- 1400s King Henry VII’s great-aunt, Lady Margaret Beaufort, sister of the Duke of Somerset and spouse of Thomas Courtenay, 5th Earl of Devon, lived at Tiverton and Bickleigh Castles.
- 1400s Bickleigh Castle was rebuilt as a comfortable and substantial fortified Manor House by Lord Thomas and Lady Margaret. This included installation of larger windows and fireplaces, a substantial Manor House built on the site of the current tennis court and attached to the inner Keep of the original castle, a large stable block with facilities where the current walled garden is, and a Magistrates’ Court, which still stands, known now as ‘Old Court’ and probably other auxiliary buildings.
- 1400s all three sons of Lord Thomas and Lady Margaret were killed in The Wars of the Roses, one executed for treason, one as a prisoner of war, and one killed in the Battle of Tewkesbury 1471.
- 1495 Sir William Carew Bt, became tenant of Bickleigh (by then owned by his cousin Sir Philip Courtenay). In 1505 was born George Carew, who became Admiral Sir George Carew, famous for drowning in the capsizing and sinking of ‘The Mary Rose’ at The Spithead in 1545.
- 1512 Sir William’s ward, Elizabeth Courtenay eloped with Sir William’s younger brother Thomas; Thomas, at the Battle of Flodden Field, 1513, saved the life of the commander, the Lord Admiral Lord Howard, by exchanging armour with him and being taken prisoner. Eventually released, Thomas was created an honorary Vice-Admiral. After this, Elizabeth’s aged grandfather Sir Philip Courtenay bequeathed the whole Bickleigh estate to the Carews, who then owned it until 1924.
- Henry VIII’s favourite aunt, Princess Katherine Plantagenet (daughter of King Edward IV) at the same time lived at Tiverton Castle; when her husband William Courtenay, Earl of Devon, died in 1511 she spent much time at Bickleigh Castle as the guest of her relation-by-marriage, Elizabeth as mentioned above. Princess Katherine was apparently fond of children, and entertained those of courtiers and royalty, including, according to one source, Ann Boleyn. Princess Katherine died in 1527 and after a semi-state funeral in St Peter’s Church, Tiverton, was buried there, where her tomb can be seen to this day.
- Princess Katherine’s son Henry, Marquess of Exeter, was implicated in the Exeter Conspiracy (against the Reformation) of 1538 and executed at the Tower. Tiverton was forfeit to the Crown and was never a Courtenay property again.
- Further improvements to Bickleigh came in the late 16th and early 17th Centuries, and it was early in this period that the Bickleigh Frieze, depicting the demise of Henry Courtenay and other aspects of the Reformation in stone, was created, during the ownership of Sir Peter Carew. This is in the private area but a photograph of it hangs in the public area.
- Moving on to the English Civil War of the 1640s, Queen Henrietta Maria (wife of King Charles 1, known to the people as ‘Queen Mary’) stayed at Bickleigh Castle in 1644 as a guest of Sir Henry Carew, Kt., & Lady Dorothy, on her way to stay with Lord Russell at Bedford House in Exeter, where she gave birth to her youngest daughter, Princess Henrietta Anne (‘Minette’), christened in the Cathedral 21st July 1644. The King came down to Exeter for the Christening, arriving several days late, and remained in Exeter for two weeks. The Queen had already exiled herself to Paris (to evade capture) and ‘Minette’ was smuggled over by her mother’s lady-in-waiting two years later. Several items from the Queen’s Baggage eventually ended up at Bickleigh Castle.
- 1646, Spring – the Castle was attacked by the New Model Army under General Sir Thomas Fairfax, and the main manor house and inner keep were destroyed completely. This was called ‘the slighting of Bickleigh’ which meant only part of the estate was destroyed (unfortunately the main part). Sir Henry & Lady Dorothy died in 1677 and 1681 respectively, after building some of the cottages which are now the main accommodation at Bickleigh (an Act of Parliament preventing the rebuilding of the castle). There are some interesting memorials and effigies of the Carews in the Parish Church. From the late 18th Century until 1927, Bickleigh was mainly tenanted to farmers.
- 1933-57 The Castle (including 1600 acres, the Fisherman’s Cot and Bickleigh Mill) belonged to Lt.Colonel Jasper Henson, a World War 1 veteran who served in the Royal West Kent Regiment (‘The Queen’s’), and whose Battalion was in India in 1914. The Colonel did a great amount of restoration of the Castle, though the Chapel was restored in 1929 by the previous owners named Harper. The Colonel installed electricity (initially hydro-electric). The Colonel tended to replace ‘like with like’ hence some very good restoration work was done. After the restoration, the Colonel had six suits of armour made to adorn the castle, of which one remains on display (others being originals). The Castle also houses the colonel’s collection of cavalry swords
- After 1957 the Castle belonged to the Berkeley-Owen family until 1969, when the estate was advertised still with 1200 acres (unfortunately subsequently broken up). It was bought by Mr Boxhall, whose son Michael took over the running of the estate in the 1980s.
- In 2002 the Castle was bought by the current owners who have had more restoration and enhancement work carried out. The new owners offer both weddings, bed and breakfast accommodation, hire of the castle and house parties