Calshot Castle

Has been described as a Certain Artillery Fort

There are major building remains

NameCalshot Castle
Alternative NamesCaldshore; Calshott; Cawshot; Calste Point
Historic CountryHampshire and the Isle of Wight
Modern AuthorityHampshire
1974 AuthorityHampshire
Civil ParishFawley

Calshot Castle is a well preserved example of its class within which, despite later alterations, all elements of the original structure have survived in a recognisable form. The alterations, carried out from the 18th century onwards, demonstrate the continuing importance of Calshot in the defence of Southampton Water over a period of 400 years. Situated in a prominent position on Calshot Spit the castle is an important landmark and is open to the public.

The monument includes Calshot Castle, a mid 16th century stone built artillery castle with 18th and 19th century alterations, lying on Calshot Spit on the southern shore of Southampton Water. The precise and symmetrical plan of the castle centres on a three storey gun tower or keep, separated from the surrounding curtain wall by a courtyard within which lie both accommodation buildings and later searchlight emplacements. The buildings of the castle are surrounded by a shallow stone-lined moat beyond which, on the seaward side, lie a stone-paved counterscarp and stone sea defences. The keep is approximately 16m in external diameter, but only 8m internally. The lower storey is octagonal in plan, but the upper two floors, while retaining an octagonal interior plan, are cylindrical on the outside. The external appearance of the upper part of the tower differs from the original only in having the parapet on the roof altered in the 18th century and concrete gun emplacements added in 1907. The 18th century alterations involved the replacement of the curved parapets with their embrasures for heavy guns with an unbroken parapet designed to protect troops. In 1907 the parapet was further modified on its east side by the addition of mass concrete to form emplacements for two 12 pounder guns. Internally the keep is divided into three levels below the roof. The basement may originally have been vaulted although, due to considerable alterations, little is known of its original form

In 1896 the installation of generators and other equipment for Defence Electric Lights (searchlights) necessitated the construction of a protective concrete ceiling. The basement was lined with brick and possibly deepened at this time while new access was provided from courtyard level. That from the first floor was blocked. In 1907 the generators were removed and the basement was converted to a cartridge and shell magazine by the insertion of a brick cross wall with lamp niches and an ammunition hoist, now removed. The modification of the basement ceiling resulted in the floor level of the first floor being lowered by 2 feet (0.6m). At this time the first floor, which retains its 16th century outline and the remains of an original fireplace, was converted to a barrack room. The second floor has also been considerably altered, although its walls are largely Tudor and incorporate the remains of two fireplaces and a garderobe. This level once carried heavy guns firing through large embrasures but was also converted into a barrack room in the late 19th century. The ceiling was subsequently strengthened to help support the newly installed roof battery. Traces of the ammunition hoist which ran from the basement to the roof can be seen in all floors and ceilings throughout the keep. The courtyard is enclosed by a 16-sided curtain wall with a flared apron sloping into the moat. Formerly 15 of the sides possessed embrasures through which the courtyard guns fired and above which was a deep parapet shielding the wall walk behind. The 16th side was occupied by the gatehouse. In c.1770 the majority of the curtain wall was lowered to its present height and the gatehouse was extended, preserving the original embrasures on either side of the entrance. On the north side of the courtyard is a long concrete building constructed c.1896 to hold three searchlights (Defence Electric Lights). Three of the Tudor embrasures were cut back at this time to provide a better arc for the searchlights and a further embrasure is blocked to each side of the three. The gatehouse in its original form is shown by an early 18th century engraving to have been a simple two storey structure, probably with a single room above the gate passage. The gatehouse was flanked by a gun embrasure at first floor level on its western side and its roof also had provision for guns. The gate passage is approached from over the moat by a 19th century fixed metal-framed bridge; a replacement for the wooden structure shown on early 18th century engravings. The grooves for the portcullis which originally protected the gate passage can still be seen. In c.1770 the gatehouse was heightened and widened to provide better accommodation for the governor. The section added to the top of the original gatehouse has one small window while the flanking additions have none. The accommodation thus provided has been extensively altered internally. Alterations carried out in 1896 included the provision of a guardroom and cell on the west side of the gate together with the construction of a brick cookhouse, storerooms and latrines on the south end of the gatehouse. The stone-lined moat which lies beyond the curtain wall is 16-sided, 2.6 deep and 8.8m wide. Beyond the moat on the seaward side, to the north, east and south east, is a counterscarp, paved with stone and gently-sloping. Stone sea defences are also provided on the east side of the castle. The precise extent of these features is uncertain as they are now buried by shingle accumulations. Calshot Castle was constructed as part of a chain of coastal fortifications built to protect vulnerable points in the event of a French invasion. Calshot Spit dominates the shipping route to Southampton as the deep water channel runs close to shore at this point. The major construction work was carried out in 1539 and 1540, most probably using building stone from Netley or Beaulieu Abbey. Documentary evidence records that the lead for the roof came from Beaulieu. By the end of the 1540s Calshot was one of the most heavily armed of the Solent fortresses, with a total of 36 guns, though this had fallen to ten serviceable guns by 1559. In 1584 Queen Elizabeth's government devoted funds to the repair of several of the Solent defences as part of its precautions against a possible invasion from Spain or the Netherlands. Calshot by this time had suffered a disastrous fire which had gutted the keep and timber repairs required 127 trees from the New Forest. The strategic importance of Calshot ensured its survival during the Civil War when neighbouring castles at St Andrew's and Netley were disabled. During the War of Spanish Succession (1702-13) it was equipped with a maximum of 25 guns but this was reduced to 13 by 1725. The first significant alteration of the Tudor fabric, which took place in 1774, preceded several complaints about old and defective guns. In the late 19th century searchlights, or Defence Electric Lights, were installed at Calshot to be used in conjunction with a quick fire gun battery which was built to the south east of the castle and completed in 1897. Nothing now survives of this battery and it has not been included within the scheduling. Generators powered by oil engines were installed in the basement of the keep while the two floors above resumed their role as barrack accommodation. The interior of the gatehouse was extensively altered between September 1896 and November 1896. In 1907 Calshot Castle underwent its last major modification as a fortress. The roof of the keep was strengthened to permit the installation of a pair of quick fire guns to augment the adjacent battery. The searchlight generators were removed from the basement which was converted to a cartridge and shell store, linked to the roof by a hoist in the centre of the keep. Calshot and its adjacent battery were stripped of their weapons before the end of the World War I. However, in 1940, two quick fire guns were remounted on the roof of the castle and six searchlights installed. In its final period of active service, Calshot Castle, together with Bungalow Battery on the north shore of Southampton Water and Stone Point Battery some 3 miles to the south west, formed part of Calshot Fire Command. In 1953 Calshot air station was transferred to Maintenance Command before finally being closed. Calshot Castle is Listed Grade 2star and is in the care of the Secretary of State. (Scheduling Report)

Castle. 1538-41 for Henry VIII's coastal defences, altered C18, 1868-71 and C20, twice restored by DoE 1985. Dressed squared Portland stone, brick and old plain tile roofed addition. Plan of circular moat around circular island with wall around edge, raised to 3 storeys on one quadrant, for gate house. In centre of island 3½ storey keep tower. Both sides of moat faced in dressed stone, with moulded coping. On inner side wall rises from coping with open-topped embrasure. The 3 storey quadrant has slightly projecting full-height gatehouse. C20 bridge stands in front of recessed 2 deep order pointed archway with double doors. Each side pilaster with impost to chevron hood. Panel over, framed by pilasters with early Renaissance decoration. Each side loopholes. 3rd floor heavy moulded string course, that wall originally coping before wall was raised in C18. In centre, cutting string is 12-pane sash. Either side of gateway are embrasures now fitted with 2-light casements and heavy moulded string course at head of gateway level. Central keep tower has only pointed doorway on ground floor. Moulded 1st floor string. On 1st floor tall embrasures with 12-pane sashes. 2nd floor raised band. On 1st floor wider embrasures with 12-pane sashes, set slightly off-centre to those on 1st floor. Moulded cornice to tall parapet that has additional floor behind it. (Listed Building Report)

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

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 ReferenceSU488024
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  • Coad, J., 2006, 'Calshot Castle: the later history of a Tudor fortress, 1793-1945' English Heritage Historical Review Vol. 1 p. 103-113 abstract and online purchase
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  • 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. 73-5
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  • Buhler, 1952, Hampshire Field Club and Archaeological Society Newsletter Vol. 17 p. 247-25 (historicalnote)
  • Williams-Freeman, 1932-4, Proceeding of the Hampshire Field Club and Archaeological Society Vol. 12 p.214

Guide Books

  • Coad, J.G.. 1999, Calshot Castle (London: English Heritage)
  • Coad, J.G.. 1986, Calshot Castle, Hampshire (London: English Heritage)

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
  • 1539, Drawing of a round tower British Library online gallery
  • A Survey of the Isle of Wight with plans of fortifications, 20 Nov 1559 (D(W)1778/III/0/1, Staffordshire Record Office)
  • SP12/253, No. 93 (Survey of 1595) The National Archives reference