Portland Castle

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Portland Castle
Dorset, England
Uk dor portcastle.JPG
The entrance to the castle
Type Device Fort
Site information
Owner English Heritage
Open to
the public
Condition Intact
Site history
Built 1539 (1539)
In use Until end of Napoleonic Wars

Portland Castle is one of the Device Forts, also known as Henrician Castles, built in 1539 by Henry VIII on the Isle of Portland to guard the natural Portland anchorage known as the Portland Roads. The castle lies in the far north of the island, in the village now called Castletown, near Fortuneswell.

The castle is under the care of English Heritage. The castle was designated by English Heritage as a Grade I Listed building in May 1993. It is one of three buildings on Portland to be Grade I Listed.[1] Additionally, in October 1981, the castle had become scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance.[2]


The castle artillery forts stretched all around the Kent coast, along the south coast of England, down to Lands End. Strategic sites were chosen protecting possible landing points of an invasion. The area today known as Portland Harbour was a weak point, and Portland castle was built. The entire harbour fell under artillery range from Portland Castle and nearby Sandsfoot Castle.

Portland Castle from Portland Harbour

Portland Castle has a low profile offering less of a target, with a traditional rounded wall facing the sea, designed to deflect incoming ordnance. The land side was moated.

The castle was bolstered ready to repel the attempted invasion by the Spanish Armada in 1588. In the event the Royal Navy fended off the Spanish fleet in the Battle of Portland just east of the isle of Portland on 23. July 1588.

Portland Castle Cannon Battery

Portland Castle experienced its only real action during the English Civil War 1642-1649. Being an historic Royal Manor, Portland naturally supported King Charles and was a Royalist stronghold. Nearby Weymouth - a merchant town - firmly backed Cromwell's Parliamentarians and a succession of battles and ruses saw Portland Castle captured and recaptured several times. Despite being hopelessly undermanned and inadequately armed, the Royalists managed to keep the island out of Cromwellian hands for all but two brief periods of the war. By 1645, after repeated attacks only Portland, Corfe and Sherborne remained in Royalist hands. When defeat finally came in 1646 Portland's surrender was bloodless, and on remarkably generous terms.[3]

On the restoration in 1660, Charles II rewarded Portland's loyalty in the Civil War by a special Royal Grant Fund, giving back to the Islanders royalties on stone taken from the crown quarries. The Grant is still made today.

The castle again stood by during action in the Anglo-Dutch war with the Battle of Portland, a bloody but indecisive three day sea battle close to the Island coast.

Portland castle was armed for the last time during the Napoleonic Wars.

In 2007, it was announced that Portland Castle attracts 25,000 visitors a year, despite limited opening hours.[4]

See also[edit]


  • Stuart Morris, (1985, 2004) 'Portland, an Illustrated History' The Dovecote Press, Wimborne, Dorset: ISBN 0-946159-34-3

Further reading[edit]

  • Stuart Morris, (2011), Dorset; The Royal Navy (illustrated): The Dovecote Press, Wimborne, Dorset: ISBN 978-1-904349-88-4
  • Andrews, E.A., and M.L. Pinsent, "The coastal defences of Portland and Weymouth," Fort, No. 9, supplement, 1981, pp. 4–43.
  • Colvin, H.M. (ed) (1982). The History of the King's Works, Vol. IV, 1485–1600, Part II.
  • Harrington, Peter (2007). The castles of Henry VIII. Oxford: Osprey. ISBN 978-1-84603-130-4
  • Stuart Morris, (1985, 2004). Portland, an Illustrated History. The Dovecote Press, Wimborne, Dorset: ISBN 0-946159-34-3
  • Lawson, Susannah (2002). Portland Castle. London: English Heritage. ISBN 1-85074-725-3
  • Morley, B. M. (1976). Henry VIII and the development of coastal defence. London: H.M. Stationery Office. ISBN 0-11-670777-1
  • Stuart Morris, 1998 Portland (Discover Dorset Series) The Dovecote Press, Wimborne, Dorset: ISBN 1-874336-49-0.
  • Palmer, Susann. 1999. Ancient Portland: Archaeology of the Isle. Portland: S. Palmer. ISBN 0-9532811-0-8
  • Stuart Morris, 2002 Portland: A Portrait in Colour The Dovecote Press, Wimborne, Dorset: ISBN 1-874336-91-1.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 50°34′06.1″N 2°26′48.48″W / 50.568361°N 2.4468000°W / 50.568361; -2.4468000