A fortress is needed
In 1537, the Spanish navy attacked two French ships in the water near Falmouth. Shocked at how easily they had been able to get close to land, King Henry VIII ordered that two new fortresses be built next to the waterway. Pendennis Castle was placed on one side, and St Mawes Castle on the other. This meant that any invading ships would have to sail between the two castles and could easily be attacked.
Pendennis under siege
During the Civil War, the castle was an important base for King Charles I. In 1646, Queen Henrietta Maria and her son, Prince Charles, stayed there before escaping overseas.
Not long after, the Parliamentarian army invaded Cornwall and attacked Pendennis. In charge was John Arundel, the 70-year-old governor of the castle. For months, he and 1,000 of the king’s soldiers refused to leave. Eventually, the men ran out of food and were forced to surrender rather than starve. By the time they left, around 100 had already died or become dangerously ill.
Adding new defences
As Britain fought with America and France in the American War of Independence and Napoleonic Wars, Falmouth once again became important. Pendennis Castle was used to defend against invasion by sea. More guns and buildings were added, including a barracks (living area) for troops.
First and Second World Wars
During the First and Second World Wars, Pendennis Castle was used as a command centre (base) for organising local defences. Thousands of troops came to the castle for training before going away to fight. In 1957, the castle was opened for the public to visit.