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Brownsea Castle, now a country house, was rebuilt on the site of a small Henrician coastal artillery fort or blockhouse, built between 1545-47 by Henry VIII as part of his network of coastal defences to protect against French and Spanish invasion. The fort was refortified during the Civil War by the Parliamentarians and was then bought and converted into a country house in 1726. In the mid-19th century the house was remodelled and a new Tudor style facade, gatehouse and pier built. This was destroyed by fire and rebuilt in 1897. Any remains of the original castle are now in the basement of the house, though sections of the later house reflect its original structure.

Although nothing remains on the surface of the original Henrician blockhouse, its physical aspect can be interpreted from a 1597 map of Poole Harbour. It consisted of a square single-storey stone building surrounded on three sides by a moat with a hexagonal gun platform on the seaward side which was enclosed by a low wall.

The original country house was built in 1727 and incorporated the remains of the blockhouse into its structure. The building was destroyed by fire and rebuilt in 1897 by the architect Philip Brown of Southampton. The exterior of the house is mostly in the Victorian Tudor style with an irregular plan and profile. It is dominated by a tower which was built off the original blockhouse. The main building is part two-storeys and part three-storeys and has a tower which rises a further two storeys. Facing the sea is a two-storey building dating to circa 1850 in front of the tower.
The walls are part coursed with squared rough ashlar stone, and part brick with stone dressings. The roofs have battlemented parapets.

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