Upnor Castle

Upnor Castle belongs to the genre of Henrician cosastal forts but is an Elizabethan addition to the chain. It was begun in 1599 to guard the approach to the new dockyard at Chatham, lying two miles away near the estuary of the River Medway. Sir Richard Lee interrupted his work on the fortifications at Berwick-on-Tweed, to come and design this fort, but construction dragged on for eight years. In 1599-1601, Upnor was enlarged but it had to wait until 1667 to face enemy action. In that year, the Dutch, under Admiral de Ruyter, sailed into the Medway and set fire to much of the English fleet. The castle was unable to offer any effective resistance and in the following year …

St. Mawes Castle

St. Mawes Castle guards the eastern entrance to the estuary known as Carrick Roads. It is the companion of Pendennis and exactly contemporary. These two Henrician coastal forts offer some interesting contrasts. In each a squat round tower is the chief feature, but instead of having a square residential block slapped on in front of it, the St. Mawes tower is elaborated by three attached semi-circular bastions with parapets at a lower level. A distinctive stair turret caps the tower. St. Mawes is unlike Pendennis but like the majority of Henry VIII’s forts in being low lying and thus able to challenge enemy shipping at close quarters. Both castles share Henry’s other fortifications, the rounded merlons designed to deflect cannon …

Hurst Castle

Its nucleus is one of the coastal forts of Henry VIII, expanded as a result of another invasion scare in Victorian times. The original castle was built in 1539-44 and the master mason, Thomas Bertie, later became captain of the garrison here, a curious but not uncommon reward for a castle builder. Like Calshot, it lies at the end of a spit of shingle, well over a mile long and projecting into the middle of the Solent. The Isle of Wight is little more than a mile away and, along with its counterpart at Yarmouth, the castle’s guns could effectively command the western entrance to the Solent. Hurst was garrisoned almost continuously until the Second World War. Its situation also …

Portsmouth Town Defenses

Portsmouth’s historic role as a naval base derives from its position guarding the narrow entrance to Portsmouth Harbor. Richard I built the first dockyard here. Its importance increased with the Hundred Years War and the town that developed around it inevitably became a target for French attacks. Following a royal survey in 1386, an earth rampart was raised around the landward sides of the town. From 1560, the rampart continued along the sea front and strengthened elsewhere by a series of arrowhead bastions. Charles II’s engineer, Bernard de Gomme, undertook more works. The defenses were further elaborated over the next two centuries but Lord Palmerston’s astonishing ring of fortifications, built in the 1860’s, rendered them obsolete. The complex of ramparts, …

Deal Castle

Henry VIII built three forts -Deal, Walmer and Sandown-along a two-mile stretch of shore to hamper any attacks. An earth rampart, with intermittent bastions, linked them but that has since perished. The whole scheme was finished by the fall of 1540. Deal Castle, the central fort of the three, was the largest of all Henry VIII’s forts. Here the characteristic geometrical layout of the series attains its most elaborate form. The result, whether by accident or design, is a sexfoil plan reminiscent of a Tudor rose. At the center is a squat, round tower with six semi-circular bastions projecting from its circumference, and surrounding that is a massive curtain arranged into six projecting lobes. There is thus a return to …

Carisbrooke Castle

Carisbrooke Castle is an extensive fortress situated on a hill about a mile southwest of Newport, virtually in the center of the Isle of Wight. As a fortification, it has a very long history, because the Norman castle is raised on the site of a Roman fort and is surrounded in turn by Elizabethan defenses designed to withstand artillery. The Elizabethan rampart surrounds the two baileys of the Norman castle in concentric fashion. This low, artillery-proof earthwork is encased in stone. There are arrowhead bastions at the corners and a fifth one on the west, commanding the entrance. Beyond the simple gateway through the rampart, one is confronted with the main gatehouse. It began as a thirteenth century gate tower …

Haddon Hall

Haddon Hall stands on a bluff overlooking the River Wye, two miles southeast of Bakewell. The situation and the embattled outline give an impression of strength from a distance, but as a castle Haddon is something of a mystery. Its complex building history suggests a manor house, which developed defenses but has been effectively de-fortified since. The story goes back to Richard de Vernon, who obtained a peculiar license in 1195. It allowed him to enclose his house within a wall, but the wall was not to exceed twelve feet in height and was not to be crenellated. Some of the wall and part of the chapel survive from that time. What stands today is a rectangular enclosure of the …