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SOUTHSEA CASTLE

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Southsea Castle was a Henrician artillery castle built between 1538 and 1544 as part of Henry VIII's network of coastal fortifications to protect England against the threat of French and Spanish invasion. It has been altered several times and has had various uses. During the English Civil War, the castle was taken by Parliamentary forces in 1642. The outer wall was reconstructed in 1670 and again around 1812. It was used as a military prison from 1814 until 1850 and in 1820 a lighthouse was built which is still in use today. The castle was refortified with the addition of coastal batteries in the 1860s and around 1902 (see associated records). In 1960 the castle was decommissioned and was acquired by Portsmouth City Council which has restored it to its 19th century appearance.

Southsea castle originally consisted of a small internal square keep within a cruciform-planned walled enclosure with north and south bastions. Although it still retains this basic shape, a number of alterations have taken place. The castle was surrounded by a dry moat. The outer wall was reconstructed by de Gomme in 1670 and then again in 1812. In this later work a counterscarp gallery was added around the moat, which had a passage running around it
with loopholes to provide flanking fire for the moat. There was also a caponier or covered passage, which led from inside the castle to the counterscarp gallery.

It is said that Southsea castle was designed by Henry VIII himself, who introduced the latest in fortification design from the continent. Not long after the castle had been completed, the king was there in person on 18 July 1545, when a French Fleet approached Portsmouth and landed on the Isle of Wight. The next day he also witnessed from Southsea Castle the sinking of his flagship, the Mary Rose.

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Further information about monuments may be obtained by contacting Archive Services, through the Historic England website.