Southsea Castle

Southsea Castle

Southsea Castle is a treasure trove of fascinating stories waiting to be told, and makes for an enthralling and fun-filled family day out. For hundreds of years Britannia ruled the waves, and nowhere was more important than Portsmouth, the home of the British Navy. The port was far too important to be left unprotected. Henry VIII recognised this and ordered that a powerful fortification be built to repel invaders and protect his fleet. The result was Southsea Castle.

Southsea Castle Southsea Castle Southsea Castle

Early History

Southsea Castle was built in 1544, and is one of a number of coastal fortifications erected by Henry VIII. It is said that Henry drew up the design for the castle himself, using the very latest ideas in fortification construction. This period marked a turbulent time in our history and war with France was a constant threat. Henry was just in time, because not long after Southsea Castle was competed, a French fleet appeared off the coast.

First Battle

On 18th July 1545, a French fleet carrying a large army arrived, intending to land and capture Portsmouth. The French anchored off the Isle of Wight and sent troops ashore there, hoping to provoke the English to attack. On the next day, ships from both sides exchanged cannon fire, and the Mary Rose, England’s pride and Henry’s favourite warship, sank during the battle. Henry VIII was next to Southsea Castle when this happened, and it is easy to imagine him watching as his beloved ship slipped beneath the waves.

Southsea Castle and the Civil War

The next time Southsea Castle saw action was during the early days of the English Civil War. The Castle was on the side of the King, and was besieged by a much larger force of Parliamentarians. The Castle's Royalist commander, Captain Challoner, was drunk and unable to co-ordinate its defence. The Parliamentarian troops clambered over the Castle walls, and the garrison surrendered without bloodshed. This is the only time the Castle has been captured in its five hundred year history.

Later Years

In 1759, 17 people died when an accidental explosion wrecked the castle. During the 19th century a tunnel was built to defend the castle’s moat. You can enter the tunnel and see for yourself how the castle would have been defended against invaders. Later, in Victorian times, the castle became a military prison for six years. Finally, Southsea Castle was retired from active service in 1960.

Time Tunnel

Children will be wide-eyed with wonder when they take a spooky tour of Southsea Castle. The ghost of the castle's first master gunner is the guide. He’ll introduce you to Henry VIII, you’ll meet the drunken Captain Challoner, and see how the castle’s cooks caused the explosion that nearly completely destroyed it.

Southsea Castle - Portsmouth & Gosport

Visitor Information

Clarence Esplanade


Tel: 023 9282 7261

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