The Downs Beach Fortifications

Has been described as a Certain Artillery Fort, and also as a Certain Linear Defence or Dyke

There are no visible remains

NameThe Downs Beach Fortifications
Alternative NamesGreat Turf Bulwark; Little Turf Bulwark; Great White Bulwark of Clay; Black or Walmer Bulwark
Historic CountryKent
Modern AuthorityKent
1974 AuthorityKent
Civil ParishDeal, Walmer

Circular earthen bulwarks and linear trench system which linked Sandown (TR 3759 5430), Deal (TR 3777 5220) and Walmer (TR 3775 5010) Castles. Built between 1539-43 in response to the invasion crisis of 1538. The exact locations of the Great Turf Bulwark (poss TR 376 536) and Little Turf Bulwark (poss TR 376 529) between Sandown and Deal are uncertain, yet more accurate locations are known for the Great White Bulwark and Black Bulwark between Deal and Walmer. The four bastions, or blockhouses, were linked by a trench, poss. by a covered way. The bulwarks were first manned in October 1540, and were defaced and without guns as early as 1547, though they were not disassemled until 1550. In a 1640 estate plan, the earthworks are named the 'Great White Bulwark of Clay' and the 'Blacke Bullwork' (Saunders; HKW). There is no trace of their existence today, yet at the proposed site of the Great White Bulwark (TR 376 514, near the modern lifeboat station) are three semi-circular banks of mounds which resemble the shape of the bulwark. Similar evidence exists for the Black Bulwark (TR 376 507), where there is a slightly raised rectangular area at the proposed location. The bulwarks were represented on an Admiralty Chart of 1795 and were overlayed with a current map of the area to derive the proposed locations (Harlow). (Kent HER)

Not scheduled

Not Listed

County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceTR300500
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink

No photos available. If you can provide pictures please contact Castlefacts

Most of the sites or buildings recorded in this web site are NOT open to the public and permission to visit a site must always be sought from the landowner or tenant.

Calculate Print


  • Harrington, Peter, 2007, The Castles of Henry VIII (Oxford: Osprey) p. 11-18, 22, 38, 53-4 (well illustrated) partial preview
  • Saunders, Andrew, 1997, English Heritage Book of Channel Defences (Batsford) p. 49-50
  • Saunders, Andrew, 1989, Fortress Britain (Beaufort) p. 37-8
  • Colvin, H.M., Ransome, D.R. and Summerson, John, 1982, The history of the King's Works Vol. 4: 1485-1660 (part 2) (London) p. 455-65
  • Hasted, Edward, 1800 (2edn), The history and topographical survey of the county of Kent Vol. 10 p. 1-23 online transcription


  • Harlow, Ray, June 1997, 'Bulwarks at Walmer' Ravelin p. 18-19

Primary Sources

  • Gairdner, J. and Brodie, R.H. (eds), 1898, Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII Vol. 16 p. 168-9 no. 372 online copy
  • Gairdner, J. and Brodie, R.H. (eds), 1896, Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII Vol. 15 p. 131 no. 323 online copy


  • Kent County Council, December 2004, Kent Historic Towns Survey (Kent County Council and English Heritage) view online copy
  • Saunders, A. and Smith, V. 2001. Kent's Defence Heritage (Kent County Council HFN Project): 47-59