Sandgate Castle

Has been described as a Questionable Masonry Castle, and also as a Questionable Artillery Fort

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains

NameSandgate Castle
Alternative NamesSandegate; Folston
Historic CountryKent
Modern AuthorityKent
1974 AuthorityKent
Civil ParishFolkestone

Sandgate Castle was originally built as an artillery castle in 1539-1540 by Henry VIII, as part of his chain of coastal defences in response to the threat of invasion. It was built to defend a vulnerable stretch of coastline and due to its proximity to the French coast the site has been constantly defended and refortified. In 1715-1716 the keep was re-roofed and the seaward battery rebuilt following damage by the spring tides. In 1805-6, during the Napoleonic wars, a major series of alterations were carried out on the castle to convert it into a gun-fort or tower. The tops of the original defensive towers were removed and the central tower converted into a Martello style tower mounting a coastal battery. In the late 1850s a new magazine was built and alterations made to the existing gun emplacements. Pillboxes were constructed at the castle during the Second World War and in the 1950s most of the outer wall on the south side was destroyed by coastal erosion. By 1893, the castle had become a private house and was restored in 1975 under the supervision of the Department of Environment. Little remains of the original Henrician castle due to the subsequent remodelling that took place but elements are incorporated into the later fortifications. It originally comprised of a large three-storey central tower or keep which was surrounded by two concentric curtain walls. The inner curtain wall had three round towers and the outer curtain wall had a three-storey gatehouse to the north and a rectangular building or "barbican" connecting it to the central tower. All these buildings were originally roofed, and the castle was designed so that it rose progressively from the outside in to provide three or four tiers of heavy guns. These were positioned behind 65 embrasures or gun-ports and there were also gun-loops in the lower levels of the towers and buildings to provide flanking fire


Sandgate is another of the block-house forts built by Henry VIII., on the site, as is supposed, of a more ancient edifice. It is much on the same plan as the forts of Sandown and Walmer, but has been entirely altered on the seaward face, and now is somewhat in the shape of an ace of clubs, the double bastions being actually in the street of the town, and the front one projecting below high water line. This part was converted into one of the Martello towers, erected bv William Pitt, in 1806, during the French War, to protect all assailable points on the line of the S.E. coast where a landing might be effected. The previous castle was one existing temp. Richard II., who, in 1398, after he had banished his cousin, Henry of Bolingbroke, at the lists of Coventry for ten years (see Baginton, Warwick), wrote letters to the captain of his castle of Sandgate, commanding him to admit his kinsman, Henry of Lancaster, Duke of Hereford, with his family, horses and attendants, to tarry there for six weeks to refresh himself. This must have been on Bolingbroke's journey into banishment abroad, whence he returned within a year, to depose Richard and fill the throne himself. In 1588 Elizabeth lodged in this fort when making her progress through Kent to inspect the defences adopted against the projected Spanish invasion. (Mackenzie)

Gatehouse Comments

It was the only coastal fort built by Henry VIII that did not defend a harbour or anchorage, but was built to guard the 'gate' a break in the cliffs, to the Kentish hinterland,. The earlier castle mentioned by Mackenzie is derived from Hasted, and is, according to Sands an error for Sangatte in France.

- Philip Davis

Not scheduled

This is a Grade 1 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 ReferenceTR209352
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  • Harrington, Peter, 2007, The Castles of Henry VIII (Oxford: Osprey)
  • Salter, Mike, 2000, The Castles of Kent (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 69-
  • Saunders, Andrew, 1997, Channel Defences (London; Batsford/English Heritage) p. 47, 80, 81, 83
  • Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 127-8
  • Newman, John, 1983, Buildings of England: North east and east Kent (Harmondsworth) p. 445
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 1 p. 233-4
  • 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. 370, 371, 404, 569-87
  • Guy, John, 1980, Kent Castles (Meresborough Books)
  • Smithers, David Waldron, 1980, Castles in Kent (Chatham)
  • Morley, B.M., 1976, Henry VIII and the Development of Coastal Defence (London) p. 27
  • O'Neil, B.H.St.J., 1960, Castles and Cannon: A Study of Early Artillery Fortifications in England (Oxford: Claredon Press) p. 60
  • Harvey, Alfred, 1911, Castles and Walled Towns of England (London: Methuen and Co)
  • Gould, I. Chalkley, 1908, in Page, Wm (ed), VCH Kent Vol. 1 p. 444 online copy
  • Sands, Harold, 1907, 'Some Kentish Castles' in Ditchfield and Clinch, Memorials of Old Kent (London) p. 211 online copy
  • Mackenzie, J.D., 1896, Castles of England; their story and structure (New York: Macmillan) Vol. 1 p. 38 online copy
  • Timbs, J. and Gunn, A., 1872, Abbeys, Castles and Ancient Halls of England and Wales Vol. 1 (London) p. 327 online copy
  • Hasted, Edward, 1799 (2edn), The history and topographical survey of the county of Kent Vol. 8 p. 152-188 online transcription
  • Buck, Samuel and Nathaniel, 1774, Buck's Antiquities (London) Vol. 1 p. 141
  • Grose, Francis, 1787, Antiquities of England and Wales (London) Vol. 8 p. 101 online copy



  • Coad, J.G., 1990, 'New warfare into old castles: a study of the adaptability of some fortifications in South East England, 1740-1940'' Château Gaillard Vol. 14 p. 61-76
  • < >Harris, E.C., 1980, 'Archaeological investigations at Sandgate Castle, Kent, 1976-9' Post-Medieval Archaeology Vol. 14 p. 53-88 < >
  • Shelby, Lon R., 1969, 'Guines Castle and the Development of English Bastioned Fortifications' Château Gaillard Vol. 3 p. 139-43
  • Saunders, A.D., 1967, 'Hampshire coastal defence since the introduction of artillery' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 123 p. 139
  • O'Neil, B.H.St.J., 1945, 'Stefan von Haschenperg, an engineer to King Henry VIII, and his work' Archaeologia Vol. 91 p. 137-55
  • Rutton, W.L., 1898, 'Henry VIII's Castles at Sandown, Deal, Walmer, Sandgate, and Camber' Archaeologia Cantiana Vol. 23 p. 24-30 online copy
  • Rutton, W.L., 1895, 'Sandgate Castle' Archaeologia Cantiana Vol. 21 p. 244-259 online copy
  • Rutton, W.L., 1893, 'Sandgate Castle, AD 1539-40' Archaeologia Cantiana Vol. 20 p. 228-57 online copy
  • Lewis, T.H., 1884, 'The castles of Sandown and Sandgate' Journal of the British Archaeological Association Vol. 40 p. 173-8 online copy

Primary Sources

  • 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) (slight) view online copy