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Hurst Castle and lighthouse

A Scheduled Monument in Freshwater, Isle of Wight

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Latitude: 50.7065 / 50°42'23"N

Longitude: -1.5513 / 1°33'4"W

OS Eastings: 431779.158

OS Northings: 89750.5289

OS Grid: SZ317897

Mapcode National: GBR 67B.QLV

Mapcode Global: FRA 77M6.RG0

Entry Name: Hurst Castle and lighthouse

Scheduled Date: 9 October 1981

Last Amended: 11 July 1997

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1015699

English Heritage Legacy ID: 26716

County: Isle of Wight

Civil Parish: Freshwater

Traditional County: Hampshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Isle of Wight

Church of England Parish: Milford-on-Sea All Saints

Church of England Diocese: Winchester


The monument includes Hurst Castle, a mid-16th century stone built artillery
castle, much altered in the early to mid-19th century, to which two casemated
wings were added in the 1860s. The castle also supports defensive structures
dating to the periods of both World Wars and lighthouses dating to 1865 and
1911. The castle lies at the tip of Hurst Spit, a long shingle bank which
curves out from the Hampshire coast at Milford on Sea. From this point, only
1200m from the shore of the Isle of Wight, it guards the western entrance to
the Solent and thence to Southampton and Portsmouth. The monument also
includes the 19th century lighthouse and associated gas house to the north of
the castle, the remains of late 19th century gun batteries to its east and
west, the dock and site of the storehouse on its northern landward side, and
the remains of the associated 1880s narrow gauge railway.
The Tudor castle, built between 1541 and 1544, centres on a great 12 sided
tower or keep. This is surrounded by a narrow courtyard beyond which lies the
outer curtain wall with its three substantial semicircular bastions. Both
keep and bastions were altered successively during the 19th century. Outside
the castle is a moat which survived intact until the alterations carried out
in the 1850s. The moat is largely infilled although part of its counterscarp,
reconstructed in the 1850s, survives on the south side of the castle. Within
the moat on the northern side of the castle is a caponier, the sole surviving
example of three built in 1852.
Added on to the east and west sides of the Tudor castle are two huge casemated
wing batteries constructed in the 1860s and designed to house a total of 30
heavy guns. Each casemate is built of brick with massive granite faced
elevations to the sea and has a flat roof. The rear of each wing is enclosed
by granite faced walls, equal in height to the casemates, with the main
magazines, two at opposite ends of each wing, located at the rear of the
enclosed areas. The magazines have a thick earth covering on their roofs. The
east and west wings contain ancillary buildings.
The west wing of the castle includes two lighthouses, the earlier built into
the rear wall in 1865 and provided with direct access from outside the fort.
This was superseded by the adjacent iron lighthouse built in 1911. These,
together with the High Light, the free standing lighthouse built on the
eastern end of the spit between 1865 and 1867, represent the surviving
elements of a history of navigation lighting at Hurst which dates from 1786.
Together with the 1911 iron light, the High Light is gas lit and retains its
largely original lighting mechanism. Immediately south west of it is a
separate building containing the original plant for the manufacture and
storage of acetylene gas.
Added to the far (northern) end of the east wing of the fort are concrete
emplacements built in 1893 to mount three 6 pounder quick-firing guns. To the
west of the west wing are the remains of the West Battery of 1852. Although
now considerably eroded by the sea, the earthworks of the battery survive
together with the footings for defensible barracks to the rear.
The castle dock, originally stone built, was constructed in the early 1850s,
initially to serve the contractors working on the batteries. A building on its
east side, now demolished, may have been an associated storehouse. In the
1880s a narrow gauge railway, part of the track of which survives, was built
to shift stores and ammunition from the dock.
All display items (including guns), security and custodial fittings and
facilities are excluded from the scheduling although the ground beneath these
features is included.
The castle and the end of Hurst Spit on which it stands are in the care of the
Secretary of State. The lighthouse is Listed Grade II.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

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 Hurst survives well, despite later alteration, and
forms the focus of a defensive structure which, in its final form, is the most
powerful of those established to guard the western entrance to the Solent. The
massive scale and intended firepower of the casemated wing batteries added in
the 1860s shows the contemporary response to the introduction of steam driven
warships while later alterations and additions show the continuing strategic
importance of the fort during the major conflicts of this century.
Within the monument the construction of lighthouses from 1786 onwards, with
surviving examples dating from 1865, represents an important sequence of
navigational lighting.
The monument is a prominent land and sea mark within the western Solent and is
open to the public.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Coad, JG, Hurst Castle, (1995)
Coad, J G, 'Post Medieval Archaeology' in Hurst Castle: The Evolution of a Tudor Fortress 1790 - 1945, , Vol. Vol 19, (1985)
Coad, J G, 'Post Medieval Archaeology' in Hurst Castle: The Evolution of a Tudor Fortress 1790 - 1945, , Vol. Vol 19, (1985), 63 -104
Coad, J G, 'Post Medieval Archaeology' in Hurst Castle: The Evolution of a Tudor Fortress 1790 - 1945, , Vol. Vol 19, (1985), 63-104
Coad, J G, 'Post Medieval Archaeology' in Hurst Castle: The Evolution of a Tudor Fortress 1790 - 1945, , Vol. Vol 19, (1985)

Source: Historic England

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