Hurst Castle

Has been described as a Certain Artillery Fort

There are major building remains

NameHurst Castle
Alternative NamesWoodward
Historic CountryHampshire and the Isle of Wight
Modern AuthorityHampshire
1974 AuthorityHampshire
Civil ParishMilford on Sea

HURST CASTLE was erected by Henry VIII to defend the approach to Southampton Harbour against the French. The work was begun in 1541 and finished by the end of 1544. The first captain of the castle was Thomas Bertie, his deputy the sub-captain being Christopher Rippenden. In 1561 Thomas Carew was captain. The establishment at that time consisted of the captain, his deputy, porter and a master gunner, a 'deputy's man,' eight soldiers, another for the porter and eleven gunners. (VCH)

An advanced castle design with various firing levels. It was originally a twelve-sided tower with geometric curtain wall and three semi-circular bastions, surrounded by a moat crossed by a bridge. There are three building levels: basement, ground floor and first floor, which was at the same level as the parapet of two of the three bastions. The third bastion had a higher level. The castle had six tiers with embrasures or gun-ports, six flankers at the level of the moat and18 casements on the ground level. There were 11 embrasures in the curtain wall parapet, ten in the two lower bastions and six in the third taller bastion. The keep had eight gun-ports at the level of the parapets of two of the three bastions and twelve embrasures on the roof. (PastScape ref. Harrington)

The artillery castle at Hurst survives well, despite later alteration, and forms the focus of a defensive structure which, in its final form, is the most powerful of those established to guard the western entrance to the Solent. The massive scale and intended firepower of the casemated wing batteries added in the 1860s shows the contemporary response to the introduction of steam driven warships while later alterations and additions show the continuing strategic importance of the fort during the major conflicts of this century

Within the monument the construction of lighthouses from 1786 onwards, with surviving examples dating from 1865, represents an important sequence of navigational lighting. The monument is a prominent land and sea mark within the western Solent and is open to the public.

The monument includes Hurst Castle, a mid-16th century stone built artillery castle, much altered in the early to mid-19th century, to which two casemated wings were added in the 1860s. The castle also supports defensive structures dating to the periods of both World Wars and lighthouses dating to 1865 and 1911. The castle lies at the tip of Hurst Spit, a long shingle bank which curves out from the Hampshire coast at Milford on Sea. From this point, only 1200m from the shore of the Isle of Wight, it guards the western entrance to the Solent and thence to Southampton and Portsmouth. The monument also includes the 19th century lighthouse and associated gas house to the north of the castle, the remains of late 19th century gun batteries to its east and west, the dock and site of the storehouse on its northern landward side, and the remains of the associated 1880s narrow gauge railway. The Tudor castle, built between 1541 and 1544, centres on a great 12 sided tower or keep. This is surrounded by a narrow courtyard beyond which lies the outer curtain wall with its three substantial semicircular bastions. Both keep and bastions were altered successively during the 19th century. Outside the castle is a moat which survived intact until the alterations carried out in the 1850s. The moat is largely infilled although part of its counterscarp, reconstructed in the 1850s, survives on the south side of the castle. Within the moat on the northern side of the castle is a caponier, the sole surviving example of three built in 1852. Added on to the east and west sides of the Tudor castle are two huge casemated wing batteries constructed in the 1860s and designed to house a total of 30 heavy guns. Each casemate is built of brick with massive granite faced elevations to the sea and has a flat roof. The rear of each wing is enclosed by granite faced walls, equal in height to the casemates, with the main magazines, two at opposite ends of each wing, located at the rear of the enclosed areas. The magazines have a thick earth covering on their roofs. The east and west wings contain ancillary buildings. The west wing of the castle includes two lighthouses, the earlier built into the rear wall in 1865 and provided with direct access from outside the fort. This was superseded by the adjacent iron lighthouse built in 1911. These, together with the High Light, the free standing lighthouse built on the eastern end of the spit between 1865 and 1867, represent the surviving elements of a history of navigation lighting at Hurst which dates from 1786. Together with the 1911 iron light, the High Light is gas lit and retains its largely original lighting mechanism. Immediately south west of it is a separate building containing the original plant for the manufacture and storage of acetylene gas. Added to the far (northern) end of the east wing of the fort are concrete emplacements built in 1893 to mount three 6 pounder quick-firing guns. To the west of the west wing are the remains of the West Battery of 1852. Although now considerably eroded by the sea, the earthworks of the battery survive together with the footings for defensible barracks to the rear. The castle dock, originally stone built, was constructed in the early 1850s, initially to serve the contractors working on the batteries. A building on its east side, now demolished, may have been an associated storehouse. In the 1880s a narrow gauge railway, part of the track of which survives, was built to shift stores and ammunition from the dock. All display items (including guns), security and custodial fittings and facilities are excluded from the scheduling although the ground beneath these features is included. The castle and the end of Hurst Spit on which it stands are in the care of the Secretary of State. The lighthouse is Listed Grade II. (Scheduling Report)

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

Not Listed

Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceSZ318897
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Copyright John Barnabas Leith and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.
Copyright John Barnabas Leith and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.
Copyright John Barnabas Leith and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.
Copyright John Barnabas Leith and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.
Copyright John Barnabas Leith and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.
Copyright John Barnabas Leith and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.
Copyright John Barnabas Leith and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.
Copyright John Barnabas Leith and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.
Copyright John Barnabas Leith and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.
Copyright Nick Warner and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.

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  • 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
  • Coad, J.G., 1985, 'Hurst Castle: The evolution of a Tudor Fortress 1790-1945' Post-Medieval Archaeology Vol. 19 p. 63-104
  • 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. 142-43
  • 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. 72-3
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  • Phillips, 27.7.67, 'Repelling the Solent Invaders' Country Life
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  • Robins, 1955, Proceedings of the Hampshire Field Club and Archaeological Society Vol. 19 p. 62-5

Guide Books

  • Coad, J.G., 2013, Hurst Castle (London: English Heritage)
  • Coad, J.G., 1999, Hurst Castle (London: English Heritage)
  • Coad, J.G., 1990 2edn, Hurst Castle, Hampshire. (London: English Heritage)
  • James, J., 1986, Hurst Castle: an illustrated history (Wimborne: Dovecote Press)
  • Coad, J.G., 1985, Hurst Castle, Hampshire. (London: English Heritage)
  • Cantwell, A.R. and Sprack, P., 1985, Hurst Castle (Privately published) (duplicated typescript)
  • Craster, O.E., 1949, Hurst Castle (HMSO)

Primary Sources