Radford Castle


On the 2nd Dec 2008 officers from the estates department of Plymouth City Council took representatives of Devon Historic Buildings Trust on a tour of properties that were surplus to the council’s requirements.

From all the buildings seen it was agreed by DHBT that Radford Castle had the most potential. At the outset the officers were asked whether there was a problem with the access to the site. They were not sure but said they would enquire into the matter. On this basis negotiations were begun to acquire the property for restoration as a dwelling house.

Over the next year DHBT contacted all their members and associates regarding the restoration of the castle, putting them on hold pending a successful outcome of negotiations that were proceeding, albeit rather slowly. In short a not inconsiderable amount of time and effort was expended by DHBT but still a resolution from PCC did not occur. Time passed.

In November 2009 it became apparent that Wain Homes owned the right of way to the castle and were not prepared to grant it or negotiate further.

In December 2009 DHBT wrote to PCC to say that this being the case there was little point in continuing. Should there be a resolution to the access then they might still be interested.

Since then there have been two expressions of interest. One from a company offering unusual holiday lettings and another from an individual who was considering it for a Cafe/Gift shop. In both cases the lack of legal access proved to be an obstacle.

The question arises as to why Wain Homes are so obstinate over the matter of legal access. There was an opinion that they would grant/sell it if they could get planning permission to build in nearby Radford Quarry, which they own and which is now a nature reserve and home to a rare spider. However this was refused on appeal in 2015 so they may be waiting five years to make another application and apply the same bargaining chip.

In the meantime the Castle deteriorates, Wain Homes get painted as the villain and a beautiful area is neglected. Once again a unique piece of local heritage falls victim to intransigent selfishness. Not that anyone is doing anything wrong of course. All are acting legally and within their rights. It’s just that a better outcome for all concerned might be achieved with a bit of give and take.


Around 1800 John Harris, owner of Radford House, reached an agreement with the Duke of Bedford whereby they exchanged some lands to tidy the boundaries of their neighbouring estates. John Harris could now realise one of his dreams.

The arrangement with the Duke gave him the land to the East of the tidal creek that ran up to Radford House. Around 1815 he built a dam across the Western end of the creek to create a permanent lake, fed by the small stream. This lake would be used for pleasure, a boathouse and ornamental gardens were added to the West side, and stocked with fish, wildfowl and water plants.

The Dam was built with limestone from nearby Radford Quarry and embellished in the centre with a small mock gothic castle. This was to be a cottage for the groundsman who also controlled the main sluice gate which was built at the southern end of the dam. Opening this would drain the entire lake so enabling cleaning and fishing.

Radford House was demolished in 1937. The only buildings of the estate left in 2014 are the main gate lodge, now in private ownership, the cottage and boathouse on St Keverne’s Quay (now a ruin) and the dam and castle, which eventually passed into Plymouth City Council’s care. Initially it was let to tenants but for the last forty years or so it has been empty except for a brief period as a council store.

It is small, consisting of one downstairs kitchen/diner, toilet/bathroom and two interconnected bedrooms reached via a spiral staircase. At one time a family of ten lived there.

For more about Radford see Hooelake.org website or purchase the PVH DVD of Radford Castle. See Publications