Portchester Castle

Portchester Castle

Portchester Castle occupies a commanding position at the north end of Portsmouth Harbour, where it has been the mainstay of the region’s defences for hundreds of years. If these rough stone walls could speak, what a story they could tell to the hordes of families and children who flock here for a memorable day out.

Portchester Castle Portchester Castle

Romans and Saxons

You won’t find a finer example of a Roman “Saxon Shore” fort than Portchester Castle, which makes it practically unique. The castle was originally built in the late 3rd century. And it stands to this day as the only Roman stronghold in northern Europe whose walls largely still stand at their original height. Still impressive today, imagine how imposing the fort must have been back then.

After the Romans left, the Saxons were quick to make use of the fortification and for the next few hundred years Portchester Castle became the home of a Saxon settlement.

A long and bloody history

Dark and bloody days returned with the invasion of the Normans in 1066. The conquerors from northern France weren’t slow to recognise the castle’s strategic importance and they set about strengthening the fort. A formidable tower-keep was built some time in the 12th century. Today, many say it’s as beautiful as it is impressive.

In the Middle Ages, Portchester Castle was seldom out of the action for long. It played a prominent role during the Hundred Years War, and served as a key staging post for expeditions to the French mainland. Portchester Castle could be said to have always had something of a rocky relationship with its neighbours across the channel, and was often called upon to repel French raids and invasions.

By Royal appointment

Down the centuries kings have been frequent visitors to the castle. Richard II gave the place something of a make-over in 1396 when he transformed the castle into a royal palace. But it didn’t take long for Portchester Castle to return to its more warlike roots. Henry V left from here prior to defeating the French at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415.

The castle didn’t see much action during the English Civil War and was used only to house troops. Much later its dungeons housed prisoners of war during the Dutch and Napoleonic wars.

Living history

The Norman keep contains an exhibition which tells the story of the castle, and Portchester village, in fascinating detail. Over the years many artefacts have come to light and they are on display too.

But to get a real sense of what life was like in Portchester Castle over the many hundreds of years it’s been standing, why not take an audio tour. It helps make a visit to the castle a fascinating and fun-filled family day out which will live long in the memory. And you’ll get to see the castle through the eyes of many of the people who lived there, or were prisoners within its high walls.

Portchester Castle - Portsmouth and Gosport

Visitor Information

Portchester Castle can be found on the south side of Portchester off the A27, Junction 11 on M27.

Castle Street
PO16 9QW

Web: www.english-heritage.org.uk

Tel: 023 9237 8291

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