QR Castle Grounds & Bowling Green

HER number: MDV18797

Name: Great Torrington Bowling Green

Text: Bowling Green dating from 1645 to the east of Great Torrington Castle, with 18th century walls and gazebo. May be on the site of the medieval eastern bailey of the castle.

Link to official record: https://www.heritagegateway.org.uk/Gateway/Results_Single.aspx?uid=MDV18797&resourceID=104

Great Torrington Bowling Green Walls and Gazebo

List ID: 1104789

List date: 1951

Listing text: Mainly C18 or earlier. At east end of Castle site. Ground falls away to east and south. There has been a bowling green here since C18 if not earlier. The Reverend John Swete describes how the green was temporarily destroyed and a “pleasure-house” dismantled by Mr Rolle in 1789 owing to unseemly and blasphemous behaviour of those using them. In early C19 Barley Grove was “laid out and planted” by Mr John Yeo, mayor of Torrington. The walls surrounding the bowling green may be of this date, stones from the old Castle probably being used. There is little other evidence of lay-out now remaining. At south east corner is an octagonal gazebo; (the pleasure-house of 1789?). The base of this is buttressed on the south and east below the level of the green itself. Front is of rusticated stone with round-headed opening, the other sides roughcast and with sunk panels. Sash window in round-headed panel, south east, overlooks the valley. Octagonal roof of slate with ball finial at apex. Added brick lean-to, east.

Link to official record: https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1104789

HER number: MDV437

Name: Great Torrington Castle

Text: Great Torrington Castle, mentioned in documents in 1139 and 1228, but subsequent history uncertain. Remains of stone buildings and a rampart identified to the east of the Bowling Green.

Link to official record: https://www.heritagegateway.org.uk/Gateway/Results_Single.aspx?uid=MDV437&resourceID=104

Online Resources for Bowling as a historical game:

Tudor Sports

History of Bowling

Lawn Bowls – Britannica Encyclopedia

Lawn Bowls Society

Great Torrington Bowling Club

Online Records for excavations at the castle site:





Published Work

Higham, R. A. and Goddard, S. (1987). Great Torrington Castle. Devon Archaeol Soc Proc 45. Vol 45, pp. 97-103.

Un-named castle of William Fitz-Odo captured in 1139. A castle demolished in 1228 due to lack of Royal Licence. In 1328, 1340 and 1347 Richard Merton received licence to crenellate the house, which is likely to be at the castle site as Merton’s Holding in 1343 seems to be associated with the chapel (see PRN 13834). Gardens are referred to adjacent to the castle in the late 14th century. The boundary between borough (see PRN 19042) and castle precincts was respected until relatively modern times. The site has a commanding position over the Torridge, with strong natural defences on the south. The name ‘Barley Grove’ on Castle Hill may be a corruption of ‘bailey’. Possible that a sunken yard adjacent to possible motte earthworks is situated in the former ditch. Parchmarks visible on the bowling green suggest stone features survive beneath. 1987 watching brief at circa SS49691892 identified a coursed rubble wall, 4 metres long, 0.6 metres deep, 0.9-0.5 metres wide, with a narrower wall superimposed. The walls were possibly rendered. The wall contained pot of circa1200-1500, the narrow wall, pot of circa 1300-1500. There was also a possible floor of trodden clay and flat stones on the walls south side. Above the floor was circa 1200-1500 pottery and a worn coin of uncertain date. The building was probably domestic. The tail of a rampart of clay, gravel and stone at least 0.8 metres high was also identified. This could represent the corner of an enclosure, or possibly part of a tower bearing mound on the east perimeter. About 500 medieval sherds were also retrieved from a service trench around the north and north-east side of the bowling green and demolition rubble recorded. The pot was largely local North Devon unglazed coarseware from Barnstaple/Bideford, of circa 1200-1500 type, though the assemblage appears to be similar to 15th century deposits in Exeter. Extensive destruction of the site means that a full plan of the castle is not possible. Archaeological features lay beneath a strikingly thin overburden.