, Dunster Castle is a fine example of the British Stately home. The history of Dunster Castle goes back over 900 years, although few parts of the original castle now remain, due in no small part to the extensive renovations that have been undertaken over the centuries.

During the long history, the fortunes of Dunster Castle have fluctuated, as have its owners. Dunster Castle has been a defensive fortress, and a comfortable stately home, but it has also been left empty for large periods of time, despite being in the ownership of the Luttrell family for over 600 years. Today though, Dunster Castle is in the hands of the National Trust, who operate the castle as a popular tourist attraction.

Dunster Castle

The Location of Dunster Castle

Dunster Castle is located in Somerset, three miles southeast of Minehead, right on the edge of Exmoor. Situated on a hill known as “the Tor”, Dunster Castle looks down over the medieval village of Dunster; with the site also offering extensive views over the Bristol Channel, Exmoor and the Quantock hills.

Dunster and Dunster Castle

Dunster and Dunster Castle

Rod Allday CC-BY-SA-2.0
Rod Allday CC-BY-SA-2.0 | Source

Dunster Castle under the de Mohun Family

Before the Norman Conquest, the Tor was the site of a Saxon hill fort under the ownership of Aelfric, There is of course the possibility that even earlier defensive positions were taken up on the hill, as there are Iron and Bronze Age hill forts in the area.

Aelfric is thought to have died during the Battle of Hastings, but even if he had not died his lands would have been forfeited anyway. William the Conqueror granted the manor of Dunster, amongst many others, to William de Mohun, a favoured commander of William and also Robert of Mortain.

To help with the subjugation of Somerset, William de Mohun would commence the construction of a motte and bailey castle. Early fortifications were made from wood, but by 1086 a fully functioning castle was built and was inhabited. Subsequently, stone would replace the wooden defences, making Dunster Castle one of the strongest castles in the region.

Ownership of Dunster Castle would pass from William de Mohun to his son, also called William, and further improvements would be made to the castle. It was during this period when the defensive capabilities of Dunster Castle were first tested. During the Anarchy, the first English Civil War, William held the castle for Matilda, against the besieging forces of King Stephen.

For 200 years, Dunster Castle would remain in the hands of the de Mohun family, with work continuing to improve and expand the castle; work being paid for, or done by, those who lived on the Dunster manor.

In 1330, Dunster Castle passed into the hands of Sir John de Mohun, but in trying to maintain all of his lands, John fell into debt, and upon his death in 1376, John’s widow Joan, was forced to sell Dunster Castle to Lady Elizabeth Luttrell. Elizabeth Luttrell did allow Joan to remain living in the castle until her death.

Dunster Castle

Mike Crowe CC-BY-SA-2.0
Mike Crowe CC-BY-SA-2.0 | Source

Dunster Castle and Gatehouse

Maria  CC-BY-SA-3.0
Maria CC-BY-SA-3.0 | Source

Dunster Castle under the Luttrells

The Luttrell’s, like the de Mohuns, were another major Norman family, and following the sale, 21 generations of the family would own Dunster Castle, over a period of 600 years. The first of the Luttrells to live in Dunster Castle was Sir Hugh Luttrell, a favourite of Henry V.

Briefly, the Luttrells lost their lands when Edward VI, confiscated them; the Luttrells having been supporters of the House of Lancaster during the War of the Roses. Lands though were restored to them by Henry VII.

By the 16th Century, Dunster Castle was starting to fall into disrepair, as the castle was now only a second home to the family. In 1617 though, money was once again put into the upkeep of the castle, with Dunster Castle transformed into a Jacobean mansion. Over the years the castle became a manor house rather than a functioning castle.

The remnants of the Norman defences though were put to good use in the 17th Century when the English Civil War broke out. Ownership of Dunster Castle at the time was in the hands of Thomas Luttrell. Thomas Luttrell would initially support the Parliamentary cause, and Dunster Castle held out against a Royalist siege, but shortly afterwards Thomas Luttrell would switch allegiances, and subsequently Dunster Castle would be besieged by Parliament’s troops.

In 1645 a six month siege commenced, and eventually the garrison in Dunster Castle would surrender. After the war parliament decreed that Dunster Castle should be slighted, so that it would not be a Royalist stronghold in the future. George Luttrell, the owner at the time, did manage to successfully argue that only the walls would be destroyed, rather than the living quarters.

Within 50 years though, Dunster Castle was virtually abandoned by the Luttrells, and for the next 100 years the family was in and out of debt, with only slight enhancements being made to the building. During the Georgian period though, work was once again undertaken, with an extensive garden created, and Georgian styling added to the Manor House.

Despite these improvements, Dunster Castle was once again almost abandoned and it was only in 1867 when another George Luttrell inherited the castle that the fortunes of the family and the castle improved. Income from the estate allowed George to redesign many of the buildings into a Gothic revival styling.

This financial revival though did not last long, and into the 20th Century occupation of Dunster Castle was on and off. Eventually, in 1976, Walter Luttrell passed ownership of Dunster Castle over to the National Trust.

Dunster Castle and Gatehouse

Maria CC-BY-SA-3.0
Maria CC-BY-SA-3.0 | Source

The National Trust and Dunster Castle

The National Trust operates Dunster Castle and its grounds as a tourist attraction, with the site classed as a Scheduled Ancient Monument, and the Castle as a Grade I listed building.

Dunster Castle today, is of course, not an example of a Norman Castle, as virtually nothing of this period remains intact, but the castle does show an evolution of style from the Tudor period onwards. Visitors can walk around the castle, and also take in 680 acres of parkland.

The National Trust charges visitors a small fee for entrance to the castle and/or the grounds, and these charges can be found on the National Trust website. The website also shows opening hours for the different parts of Dunster Castle, and it is certainly worth visiting the website before travelling to Dunster.

Comments

Submit a Comment

  • Colin Quartermain profile imageAUTHOR

    Colin Quartermain 

    3 years ago

    Kim thanks for taking the time to read and comment. Dunster Castle is in a great part of the country, and the village is a good place to walk around as well. Colin

  • klidstone1970 profile image

    இڿڰۣ-- кιмвєяℓєу 

    3 years ago from Niagara Region, Canada

    A lovely article on Dunster's history, Colin. I love British history and I found this quite interesting. Thanks for sharing. Kim.

working

This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

Show Details
Necessary
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Features
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Marketing
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Statistics
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)