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Artillery castle at Deal

A Scheduled Monument in Deal, Kent

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Latitude: 51.2194 / 51°13'9"N

Longitude: 1.4036 / 1°24'12"E

OS Eastings: 637771.122836

OS Northings: 152197.568464

OS Grid: TR377521

Mapcode National: GBR X1Y.FPC

Mapcode Global: VHMDG.8MW1

Entry Name: Artillery castle at Deal

Scheduled Date: 9 October 1981

Last Amended: 28 June 1996

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1013380

English Heritage Legacy ID: 27014

County: Kent

Civil Parish: Deal

Built-Up Area: Deal

Traditional County: Kent

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Kent


The monument includes an artillery castle situated on the low-lying east Kent
coast in the modern seaside town of Deal. The castle is the largest of a group
of three, the other two being located at Walmer 2km to the south and Sandown
2km to the north, built between 1539-40 by Henry VIII in order to protect the
shallow semi-sheltered anchorage between the Goodwin Sands and the coast,
known as the Downs. This was of great strategic importance because, by the
16th century, there were few other safe places of refuge for ships along the
channel coast between Kent and Portsmouth. The castles of the Downs were built
in the face of the political crisis and consequent fear of invasion occasioned
by the king's divorce of Catherine of Aragon in 1533. They were financed from
the proceeds raised by the Dissolution of the Monasteries.

The castle, which has been the subject of alteration and repair over the
centuries, is built of Kentish ragstone from local quarries and the sea shore,
brick, and Caen stone reused from nearby disused religious houses. It was
designed around an essentially circular, symmetrical plan and originally
incorporated up to 145 gunports or embrasures on five tiers. At the centre is
a three-storeyed circular citadel, or tower, with six semicircular, slightly
lower towers projecting from its external face. The citadel has a central,
newel staircase. Timber and wattle-and-daub partitions, some of which survive,
divided the area surrounding the central stair well into interconnecting
rooms, with the ceiling joists radiating from the centre like the spokes of a
wheel. The citadel provided accommodation for the permanent garrison,
originally a captain, deputy, porter and 16 gunners, with the officers'
accommodation on the upper floor. The ground floor also housed a kitchen and
bakery, of which the ovens and fireplace survive. In the centre of the
rib-vaulted, brick-lined basement is a large, circular well. The basement is
ventilated by shafts leading down from the ground floor and was used to store
ammunition and supplies.

Surrounding the citadel beyond a narrow ward are six low semicircular bastions
connected by a curtain wall which provided platforms on their upper levels for
heavy guns, now represented by four 18th century cast-iron guns mounted on
carriages on the eastern, seaward side. Within the outer wall of the basement
of the bastions, facing into the moat, is a continuous gallery known as the
rounds, pierced by 53 hand-gun ports which gave complete coverage of the
bottom of the moat. Vents over the ports were designed to draw off the gun
smoke, and at irregular intervals in the wall behind are L-shaped ammunition
lockers. Contemporary illustrations show that the citadel and outer bastions
were originally capped by broad rounded parapets pierced by gun embrasures.
Traces of these survive on two bastions on the western side, but most were
replaced by battlements during alterations carried out in 1732.

The castle buildings are further protected by a stone-lined dry moat up to 20m
wide and 5m deep, originally crossed on its western, landward side by a wooden
drawbridge. The slots for the lifting gear survive above the pointed archway
entrance, constructed within the westernmost bastion, although the drawbridge
has been replaced by a stone causeway. A portcullis originally fronted the
iron studded oak door. Defensive features incorporated within the gatehouse
include five murder holes, or vents (through which offensive materials could
be dropped on attackers) set in the ceiling of the large entrance passage, a
gunport in the back wall covering the doorway and a staggered approach to the
ward and citadel. The defences were originally augmented by a series of
bulwarks, or earthen defences, built along the coast between the castle and
its sister castles at Walmer and Sandown, although these defences no longer

The castle saw no action until the Civil War when, during the Royalist revolt
in Kent in 1648, it was captured and held out against Parliamentary forces for
several weeks. Its defences continued to be maintained during the late 17th
and 18th centuries and during the Napoleonic wars, although its strategic
function was much diminished by this time. Substantial alterations carried out
during the early 18th century reflected the decreasing military importance of
the castle and included the construction of a captain's lodging house within
the ward on the seaward side, the conversion of many of the gun embrasures of
the citadel into casement windows and the building of a wooden lantern, which
contains a bell circa 1655, on top of the central tower. In 1802 further
alterations were made and the lodging house was demolished and rebuilt,
serving as a residence for the holder of the now honorary post of Captain
until destroyed by an enemy bomb during World War II.

This occasioned further repair and restoration work to the castle, although
the lodging house was not rebuilt. The castle continues to form part of the
Crown Estate and is now in the care of the Secretary of State and open to the

Excluded from the scheduling are all parts of the castle in use as the
honorary Captain's apartments, the modern surfaces of all paths and the
causeway, all modern fixtures, fittings, partitions, railings, signs and
exhibition boards and the modern walls of the toilet block situated on the
upper deck of the northermost bastions, although the structures and ground
beneath all these features are included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Artillery castles were constructed as strong stone defensive structures
specifically to house heavy guns. Most date from the period of Henry VIII's
maritime defence programme between 1539 and 1545, though the earliest and
latest examples date from 1481 and 1561 respectively. They were usually sited
to protect a harbour entrance, anchorage or similar feature.
These monuments represent some of the earliest structures built exclusively
for the new use of artillery in warfare and can be attributed to a relatively
short time span in English history. Their architecture is specific in terms of
date and function and represents an important aspect of the development of
defensive structures generally.
Although documentary sources suggest that 36 examples originally existed, all
on the east, south and south east coasts of England, only 21 survive. All
examples are considered to be of national importance.

The history and development of the artillery castle at Deal is documented by
many contemporary records and illustrations, providing evidence for the
changing function of the monument over five centuries. Despite subsequent
alterations and World War II damage, the monument survives well, retaining
much of its original fabric. The castle is one of three which form a
distinctive and well known group of coastal fortifications. Together these
illustrate the strategic role assigned to this stretch of coast during the
16th century.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Saunders, A D, Deal and Walmer Castles, (1982)

Source: Historic England

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