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Author Topic:   St Michael's Mount, Cornwall
posted 03-17-2000 03:08 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Lexitus   Click Here to Email Lexitus     Edit/Delete Message
Hi, i'm a student, and I'm looking for information, web sites etc relating to St Michael's Mount, Cornwall. Any information would be useful, but especially history, timelines, floorplans, etc.

Thanks in advance,

Ed Perkins

posted 03-18-2000 05:10 PM           Edit/Delete Message
My information is that St Michaels Mount supports a castle-like mansion (despite having a castle tag, it is not a castle!), and it is not mediaval. There was a Benedictine Priory here which may be older.
The following was the best I could get I'm afraid, but then it is unlikely to be on castle data bases.

'Give me the groves that lofty brave,
The storms, by Castle Gordon'.
Visit my web-site at


Philip Davis
posted 03-19-2000 08:47 AM           Edit/Delete Message
Whilst Wurdsmiff is basically correct that St Micheal's Mount was a Benedictine monastry it was, in fact, fortified (several monastries were fortified). Below is what Mike Salter has to say of it

SW 514299
A Celtic monastery is said to have occupied this tidal island from the 8th century until the 11th century. An early cross is the only relic of that period. In the 1040s Edward the Confessor gave the mount to the abbey of Mont St Michel on a similar tidal island off the Normandy coast. Domesday Book records a priest named Brismar being in possession. A rock chamber below the floor of the choir of the present church discovered in 1 720 but no longer visible may be a relic of about that time. Some time between 1135 and c 1150 Bernard le Bec, Abbot of Mont St Michel erected a monastery on the summit of the rock for a prior and twelve Benedictine monks. In 1193, whilst Richard I was a prisoner in Germany, St MichaelŐs Mount was seized and fortified by Henry de Pomeroy in support of Prince John. De Pomeroy only submitted after Richard returned to England and a strong force under Hubert Walter, Archbishop of Canterbury, was sent to take the mount.
In September 1275 an earthquake destroyed the church so that it needed rebuilding. As an alien priory subject to a mother house in France, the monastery was regarded with suspicion by Edward Ill and his successors after their wars against the French began in 1337. In that year an inventory of the goods and chattels of the priory was made. The priory was not wealthy and they were not worth much, and by 1362, as a result of plague, there were only a prior and two monks left in the monastery. When Henry V began his campaign which led to the victory of Agincourt in 1415 the priory was suppressed and its lands granted to the Brigittine Abbey of Syon at Twickenham which he had recently founded. Henry VI confirmed this grant in 1424. In 1425 the Bishop of Exeter decided that three chaplains should live in the priory in place of the three monks formerly living there. In 1473 St MichaelŐs Mount was captured by the Earl of Oxford in support of the deposed Henry VI against Edward IV. The earl and his men disguised themselves as pilgrims and overcame the small garrison and clergy. The earl had family connections in Cornwall and was able to stock the fortress with provisions and munitions. Eventually the earl was obliged to surrender after many of his force of about 80 were induced to desert by promises of bribes and favours. He later escaped from Hamme Castle near Calais and in 1485 helped Henry Tudor defeat Richard Ill and and take his throne.
In 1497 the Yorkist pretender Perkin Warbeck landed in Cornwall and was admitted to St MichaelŐs Mount by the priests. Warbeck left his wife Lady Catherine Gordon, a noted beauty and a relative of James IV of Scots, in the Mount. She was captured there and sent to King Henry at Taunton after her husbandŐs rebellion petered out and he surrendered. They remained at court but Perkin was executed in 1499 after involvement in another conspiracy. The priory was dissolved by Henry VIII in 1535 and Humphrey Arundell was appointed Captain of the Mount. He was a Catholic and became one of the leaders of the rebellion against the new prayer book in 1549. At the time he was absent and it was neccsary for him to besiege the place and take it from a party of local gentlemen who had taken refuge there. Arundell was hanged at Tyburn after capture at Launceston.
St MichaelŐs Mount was subsequently held by a succession of local gentry who were required to maintain there a garrison of five men and a priest. Elizabeth I eventually granted the stronghold to Robert Cecil, her Secretary of State. A lease was granted by him to Sir Arthur Harris from 1596 until his death in 1628. He often petioned the Privy Council for more guns and supplies for the defence of St MichaelŐs Mount. Passing ships were required to strike their topsails in acknowledgement that they were subject to the Governor of the castle. In 1640 the 2nd Earl of Salibury sold the castle to Sir Francis Basset. When the Civil War broke out in 1642 he strengthened the defences and installed a garrison of twelve men and a gunner. In 1644 the garrison was increased to fifty men on the orders of King Charles, Francis being knighted the same year for his services as Sheriff and Commander-in-Chief of royal forces in Cornwall. In 1646 the future Charles II stayed at the Mount on his way to seeking safety in the Scilly Isles. Sir Arthur Basset surrendered St MichaelŐs Mount in April that year to Parliamentary forces after some of his garrison began to desert and others were captured unarmed in the streets of Marazion. Sir Arthur and his officers were allowed to go to the Scilly Isles.
In 1647 Colonel John St Aubyn was appointed as Captain of the Mount and in 1649 he helped put down an insurrection in Cornwall. In 1659 St Aubyn purchased the Mount from the now-impoverished Bassets. His arms together with those of his wife (a Godolphin) appear over the entrance. He died in 1684, supposedly drowned whilst crossing the causeway on horseback. His son was created a baronet by Charles II, the first of five Sir John Aubyns to own the Mount. However they preferred to live at their house of Clowance at Crowan near Camborne until it was destroyed by fire in the early 19th century and they transferred to the Mount. This family still live there, but since 1954 as tenants of the National Trust. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert paid a visit in 1846 whilst cruising on the royal yacht although at the time none of the family were in residence as the will of the fifth baronet was still in dispute. During the Second World war the island was manned by a platoon of infantry and three blockhouses, now removed, were built at the base of the island.
The 14th century church stands in the middle of the summit of the rocky tidal island and measures 19m long by 5.6m wide internally. A narrow central tower divides the nave from the choir. On the tower is a beacon with a transom and a basin-shaped floor known as St MichaelŐs Chair. At one time pilgrims coming to the island insisted on climbing onto this perilous perch as part of their devotions. The church has late medieval windows of two lights and is entered by a doorway in the nave north wall, now facing a terrace 1Om wide. A detached late 15th century Lady Chapel NE of the church was remodelled in the 18th century and now contains the Blue Drawing Room. A narrow terrace surrounds this part. Just 6m to the south of the church, some of which is taken up by a 19th century corridor against the church south wall, lies the refectory block. The walling here may be 12th century but the features are 19th century, with the Chevy Chase Room above the Garrison Room. East of this is another 19th century terrace with rooms underneath. West of the church is a range of apartments probably of 15th century date since the entrance arch looks like work of that period. The north end projects forward and there is another projection further south so some sort of covering fire in front of the entrance was posssible. There are further rooms between the south end of this block and the former refectory, the monastic kitchen probably being located here.

He does have floorplans in his book which is The Castles of Devon and Cornwall ISBN 1-871761-38-0

Neurotics build castles in the air, psychotics live in them, Psychiatrists charge the rent, art therapists do the interior design and nurses clean out the garderobes!

posted 03-19-2000 01:21 PM           Edit/Delete Message
Excellent,my reference and the web site given did not say much, and it is a site I was once curious about also (holidayed in St Ives once upon a time, on a rare raid south). Thanks for the data.

'Give me the groves that lofty brave,
The storms, by Castle Gordon'.
Visit my web-site at


posted 03-20-2000 11:02 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Lexitus   Click Here to Email Lexitus     Edit/Delete Message
Thanks very much for the info guys. Much appreciated. A trawl of the web didn't turn up much, and this is really good stuff.


Ed Perkins

posted 04-17-2000 09:54 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Castleguy   Click Here to Email Castleguy     Edit/Delete Message
I am behind on this one...but I do have the guidebook from St. Michael's Mount. The book does refer to the Mount as a castle, for what that is worth. Anyway, the book does have a ground floor plan and another map of the important places of medieval pilgrimage. The book has the history (covered by Philip)and pictures as well. E-mail me if you would like the maps etc...


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