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Queenborough Castle

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Sheppey; Quynborow; Quinborough

In the civil parish of Queenborough.
In the historic county of Kent.
Modern Authority of Kent.
1974 county of Kent.
Medieval County of Kent.

OS Map Grid Reference: TQ91237215
Latitude 51.41611° Longitude 0.74870°

Queenborough Castle has been described as a certain Masonry Castle, and also as a probable Palace, and also as a probable Artillery Fort.

There are cropmark/slight earthwork remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.


Site of a castle built by Edward III in 1361-1377. It was intended for coastal defence and for the defence of the planned town to be built alongside it. It was also equipped as a Royal residence. Unconventional circular plan with 6 rounded towers projecting from an innner curtain wall. Concentric outer wall with defended gatehouse. A forerunner of the defensive coastal forts later built by Henry VIII. Pulled down in 1650. This was the only wholly new royal castle built in England during the later Middle Ages and was unique in its design. (PastScape)

Queenborough (or Sheppey) Castle was built in 1361-2 under the direction of J. H. Yevele. In his "Survey of the County of Kent", published in 1659, Kilburne states that the castle having become ruinous "was again being repairedby Henry VIII", circa 1545. Further works were undertaken in 1574 and again between 1596 and 1599. In 1635 the castle was again being described as ruinous. A Parliamentary survey of 1650 reported that it was much out of repair. It was accordingly sold and pulled down. Only the earthworks now remain, which are tolerably complete though a railway yard cuts into the moat to the east and a part to the west is asphalted over. (PastScape–ref. HKW)

Queenborough Castle was built in 1361-77 as a defence against French raids. it was demolished after 1650, but it was so remarkable that some comments must be made about it. In plan it was the ultimate development of concentric planning; a circle with six attached circular towers and ranges of rooms built within the walls to form a circular coutyard. A circular outer wall with a gatehouse on the west, a postern on the east, and a circular moat completed the fortifications. Queenborough Castle was, however, more than just a fort and the king stayed there on numerous occasions. The only remains of the castle now are a few mounds, 0.33 miles inland from the church. (PastScape–ref. Newman)

Despite demolition of the above ground stonework in the 17th century and the construction of a pumping station, the site of Queenborough Castle survives comparatively well with buried features remaining largely undisturbed. It is the earliest example of a concentric circular castle in the country and is possibly the only royal castle to be constructed in the late medieval period. Partial excavation has demonstrated that the monument contains both archaeological remains and environmental evidence relating to the monument's construction, use and demolition. The monument includes an enclosure castle situated on low lying land on the north bank of The Creek, near the west coast of the Isle of Sheppey. The castle survives as a low circular earthwork mound, c.100m in diameter and 1.5m high, surrounded by the partially infilled remains of a moat. This is visible to the north and south of the mound as an earthwork up to 0.6m deep and between 12m and 18m wide. To the east, the outer edge of the moat has been cut away by the construction of the railway line and to the west it has been completely infilled but survives as a buried feature. The early history of the castle is well documented, having been built by Edward III 'for the defence of the realm and for the refuge of the inhabitants of the island' and named after Philippa, his queen. Its construction was started in 1361 and continued until 1369 with final touches, such as the outer gates, being finished between 1373 and 1375. The plan of the masonry structure is known from an Elizabethan manuscript and comprised a central well within a small, circular inner ward, c.18m in diameter, surrounded by a circular keep, 40m in diameter, with six outer circular towers. Beyond this was the outer ward, enclosed by a circular curtain wall with a main gate to the west and a small postern gate to the east. Pairs of high walls connected the main gate with the western face of the keep and the postern with the keep's gate. Each of these walls had a gateway in it. The moat then ran around the curtain wall and was crossed by two drawbridges at the gateways. In 1382 six of the towers collapsed owing to an earthquake and were rebuilt by Richard II. Various alterations and repairs were carried out until 1650, when the castle was declared obsolete by the Parliamentary Commissioners. The structure was demolished soon after. The well was reopened and deepened in 1725 and was retained in use until the 20th century with a second well sunk next to the first in 1868. In 1991 two shallow trenches were excavated in the north west corner of the site which located a cut likely to be the robber-trench where the stones of the outer curtain wall were removed after demolition. (Scheduling Report)

Richard Kilburne's 'A Topography or Survey of Kent' (1659) states that 'A castle was here of ancient foundation' and that Edward III rebuilt and enlarged it. Kilburne does not highlight the source of this information. (Wessex Archaeology, 2005)

Probably mounted cannon and formed part of Thames defence but was, for a while, a favoured royal residence so, by no means, a stark artillery fort. The floor plan of the castles design has a superficial resemblance to the artillery forts of Henry VIII but this castle was not designed as an artillery fort and the floor plan actually suggests was built with much fancy and romantic allusion.
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:19:30

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