Portsmouth Castle

Portsmouth castle, also known as the Southsea castle, was built during the reign of Henry VII.

The castle was meant to serve a defensive purpose.

Situated near the Portsmouth Harbor, the castle was meant to guard the entrance to it.

Given its strategic location, the castle was used primarily for military purposes all the way until the 20th century.

It remained a key defensive position on Solent and Portsmouth Harbor.

Today, it is owned by Portsmouth city council.

Photo of southsea castle taken while standing on the eastern of the wing bastions


History of Portsmouth Castle

The castle was originally built in 1544.

In 1545, a conflict between Tudor navy and French shops took place near the Portsmouth castle, although the castle couldn’t take any active part in it.

Edward VI visited the castle in 1552. Later the castle suffered a fire in the early 17th century which significantly damaged the fortifications of the structure.

During the English Civil War, the castle was under royalist forces but then fell to the parliamentary troops following a siege.

It became a prison for a brief period before undergoing significant expansion and reconstruction in the late 17th century.

Early 19th century saw another period of renovation and reconstruction, adding a moat and a lighthouse to it.

After the Second World War, the castle was turned into a museum.


Castle Portsmouth Location

The Portsmouth castle is located at the mouth of the waterfront on Portsea Island.

It is located at the southern edge of the island, giving it a ready access to sea.

Because of its location, the castle was ideally located to guard the entrance to the Portsmouth Harbor and bar any enemy vessels from proceeding.

It also served as an important fortification to guard the entrance to the Solent.


Portsmouth Castle Timeline

In 1544, work on the castle began, most of which was completed the same year.

In 1545, King Henry VIII visited the castle as the Battle of the Solent took place nearby, although the castle played no part in it.

In 1642, the Roundhead army laid siege to the castle during the English Civil War and took it.

In 1665, Charles II commissioned numerous improvements of the structure.

The castle suffered from a gunpowder explosion in 1759 after which it remained abandoned until 1797.

In 1814, significant reconstructions was done and in 1828, a lighthouse was added.

During World War I, the castle was actively used and guarded.

The final conflict in which the castle was involved was a stand-off with the French ships in 1940 which ended without any fighting.


What Type of Castle is Portsmouth?

The Portsmouth castle was specifically built for military purposes, so the castle is entirely defensive in its nature.

Since the castle was built at a time when gunpowder weapons were becoming common, it had gun platforms included in its architecture to help mount defensive guns at strategic positions.

Since the castle was itself located at a very strategic position near Solent and Portsmouth Harbor, it was meant to guard any seaside offensives.


Interesting Features of Portsmouth Castle

According to some historical sources, the Portsmouth castle was designed by Henry VIII himself.

The design of the castle is one of the earliest uses of continental ideas in a military fort suited for artillery purposes.

During the English Civil War, the commander of the castle was drunk and parliamentary troops took it with no loss of life.


Portsmouth Castle Construction

The structure of the Portsmouth castle is its most notable feature.

It was laid out in such a fashion that the northern and southern sides included bastions while western and eastern sides had gun platforms.

A dry moat was added all around this structure to act as a defensive parameter and the outer fortification was linked to the inner structure with a bridge.

A larger gun platform was added to the structure in the 17th century.

A gallery and a lighthouse were added in early 19th century.


Portsmouth Castle Size

The size of the Portsmouth castle isn’t very large compared to most other castles.

That’s because it was primarily aimed as a military fortification with guns mounted on its platforms.

It originally comprised of a fairly modest-sized inner structure including residential quarters.

The outer border was set up with mounted guns.

The only expansions in later times included expanding the gun platform to allow the placement of a larger number of guns.

The lighthouse added later is also fairly small in size.


Portsmouth Castle Defenses

Since the castle was primarily built for defensive purposes, the entire structure was suited to the purpose.

The overall structure of the castle comprises of two bastions in two directions and two gun platforms on the other two sides.

This enabled effective defense of the castle with well-positioned guns.

The platform was later extended to allow the placement of 30 guns, further augmenting the castle’s defenses.

Although used as a military garrison for nearly 400 years, the castle was rarely, if at all, involved in any active fighting.


Portsmouth Castle is Famous For?

Portsmouth castle is famous for the fact that it was constructed on the orders of Tudor King Henry VII at a time when the English naval force was beginning to come into shape.

It was one of the castles built by him to guard the southern coast of England.

It has been said that the castle was designed by Henry himself.

The castle is also famous for its unique design which uses both English and Continental architectural elements.


Portsmouth Castle Summary

Portsmouth castle is located at the mouth of Solent, above the Portsmouth Harbor.

It was constructed on the orders of King Henry VII in the 16th century in a bid to guard the southern coast of England against any foreign invasion.

The castle was constructed for purely military purposes and used to that end for the next 400 years.

It was sieged by parliamentary troops during the English Civil War and surrendered in the siege.

During the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, the castle underwent a number of modifications although all of them sought to augment its defencive capabilities.

It was finally turned into a museum and a tourist attraction in the 1960s.

Share this: