Bringing Compton Castle and Gilbert history back to life - thanks to Zoom

Compton Castle

Compton Castle - Credit: Archant

The Probus Club of Babbacombe and St Marychurch has not been deterred from meeting together by the pandemic – except that meetings now take place safely, over the internet, via Zoom!  
Phil Badcott was the club’s recent speaker with the thrilling story of the Gilbert dynasty of Compton Castle – ‘the family that founded the Empire’.

Probus Club speaker Phil Badcott

Probus Club speaker Phil Badcott - Credit: Archant

The Gilberts have lived at the Castle from 1329 to the present day, with just a few gaps, the Great Hall dating from 1340. Otho (born 1417) was responsible for rebuilding Marldon church, where his memorial and that of his wife can be found. It was Sir Humphrey Gilbert, born at Greenway in 1539 and half-brother to Sir Walter Raleigh who really brought the family to fame. He was ahead of his time in proposing a naval training college, although he was also noted for his brutality in supressing Irish rebels. In 1577, Sir Humphrey submitted a paper to Queen Elizabeth I, proposing that he sail to Newfoundland to found a colony. 
On his second attempt in this venture, setting out with five vessels, he arrived in Newfoundland, taking possession on behalf of his Queen.  
He insisted in undertaking the return voyage in one of his smaller ships, the Squirrel. 
A great storm was encountered, and Gilbert was heard to cry out: “We are as near to Heaven by sea as by land” and later that night his ship was lost with all hands. 
In more recent times Sir Humphrey’s adventure has been commemorated on stamps issued by Newfoundland. 
By 1800 the Gilberts had vacated Compton Castle and moved to Bodmin, the castle falling into ruin. A descendant named Commander Walter Raleigh Gilbert bought the castle and surrounding orchard back in 1931 and started its restoration.  
Fragments of the original stonework were found amongst the ruins in 1955 and were used as the basis for the Great Hall’s windows. The property is now in the ownership of the National Trust. 
If you are interested in joining the club, give Philip Kay a call on 01803 323551 for more details.