10 castles and forts you can visit here in Hampshire
- Credit: Archant
The castles and forts around the county make for a fascinating ghost hunt by night, and a fun family trip by day
Perfect for a day out with a difference, Hampshire is home to a number of old castles and forts. We round up 10 to visit.
Built on Calshot Spit using the stone from Beaulieu Abbey, this was one of many of Henry VIII's forts to defend England's coast from foreign invaders. It's been altered many times since its construction in 1540 - its walls were lowered and the gatehouse rebuilt, in fact, it was in use until 1956. Entry for adults costs £4, children under 18 £2.80, concessions £3.50 and family tickets £10.80.
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Known locally as King John's Castle, Odiham Castle was one of three fortresses built for the King during his reign. Constructed in 1207, it took seven years to complete and cost £1,000. A year after King John attached his seal to the Magna Carta in 1215, the French captured the castle. In the 13th and 14th centuries it was mostly used as a prison and in the 15th, it was a hunting lodge. The only remains today are part of the keep and outlying earthworks. Hampshire County Council has done a lot of restoration of the shell, with guidance from English Heritage. It's now open to the public, but we're advised to stick to the designated footpaths.
Bishops Waltham Palace
Home to the bishops of Winchester, Bishops Waltham Palace (or Wolvesey Castle) is one of the most important Norman palaces in England. Built when Winchester was second only to London as an ecclesiastical centre, the palace was in use until the 1680s, when Bishop George Morley decided to build a new palace close by. Sadly, by the middle of the 18th century, the bishops' favoured using Farnham Castle in Surrey as their main residence, which meant Wolvesey was neglected. It was largely demolished in 1786, but the west wing survived and is still the current bishop's residence.
The Great Hall is all that remains of the medieval castle, which dates back to 1067. Henry III was born at the castle and added the Great Hall… and Edward II also added numerous extensions. The castle witnessed many significant events through its history. In 1302 Edward I and Margaret of France narrowly escaped when a fire destroyed the royal apartments. Margaret of York, daughter of King Edward IV, was born there in 1472 and in November 1603 Sir Walter Raleigh went on trial for treason. The castle fell to the Parliamentarians during the English Civil War, when Oliver Cromwell ordered its destruction. Hampshire County Council now has offices nearby, and has done since 1889. You can visit the Great Hall for free any day other than Christmas and Boxing Day.
Another of Henry VIII's fortresses, built in 1544, Hurst Castle is at the very end of the shingle spit that stretches for one-and-a-half miles from Milford-On-Sea. Hurst is typical of the King's forts, with very thick walls designed to fend off enemy fire. Originally, the castle had 71 gun positions on six levels. It's strategic position and excellent defences meant it remained in use for hundreds of years and since 1786, a series of lighthouses have guided ships through treacherous waters. The castle is open daily from 1 April-30 September (10.30am-5.30pm) and 1 October-1 November (10.30am-4pm) as well as weekends between 2 November and 31 March. Entry costs £5.50 for adults, £3 for children and £5 for seniors.
Also known as Downton Abbey these days, Highclere Castle, in the north of the county, is home to Lord and Lady Carnarvon, whose family has lived there since 1679. The castle stands on the site of an earlier house, which in turn was constructed on the foundations of the medieval palace owned by the Bishops of Winchester for 800 years. Perhaps its most famous resident though was the 5th Earl of Carnarvon who, with Howard Carter, discovered the tomb of Tutankhamun.
It's called a castle, but technically this was built as a fortification by Henry VIII in 1544. It was only just finished when Henry's flagship, the Mary Rose, sank just in front of its walls. It was the Parliamentarians who managed to capture it for the only time in its history nearly a century after Henry died. Defence wasn't the castle's only purpose however, it was also a military prison and a lighthouse was constructed in the 1820s, which is still in use today. The castle left military hands in 1960 when the council purchased it for restoration. Check the website for opening details.
Built 1,700 years ago, the Roman fort of Portchester Castle is a popular visitor attraction with a fascinating history. Originally it had 20 towers (16 still remain) and walls stand to a height of 6.1 metres. Inside, the Roman remains have mostly been destroyed, but some Saxon buildings have been excavated. Its parish church of St Mary is the only surviving short lived Augustinian monastery. Entry costs £7.20 for adults, £4.30 for children, £6.50 concessions and £18.70 for a family ticket.
The tower is all that remains of Warblington Castle's gatehouse. It's passed through many peoples' hands since it was first built in the 14th century. Found near Langstone, in 1513, Henry VIII gave it to Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury, but she was attained for treason, so Henry later granted it to Sir Richard Cotton. Edward VI and Elizabeth I are also said to have visited in the 1500s. It was the English Civil War that bought about its demise. In 1643 Parliamentarians garrisoned the castle and took it. The only part left was the turret, on purpose it seems, as it helped navigation for ships in Langstone channel. It is four storeys high and the arch of the gate, as well as the drawbridge support in the moat, still survive. The tower is private property unfortunately, but still a sight to behold.
The first recorded castle built in the city was constructed by the Normans around 1150. It was a simple motte and baily with a stronghold built on top of a raised mound. Unfortunately it fell into ruin in the 17th century and James I sold it in 1613 - its stone was used in the 19th century to build a mock Gothic castle, which itself only stood 17 years or so. Unfortunately it was never used as a castle again, but in the 1960s it became the site for the City Council's 'Castle House' apartment block.
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