West Cowes

Has been described as a Certain Artillery Fort

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains

NameWest Cowes
Alternative NamesCowes Castle; Cowfort
Historic CountryHampshire and the Isle of Wight
Modern AuthorityIsle of Wight
1974 AuthorityIsle of Wight
Civil ParishCowes

Royal Yacht Squadron Headquarters. Remains of Henrician coastal defence of 1538-9 with C18 stair turret and enlargements by Salvin of 1856-7. Of the C16 fort there remain the low bastion fronting the promenade along the sea, with its castellated parapet, and the 2-storey squat round tower behind. They are built of limestone ashlar, said to have been brought across the Solent from Beaulieu Abbey which was then partially demolished. At the south-east corner of the tower a turret was added in the C18 which contains quite a good C18 staircase. The remainder of the building consists of the C18 house as altered and greatly enlarged in the C19 by Salvin, when the north-west turret, amongst other portions was added. This is of 2 to 3 storeys stone rubble having mansard roof with some gables and incorporates a one storey cemented and castellated lodge. The building is listed for both architectural and historic interest. The historical interest is as the sole remaining fort of 2, built in 1538-9 by Henry VIII to defend the mouth of the Medina, the other having been built at East Cowes. During the Commonwealth period the building was used as a prison and amongst others Sir William Davenant was imprisoned there. He wrote the heroic poem "Gondibert" during his captivity. The castle was added to and became a private house in the C18 and in 1856 it was bought by the Royal Yacht Squadron which was founded in 1813 and had been previously housed in what became subsequently the Gloucester Hotel, The Parade, Cowes owed its fortunes in the C19 to the visits of the Duke of Gloucester, the Prince Regent and other royal princes who were early patrons of the Yacht Club and after 1863 of the Prince of Wales, which made the town fashionable. (Listed Building Report)

The original castle was a round tower flanked to the east and west by rectangular wings with a semi-circular curtain wall on the seaward side. Eight guns were mounted at the castle in three tiers

The castle was built from material from the abbey at Beaulieu and possibly from Quarr Abbey.

Little remains of the present day castle apart from a low bastion fronting the promenade along the seaward side and a fragment of the northern segment of the original round tower. The rest of the building consists of the 18th century house with its three storey tower and its castellated conservatory style lodge. (PastScape)

Not scheduled

This is a Grade 2* listed building protected by law

Historic England Scheduled Monument Number
Historic England Listed Building number(s)
Images Of England
Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceSZ493965
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Photo by Therron Welstead. All Rights ReservedView full Sized Image
Photo by Therron Welstead. All Rights ReservedView full Sized Image

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  • Harrington, Peter, 2007, The Castles of Henry VIII (Oxford: Osprey)
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  • Buck, Samuel and Nathaniel, 1774, Buck's Antiquities (London) Vol. 1 p. 106
  • Grose, Francis, 1785 (new edn orig 1756), Antiquities of England and Wales (London) Vol. 2 p. 180-1 online copy


  • Camden, Wm, 1607, Britannia hypertext critical edition by Dana F. Sutton (2004)
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  • Binney, M., 1985, 'Based on a Tudor bulwark: the Royal Yacht Squadron, Cowes, Isle of Wight' Country Life 178 p. 298–301
  • Kenyon, J.R., 1983, 'The state of the fortifications in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight in 1623' Proceedings of the Hampshire Field Club and Archaeological Society Vol. 39 p. 137-143 esp. 138-9
  • Kenyon, J.R., 1979, 'An aspect of the 1559 survey of the Isle of Wight: The State of all the Queenes maties Fortresses and Castelles' Post-Medieval Archaeology Vol. 13 p. 61-77 esp. 67-8
  • Portal, 1917-19, Proceedings of the Hampshire Field Club and Archaeological Society Vol. 8 p. 83-94 (history)

Primary Sources


  • Dave Hopkins, 2004, Extensive Urban Survey - Hampshire and the Isle of Wight (English Heritage) Download copy