Launceston Castle is located in the town of Launceston, Cornwall, England. It was probably built by Robert the Count of Mortain after 1068, and initially comprised an earthwork and timber castle with a large motte in one corner. Launceston Castle formed the administrative centre of the new earldom of Cornwall, with a large community packed within the walls of its bailey. It was rebuilt in stone in the 12th century and then substantially redeveloped by Richard of Cornwall after 1227, including a high tower to enable visitors to view his surrounding lands.
The Earl also built a wall around the town of Launceston and added with three gatehouses for extra security. This made Launceston the only walled town in Cornwall, another indication of the town’s importance. However, that importance was not to last, for when Earl Richard died, his son and heir, Edmund, moved his administrative centre to Lostwithiel, and Launceston Castle was allowed to decay.
By the 16th century the medieval castle was falling to pieces, and though it was not used as an administrative centre, it still served as a prison, made famous for holding several prominent religious dissenters. The most famous prisoner to be held in Launceston gaol was George Fox, founder of Quakerism.
At least Fox was released after 8 months, unlike the Catholic Cuthbert Mayne, who was executed in 1577 for his religious views. In 1838 the county assizes were moved to Bodmin and Launceston’s prison was torn down a few years later. The castle was used as a public park before being taken into government care, and it is now run by English Heritage.
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