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Portland Castle

A Scheduled Monument in Portland, Dorset

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Coordinates

Latitude: 50.5681 / 50°34'5"N

Longitude: -2.4467 / 2°26'48"W

OS Eastings: 368460.577661

OS Northings: 74360.213071

OS Grid: SY684743

Mapcode National: GBR PY.HCC3

Mapcode Global: FRA 57RK.QLP

Entry Name: Portland Castle

Scheduled Date: 9 October 1981

Last Amended: 25 September 1997

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1015326

English Heritage Legacy ID: 22964

County: Dorset

Civil Parish: Portland

Built-Up Area: Fortuneswell

Traditional County: Dorset

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Dorset

Church of England Parish: Portland All Saints

Church of England Diocese: Salisbury

Details

The monument includes an artillery castle situated along the northern shore of
the Isle of Portland, overlooking Portland Harbour to the east and Weymouth
Bay to the north. The site, known as `Portland Castle', represents one of a
pair of coastal fortications constructed during the reign of Henry VIII in
order to provide protection for the sheltered waters of Weymouth Bay. The two
forts are sited on opposite sides of the bay and are inter-visible.
Portland Castle, which is Listed Grade I, has a central citadel which is fan-
shaped in plan. The structure is composed of ashlar dressed Portland Stone
producing a `rounded' external appearance. The citadel includes a single
storey gun room facing across the harbour, and a two storey building situated
to the rear. The gun room was originally roofed and has embrasures for a
further (upper) battery of five guns protected by an embattled parapet along
the northern side. This also shielded a second battery situated on the roof of
the accommodation block. The two storey building to the rear includes a
central hall which is octagonal in plan, with wings radiating to the east and
north west. The structure could, if necessary, accommodate a third battery on
the roof which was also protected by an embattled parapet. Access to the main
building was provided by an entrance on the north western side. This
originally included a drawbridge over a moat and an internal passage way built
as a `dog-leg' in the thick outer wall. The passageway leads into a central
hall with a large decorated post supporting the ceiling. The post is reputed
to have been derived from Bindon Abbey in the Isle of Purbeck, during the
earlier part of The Dissolution.
To the south and south east of the citadel was an outer yard, bounded by a
stone wall and external ditch. The yard contained a large gun platform to the
east of the citadel and a smaller example to the west. In the south western
corner of the yard was a two storey 17th century building which was
incorporated into the outer wall. The building is shown on a map of 1716 as
`L'-shaped and comprising a brewhouse and stable along the north-south
axis, with an extension to the east forming the sutler's house. The structure
was partly demolished at the beginning of the 20th century, although the
remainder continues to be occupied as a domestic residence.
The outer defences along the landward side of the fortification are known to
have included a length of bank along the south eastern side by 1623. This bank
had dimensions of 27m in length, 14.4m in width and about 1.2m in height. A
plan of 1816 shows a ditch adjacent to the wall of the yard; this was later
infilled, although it survives as a buried feature approximately 5m wide.
The construction of the fortification followed the advice of a Commission set
up by Henry VIII in 1539, in response to a possible threat of French
invasion. The castle formed part of a chain of similar forts built along the
South Coast at this time. It was also among the first to be operational, as it
may have been complete by late 1540 and was in service by early 1541. The
fortifications are known to have cost 4965 pounds to construct, a fee met at
Royal expense. The paymaster was Oliver Lawrence, although the designer is
unknown. During the Civil War the castle was the scene of some fighting, after
which it was used as an ordnance store and later a prison. Historical sources
suggest that the castle had fallen into some disrepair by 1680, although it
was renovated by Queen Anne in 1702. During the 19th century, the citadel
was occupied as a residence, when wooden panelling was first added to the
interior. The structure is now in the care of the Secretary of State and is
open to the public.
Excluded from the scheduling are all modern fixtures and fittings within the
artillery castle and the Commandant's House which is used as a residence
(Listed Grade II*), although the ground beneath these features is included.

MAP EXTRACT
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 artillery castle at Portland represents one of the best preserved and best
known examples of its class. The structure of the main citadel is a
particularly good survival and is associated with almost the full range of
other original structural components, including the master gunner's quarters,
gun emplacements and the castle yard. Historical sources suggest that the
structure was used as a prison and an ordnance store, prior to conversion into
a domestic residence during the 19th century. This use caused very few
structural changes and ensured the castle was well maintained. The artillery
castle displays most of its original architectural features and has close
historical associations with the adjacent harbour, dockyard and nearby town.
Portland Castle is open to the public.

Source: Historic England

Sources

Books and journals
Historical Monuments in the County of Dorset: Volume I, (1970), 250
Historical Monuments in the County of Dorset: Volume I, (1970), 252
Historical Monuments in the County of Dorset: Volume I, (1970), 250
Historical Monuments in the County of Dorset: Volume I, (1970), 250
Historical Monuments in the County of Dorset: Volume I, (1970), 250
Historical Monuments in the County of Dorset: Volume I, (1970), 250
Historical Monuments in the County of Dorset: Volume I, (1970), 250
Historical Monuments in the County of Dorset: Volume I, (1970), 250
Historical Monuments in the County of Dorset: Volume I, (1970), 250
Historical Monuments in the County of Dorset: Volume I, (1970), 250
Historical Monuments in the County of Dorset: Volume I, (1970), 250
Wheatley, G, Portland Castle - A Teachers Guide, (1994), 13
Wheatley, G, Portland Castle - A Teachers Guide, (1994), 13
Wheatley, G, Portland Castle - A Teachers Guide, (1994), 9
Wheatley, G, Portland Castle - A Teachers Guide, (1994), 13
Wheatley, G, Portland Castle - A Teachers Guide, (1994), 13
Wheatley, G, Portland Castle - A Teachers Guide, (1994), 13
Wheatley, G, Portland Castle - A Teachers Guide, (1994), 13
Wheatley, G, Portland Castle - A Teachers Guide, (1994), 9
Wheatley, G, Portland Castle - A Teachers Guide, (1994), 9
Wheatley, G, Portland Castle - A Teachers Guide, (1994), 11
Morley, B, 'Archaeological Journal' in Portland Castle, , Vol. Vol 140, (1983), 72
Other
Title: Ordnance Survey 1:2500 Series
Source Date:
Author:
Publisher:
Surveyor:
Dimensions
Wheatley, Genevieve, A Teacher's Handbook to Portland Castle, 1994,
Wheatley, Genevieve, A Teacher's Handbook to Portland Castle, 1994,

Source: Historic England

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