Blog – Southsea Castle: South Sea Castle: Sousey Castle: Port Sea Castle: South Castle: Chaderton Castle.


  • Portsea Island, Portsmouth, Hampshire.
  • OSGB – SZ 64332 98013.
  • Scheduled Monument.


Device fort of Henry VIII built with the proceeds from the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Protects Portsmouth Harbour and defends part of the Solent.

The castle was the first fully flanked one of its kind in England in the trace italienne style and covering 6.87 hectares. It included a central square keep of three storeys, two gun platforms with bastions, a ditch with a chevaux de frise, and at its height held 32 guns.

Ships passing the castle were only 548 meters away and well within the sites firing range. There were many practices held at Southsea Castle, and in one of them 200 rounds of shot and shell were fired form the castle.


Plan of Southsea Castle – 1813-1816 redesign.


Timeline –

1538-1544          Built by Henry VIII as one of his Device Forts to protect the Solent and entrance to Portsmouth Harbour. The building was supervised by Sir Anthony Knyvat.

1544                 Sir Anthony Knyvet, writing to the king, ‘the first floor of the square tower within the great fortress has been laid’ (British Medical Journal, 1923). Writing later he adds, ‘….the device and fashion thereof is strange and marvellously praised by all men that have seen it’ (Corney 1983).

1545                 Battle of the Solent. The French Fleet were spotted off the Isle of Wight. Henry VIII went to Southsea Common and took command of the army who had gathered in preparation of a possible land attack. He watched the battle from Southsea Castle and witnessed the sinking of the Mary Rose. ‘From his position by Southsea Castle, the king could hear ‘the cries of the drowning sailors’ (Alburger 2000). The king was entertained at the castle by John Chatterton.


The Cowdray engraving of the castle during the Battle of the Solent, based on an original painting from between 1545–48.
Detail of the Cowdray Engraving showing the sinking of the English warship Mary Rose on 19 July 1545. Based on an original painted between 1545 and 1548 for Anthony Browne, Master of the Horse, which was lost in the fire that destroyed Cowdray House in 1793.


*                      John Chatterton was appointed Captain of Portsmouth Garrison. The castle was garrisoned with 8 soldiers, 12 gunners and a porter.

c.1552               John Chatterton’s son was born at the castle.

1552                 Edward VI stayed at the castle.

1574                 Military stores from Portsmouth were housed in the castle, including powder and shot.

1611                 Sir R. Lane was Captain of the castle. Two earthen auxiliary batteries were added at a cost of £15,000. Alterations to the site included ‘a long arm connected with the castle, extended out on either flank, the castle being made the centre of the work, but it will be altered together with its character’ the flanks included platforms to hold a weight of 22 tons, faced with iron and including iron embrasures’. (The London Times, 1863).

1626                 A fire destroyed the interior of the keep. Captain Walter James was Captain of the castle.

1628-1635          No gunpowder was available at the castle.

1633                 Thomas Sheppard was Porter at the castle.

1634                 Captain John Mason was Captain of the castle. He requested that stores and ammunition be sent to the castle.

1635                 Repairs from the fire in 1626 were finally undertaken. A survey was undertaken to ascertain the cost of the repairs. Charles I had 210 loads of timber supplied to Captain John Paperill, engineer to the King, for repairs to the castle.

1640                 There was a fire in the storerooms and the garrison’s quarters.

1642                 Held by Royalist, Captain Challoner, with 11 men and 14 gunners. Parliamentarian Colonel Richard Norton attempted to take the castle, but Captain Challoner was drunk and asked him to come back the following day when he would be sober.  Colonel Norton, with 400 infantry and two cavalry troops took the castle, firing a couple of shots at the town of Portsmouth which then surrendered to Parliament.

1665                 Repairs undertaken under the orders of Charles II.

1680’s               The repairs ordered in 1665 were finally undertaken by Sir Bernard de Gomme, a Dutch engineer. Included an earthwork glacis, four turrets, a new gate, and the keep was redesigned.

1683                 The coat of arms of Charles II were placed above the new entrance.

1688                 James Fitz James, Duke of Berwick, the illegitimate son of James II held the site. In December he surrendered the castle to George Legge, 1st Baron Dartmouth. Captain Richard Carter was Captain of the site.

1690                 Celia Fiennes, traveler and writer, stayed at the castle.

1703                 A bad storm washed away part of the beach fronting the castle.

1714                 The fortifications at and around Portsmouth were recorded by Col. Richards as being ‘totally inadequate’ (Tomlinson, 1973).

1744                 A number of sick troops were placed in the castle. They were bound for Gibraltar but were too sick to travel. More sick troops were admitted with Yellow Fever. It did not, however, contain the epidemic.

1759                 An explosion caused by cooking killed 17 men, women and children. One man being thrown over the defences by the force of the blast. The garrison at the time were the 72nd Regiment of Foot (72nd Highlanders, later the Seaforth Highlanders). Those injured included a Regiment of Invalids.

1773                 George III visited Portsmouth and the guns were fired from Southsea Castle as a celebration.

1785                 In need of repair. Some erosion by the sea.

1787                 New plans were drawn up for the castle.

1795                 HMS Boyne caught fire and blew up in front of the castle causing damage – catapulting iron, burning timber and shot onto the castle site.

1797                 Saw active duty. Artillery was installed and included 8 x 32 lbrs and 5 x 6lbr guns.

18th C                Late: The garrison included a serjeant and 4 men.

1813                 The site was expanded under the direction of General Fisher. The keep was redesigned, the moat rebuilt resulting in the inner bailey being redesigned also. A counterscarp gallery was added around the perimeter. Parapet windows were installed.

1814-1850          The site was used as a military prison.

1816                 The expansion works begun in 1813 were completed. Human remains were discovered in the glacis. They were believed to be those of Serjeant Williams who had been hung on Southsea Common.

1819                 ‘There being no cells attached to the  barracks allotted to the Infantry Regiment in garrison at Portsmouth, a man under sentence  was sent to Southsea Castle, and confined in a small place under the bomb-proof, with a hole  in the rampart above to let in air, which in rainy weather was closed with a plug. To admit air in bad weather, he was allowed to thrust a wisp of straw between the thin yielding door and  the jamb, until a hole was cut in the door, and then it required two sentries, one above and one below, to prevent meat and liquor being carried to him, with the chance of one of the sentries being his dissolute comrade’. (Harris 1981).

1828                 A lighthouse was added to the western gun platform.


Southsea Castle From here Henry VIII watched as the Mary Rose sank in the Solent. On the horizon is the shoreline of Gosport.
By Margaret Sutton, CC BY-SA 2.0,


1844                 Used as a military prison. The prison held 150 prisoners.

1850                 The site ceased being used as a military prison due to the threat of an attack from France. Artillery was added in the form of 7 x 8 inch guns.

1850’s-1860’s      Expanded. Additional gun batteries added on the eastern and western sides.

1854                 The lighthouse was heightened.

1855-1856          The cost for raising the glacis at the castle was £1069. 17s. 7d. A grant was also given for a new battery at the castle for £350.

1856                 A mock attack was performed at the site involving ships in the Solent.

1859                 Following the Commission on the Defence of the UK, open batteries were ordered to be added to the flanks.

1860                 New gun batteries were installed as well as new underground magazines to the east and western sides. The works were overseen by Lt. Col. Fisher.

1863-1869          The new works were enclosed by a defensive wall.

1866                 Three of the larger guns were protected by iron shields.

1869                 A mock battle was conducted which included Portsmouth and the guns being fired from Southsea Castle. The castle garrison were the 67th Infantry and a field battery from the Royal Artillery. Lt. Gen. Sir George Buller K. C. B. was Commander of the South West Military District and was present. Those taking part included Col. Bowers cavalry, the 13th Regiment, 67th Regiment and the 101st Regiment under the command of Brig. Gen. Carey which made up the 1st Division. The 2nd Division was made up of a battery of 6 guns of the 3rd Hampshire Volunteer Artillery and the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Regiments of the Hampshire Volunteers. Prior to the mock battle the troops were inspected on Southsea Common.



1870                 The castle was installed with 7 inch and 12 inch rifle muzzle-loading guns.

1886                 The site was armed with 25 rifle muzzle-loading guns.

1890’s               New searchlights were installed as well as 5 x 6lbr quick firing guns.

1899-1901          The eastern battery was redesigned to take breech loading guns.

20th C                Beginning: The Eastern Battery held 2 x breech loading 6 inch Mark VII guns and 2 x breech loading 9.2 inch Mark X guns. The Western Battery held 3 x 12 lbrs and 1 4.7 inch quick firing gun.

1914-1918          WWI: Defended Portsmouth Harbour. Garrisoned by the Royal Garrison Artillery and No. 4 Company Hampshire Royal Garrison Artillery Territorials. They were later replaced by the Hampshire Royal Garrison Artillery Volunteers. The site was mounted with a 3 inch quick firing anti-aircraft gun.

1927                 The castle was disarmed.

1929                 The site started to attract visitors as a local tourist attraction.

1939-1945          WWII: Garrisoned by the Hampshire Heavy Regiment, Royal Artillery (Territorial Army); acted as the headquarters of the Portsmouth Fixed Defences; The Eastern Battery was armed with 2 x 9.2 breech loading Mark X guns. The site and immediate area were protected by barrage balloons.

1940                 Operation Grasp – The capturing of French ships in the Solent.

1941                 Searchlights on the site.

1955                 Field Investigation.

1956                 Until: Maintained as a coastal battery.

1960                 The site was decommissioned and purchased by Portsmouth City Council.

1960’s               The Eastern and Western Batteries were partially demolished.

1967                 The castle opened to the general public as a museum.

1969                 Field Investigation.

1978-1979          The site was restored.

1981                 Scheduled.

2011                 Watching Brief.

2011-2012          Site opened to the public.

2017                 The lighthouse installed in 1828 was used until this date.

2020                 A section of the old promenade, dating from c.1848 was uncovered at the site.



References & Bibliography.

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Adair. Col. S. 1861. The Defences of Portsmouth. Journal of the Royal United Services Institute for Defence Studies, Volume 4, pp. 253-279.

Alburger. M. 2000. The ‘Fydill in Fist’: Bowed String Instruments from the Mary Rose. The Galpin Society Journal, 53, 12-24. Doi:10.2307/842314.

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Bruce. J. (ed).1863. Calendar of State Papers Domestic Series of the Reign of Charles 1. Preserved in the State Paper Department of Her Majesty’s Public Record Office 1633-1634. Longman.

Carpenter. W. H. 1859. The New Portsmouth, Southsea, Anglesey, and Hayling Island Guide … Second Edition. William Henry Carpenter.

Colburn. H 1867. Colburn’s United Service Magazine and Naval and Military Journal, Part 2. H. Colburn.

Corney. A. 1983. The Portsmouth Fortress. Journal of the Royal Society of Arts, 131(5326), 578-586. Retrieved February 16, 2021, from

Donald. A. 1997. Daniel Cunliffe’s Royal Marine Artillery Paintings: 1. An Rma Field Battery Practising On Southsea Common. Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research, 75(301), 1-7. Retrieved February 16, 2021, from

Fergusson. J. 1852. The Peril of Portsmouth, Or, French Fleets and English Forts. John Murray.

Ferguson. R., & Brayshay. M. 2006. Defending the Hampshire Coast and The Isle Of Wight In The Reign Of Queen Elizabeth I. Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research, 84 (338), 109-130. Retrieved February 16, 2021, from

Field. J. 1980. ‘When the Riot Act Was Read’: A Pub Mural of the Battle of Southsea, 1874. History Workshop, (10), 152-163. Retrieved February 16, 2021, from

Fontana. D. 2013. Charting the Development of Portsmouth Harbour, Dockyard and Town in the Tudor Period. Journal of Maritime Archaeology, 8(2), 263-282. Retrieved February 16, 2021, from

Harris. R. 1981. 1807. On Solitary Confinement. Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research, 59 (240), 250-250. Retrieved February 16, 2021, from

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House of Commons. 1857. Accounts and Papers of the House of Commons, Volume 27. H.M. Stationery Office.

House of Lords. 1860. Reports from Commissioners, Volume 23. H.M. Stationery Office.

Institution of Civil Engineers. 1861. Minutes of Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers, Volume 20.

Kenyon. J. R. 1981 ‘The Defences of Southsea Castle and Portsmouth in 1623’. Proceedings of the Hampshire Field Club and Archaeological Society 37, 13-21.

King. R. J. 1865. A Handbook for Travellers in Surrey, Hampshire, and the Isle of Wight. John Murray.

Leake. S. M. 1895. Life of Captain Stephen Martin, 1666-1740. Harvard University.

Lewis. H. 1860. Lewis’s Illustrated Hand-Book of Portsmouth, and Guide to the Royal Dockyard, Harbour, Haslar Hospital, Gosport, Fortifications, etc.. H. Lewis.

Mann. M. 1988. The Corps of Invalids. Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research, 66(265), 5-19. Retrieved February 16, 2021, from

Ninety-First Annual Meeting of The British Medical Association, Portsmouth. 1923. The British Medical Journal, 1(3241), 253-255. Retrieved February 16, 2021, from

Oppenheim. M. 1894. The Royal Navy under Charles I: Part III — The Administration. The English Historical Review, 9(35), 473-492. Retrieved February 16, 2021, from

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Portsmouth Volunteer Review. Illustrated London News, Vol. 54, No. 1537, p.464.

Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts. 1887. Eleventh Report Appendix. The Manuscripts of the Earl of Dartmouth · Volume 1. H.M. Stationery Office.

Sanders. W. H. 1880. Annals of Portsmouth. Princeton University.

Spon. E., & Spon. E. 1870. Spons’ Dictionary of Engineering, Civil, Mechanical, Military, and Naval; with Technical Terms in French, German, Italian, and Spanish. Volume 7. E. & F.N. Spon.

The London Times. 1863. The Fortifications of Portsmouth Harbour. Army & Navy Official Gazette, Vol. 1, No. 14 (Oct, 1863), pp. 216-217.

Tomlinson. H. 1973. The Ordnance Office and the King’s Forts, 1660-1714. Architectural History, 16, 5-76. doi:10.2307/1568302.

Wood. C., & Berkeley. M. F. F. 1856. The Late Naval Review. The Nautical Magazine & Naval Chronicle, (May 1856), pp.263-278. Available at



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