Portchester Castle

ortchester Castle was a significant fort in Roman times and has remained in good condition because of its continued use over the years. It stands on the shore near Portsmouth harbour and is rectangular in shape. Unlike the other Roman forts on the south coast where silting up of the surrounding land has occurred such as at Pevensey, Portchester has remained near the coastline. In around 1120 Henry I built a medieval castle within the walls of the Roman castle repairing the existing walls, building gates and constructing a large square keep in keeping with the fashion of the time. Extra walls were added in the north-west corner to create an enclosure surrounded by a small moat. In 1133 a small Augustinian Priory was built in the outer bailey and the remains of the church can still be visited.

The castle was in a convenient position for royal parties to stay at when preparing to travel across to Normandy and both Henry II and Richard II made improvements to it during their reigns. But Portchester Castle lost its status as an important Royal residence in the reign of King John when the castle was almost destroyed after being captured by the Dauphin Louis in 1217 and Portsmouth became the favoured departure point to Normandy, rather than Portchester. In more recent times the castle was used a prison during the Napoleonic Wars when French soldiers were held there.


Portchester Castle Key Facts
CountyHampshire (5 castles)
DirectionsOn the shores of Portsmouth harbour
CategoriesStone / Norman Square Keep
RemainsNot complete but much survives
Access to siteOnly open at certain times


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YearMonthEvent
1133   Augustinians at Portchester
 A small priory was built by Augustinian monks within the confines of Portchester Castle. 
1217   Portchester castle captured
 Prince Louis captured and almost destroyed the castle at Portchester.

Episode: The First Barons' War  
1415 Aug 11  Henry sails for France
 Preparations for war were complete and Henry's army set sail from Southampton for the French coast.

Episode: Henry V - The Hundred Years War  

Norman Square Keeps

White Tower, London

More about Norman square keeps

One of the most important types of building in the time of William the Conqueror and William Rufus were the Norman keeps. Although many were rebuilt in the following century there are many good examples still remaining. The White Tower in London (pictured left), Dover and Rochester in the south east, Newcastle, Appleby, Carlisle, Brough, Richmond in the north are all examples of this type of castle. Other examples include Portchester, Guilford, Goodrich, Norwich, Castle Rising, Hedingham and Colchester. The castles are all built from a roughly uniform plan. A massive square tower with a square turret at each of the corners that project slightly. Each of the main faces of the castle has a flat buttress running up the centre of the wall for extra strength. The only parts that have decoration are usually the main doorway at the entrance and the chapel. At the centre of the keep are large halls. Some keeps have a dividing wall down the middle. Access to different levels and sections of the castle are by passages and spiral staircases built into the thick walls.

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