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Portchester Castle

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Porchester; castro de Porecestre; Porcestre

In the civil parish of Fareham.
In the historic county of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.
Modern Authority of Hampshire.
1974 county of Hampshire.
Medieval County of Hampshire.

OS Map Grid Reference: SU62480456
Latitude 50.83801° Longitude -1.11473°

Portchester Castle has been described as a certain Masonry Castle, and also as a certain Palace.

There are major building remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.
This is a Grade 1 listed building protected by law*.


After the Norman Conquest the manor of Portchester was granted to William Mauduit and by the time of his death in about 1100 the inner bailey of the castle had been created. The raising of the keep to two storeys took place before 1120, at which date the castle reverted to the Crown. In about 1130 the castle was acquired by William Pont de l'Arche who may have built the curtain wall of the bailey. The doubling in height of the keep and the addition of a chapel and a chamber to its forebuilding must also have taken place at this time. Within the castle William founded a priory which was abandoned as unsuitable by 1150. By 1158 the castle had again reverted to the Crown and, in the late 12th century, domestic buildings began to appear around the inner bailey. The castle declined in importance during the 13th century; in a survey of 1275 the buildings were described as being old and ruinous. However, between 1320 and 1326 major building works were carried out with considerable expenditure on walls, gates and various halls and chambers. The buildings on the west of the inner bailey became a self contained palace, later rebuilt by Richard II in the years after 1396. The north east tower in the bailey, known as Ashton's Tower, was also built in the 14th century. These buildings marked the final stage of the military and domestic development of the castle after which the 15th century marked another period of decay. In 1527 a new store house was erected within the castle, but had been demolished and removed to Portsmouth by 1584. Sir Thomas Cornwallis made considerable alterations to the castle in the early 17th century after which it was used for housing prisoners of war on a number of occasions between 1665 and 1814. On the last occasion, during the Napoleonic War, barrack blocks were built in the outer bailey to house soldiers guarding the prisoners. After 1814 the castle was converted to a hospital, later being used as a prison for deserters and a store before finally closing in June 1819. (Scheduling Report)

The castle is first documented in 1153 when it was restored to William Mauduit, but on his accession in 1154, Henry II took it into royal possession, where it remained thereafter. It occupies the north-west corner of the Saxon Shore Fort, and has a rectangular bailey occupying 8 acres. The Land Gate is on the west side and the Watergate on the east of the Saxon Shore Fort. In the 12th century the Roman wall was broken through to build the rectangular tower-keep which projects beyond the line of the Roman wall.
In June 1216 the castle surrendered to Louis of France but was recovered by the following April when Oliver d'Aubeny was ordered to level it, or failing that, fire the keep. After the expulsion of Louis' army, it was further repaired and maintained.
From 1396-9, Richard II rebuilt the great hall as a new set of apartments along the South and East sides of the bailey, the ruins of which still remain. By 1441 the castle was regarded as ruinous and feeble, and despite a 10 year renovation programme, the money was not enough to remedy the decay. (PastScape ref. HKW)

The main walls date from C.3/4; they are those of the Roman Fort Portus Adurni. The walls form a square 200 yds. wide, built of flint with brick and stone bonding courses, substantially repaired in the mediaeval period. Fourteen, of the original twenty, hollow semi-circular bastions survive. Entrances are in the centres of west and east sides, the gateways now standing are mediaeval. In the north west corner of the fort is a mediaeval castle built during the reign of Henry II, moated to the south and east The keep extends beyond the Roman walls, and is forty ft. square with walls eight ft. thick, originally of three storeys, a fourth was added in C.13. Other buildings erected in C.14 and C.17 are now in ruins. (Hampshire Treasures ref. Pevsner)
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Sources of information, references and further reading
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:20:06

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