Situated above the golden sweep of Praa Sands on Mount’s Bay the gothic tower of Pengersick Castle has, in recent years, reinvented itself as a popular wedding venue. The elegant, historic building, set amongst a beautiful flower-filled garden, now oozes a picturesque and romantic charm that belies its past reputation as one of the most haunted locations in Cornwall.
It is thought that a fortified manor house has stood on the site since the 12th century. Over hundreds of years and various owners the building was added to and enlarged but by 1738 it had fallen into ruin, with just the 15th century tower remaining standing.
One of Pengersick Castle’s first owners – with a wild reputation
One of the castle’s first owners was a man called Henry Pengersick who had something of a wild reputation. Henry is said to have attacked the vicar of Breage as well as a monk from Hayles Abbey who had come to collect a payment (possibly tithes) from him. Some versions of the story have Henry murdering the men, however although it’s unclear whether this is true or not what we do know is that Pengersick was excommunicated in 1335 and the shadowy figure of a monk is said to have been spotted lurking in the gardens.
From monks to witches, haunting visitors
The Millitons, the next owners of the castle, weren’t much better, one of them was said to have drowned his own wife, another, John Milliton, was rumoured to have murdered a man in cold blood in London and come to Cornwall to hide out and escape justice. His son, another John Milliton, was said to have returned to Pengersick Castle “from travels in eastern lands” bringing with him “a lady of great beauty thought of be a Saracen” who he kept locked up inside the tower. In another tale one of the Milliton men married a witch and he and she so mutually hated each other that they simultaneously poisoned each other at the dinner table.
Ghostly apparitions at Pengersick Castle
As well as the monk the castle is said to be home to numerous ghostly apparitions including a knight, a little girl and a lady in a grey dress. The building was a popular venue for ghost tours for many years.
Another verifiable piece of history associated with the castle happened in 1526 when the King of Portugal’s ship, the San Antonio, was wrecked in Mounts Bay, near Gunwalloe. It was laden with bullion, plate and silver and it is said that John Milliton, despite then being a local magistrate, helped himself to some of the treasure and used the money to line his pockets and make improvements to the castle. The whole debacle caused outrage in Portugal and eventually reached the ears of King Henry VIII who ordered Milliton to return the bullion. But although it is said that some was given back, it is thought that much of it was hidden in secret passages beneath the castle.
Pengersick Castle is so much more than the spooky stories
The castle is much more than a spooky sideshow this is a truly historic building packed with relics from its illustrious and fascinating past now cared for by its present owners. The medieval tower house itself is one of just a handful of its type to survive in Britain.
Visiting Pengersick Castle is by appointment only but it is just a short walk from Praa Sands beach from where there is ample opportunity for coastal walking in this beautiful and lesser visited corner of Cornwall.