On the first floor of the gatehouse at Berry Pomeroy Castle are the remains of a finely executed wall painting of the Adoration of the Magi. It dates from circa 1490 to 1500. (Kightly, Berry Pomeroy Castle, p. 7).

The original castle, of which the gatehouse and curtain wall were part of, was built in the latter half of the 15th C by the Pomeroy family. It was built at a time of civil conflict in England, namely the Wars of the Roses (1455-1487). In Devon the Yorkist supporting Pomeroys were involved in local feuds with the mainly Lancastrian families. They needed a defensive castle.

Figure 2: 15th C Medieval defensive castle. What can be seen behind is the remains of an Elizabethan house. The gatehouse and curtain wall were higher when originally built.

Figure 3: The wall painting in the corner behind the modern wooden screen. The arches and pillars are constructed from granite.

The painting in the gatehouse is on the wall of which may have been a small corner chapel. There is evidence of possible altar fixings on the window opening. (Kightly, p. 7).

Figure 4: Position of wall painting in first floor chamber.


Figure 5: The 3 Magi – On the left of the painting is one of the earliest images of a black wise man in England. The style is Flemish (Kightly, p. 6).


Figure 6: Detail of the painting.

15th Century paintings of the Adoration of the Magi in northern Europe do show a similar positioning of the individual kings. In Exeter Cathedral in the exit porch of the west end there are damaged statues with a similar placement (although the 3rd king appears to be missing, possibly as part of subsequent damage) – refer post Exeter Cathedral Nativity Statues.

The painting was created at a time when civil war had more or less ended. It is curious that in this secluded part of Devon a painting was commissioned on the inner wall of a functionally defensive gatehouse by an artist versed in Flemish design. It must have seemed a wonder in the relief of the ending of one of the worst civil wars in the history of England.


Kightly, Charles, Berry Pomeroy Castle (London: English Heritage, 2011; repr. 2013)