Portsmouth Round Tower

Has been described as a Certain Artillery Fort, and also as a Certain Chain Tower

There are major building remains

NamePortsmouth Round Tower
Alternative Names
Historic CountryHampshire and the Isle of Wight
Modern AuthorityPortsmouth; City of
1974 AuthorityHampshire
Civil ParishPortsmouth

Between 1416 and 1422, £1069.9s.8 1/2 was spent on building a tower 'for the safe keeping of the King's ships', and constructing a wharf at 'Childrode' (Gosport) as a foundation for a second tower. The intention was to use a raisable chain to close the mouth of the harbour against enemy shipping. The Round Tower had to be protected from the sea by rocks secured by wooden piling. During Elizabeth's reign, every vessel plying between Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight was required to bring one boat-load of stones per annum and 'boye them within the pyles of the Round Tower' or pay a 2s fine (HKW).

Between 1492 and 1494, £2099.16s.4d was spent on refurbishing the towers and adding a beaked projection to the South of the Round Tower, 'the murder-house', to provide raking gunfire along the Tower's Southern approach (HKW) (PastScape)

The Square Tower, King's Stairs, Sally Port, Eighteen Gun Battery, Round Tower, Flanking battery, Walls. The Square Tower stands at the south-west end of the High Street, part of the sea defences first constructed 1494, but repaired and reconstructed since. Once residence of the Governor of Portsmouth, then a powder magazine. Plain massive square ashlar tower. Ashlar wall to north-west connects tower to King's Stairs, and the Sally Port. From the Sally Port the Eighteen Gun Battery extends northwards to the Round Tower with a return section at right angles known as the Flanking Battery. The Round Tower is probably the earliest of the stone built defences, circa 1415. It is cylindrical with string courses dividing the three storeys. The ground floor circa 1538-40 gun ports of this period mostly blocked. Upper storeys probably part of Sir Bernard de Gomme's reconstruction, but largely rebuilt in early C.19, when the interior was recast with massive brickwork vaulting, casements behind the gun ports. Top reconstruction circa 1847-50 and adapted as gun platform

Eighteen Gun battery and Flanking battery are part of the last phase of De Gomme's scheme, reconstructed 1847-50, when casements deepened and upper tier added to the flanking battery. The seaward walls were all refaced in ashlar at this time. (Hampshire Treasures)

Gatehouse Comments

The Round Tower is probably the earliest of the stone built defences, circa 1415. It is cylindrical with string courses dividing the three storeys. The ground floor circa 1538-40 gun ports of this period mostly blocked. Upper storeys probably part of Sir Bernard de Gomme's reconstruction, but largely rebuilt in early C.19, when the interior was recast with massive brickwork vaulting, casements behind the gun ports. Top reconstruction circa 1847-50 and adapted as gun platform. Held west end of chain across harbour mouth, east end held by Fort Blockhouse, Gosport

- Philip Davis

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

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 ReferenceSZ629993
Latitude50.7905387878418
Longitude-1.10888004302979
Eastings462910
Northings99370
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink
Copyright John Proctor and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.
Copyright John Proctor and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved

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

Books

  • Osborne, Mike, 2011, Defending Hampshire: The Military Landscape from Prehistory to the Present (Stroud: The History Press) p. 47, 244, 245
  • Salter, Mike, 2002, The Castles of Wessex (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 50
  • Saunders, Andrew, 1997, Channel Defences (London; Batsford/English Heritage) p. 42, 43, 57, 119
  • Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 88-9
  • Barron, W.G., 1985, The Castles of Hampshire and Isle of Wight (Paul Cave) p. 41
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 1 p. 192
  • Lloyd, D.W., 1974, Buildings of Portsmouth and its Environs (Portsmouth)
  • Pevsner, N. and Lloyd D., 1967, Buildings of England: Hampshire and the Isle of Wight (Harmondsworth) p. 422
  • Corney, A., 1965, Fortifications in Old Portsmouth (Portsmouth) p. 30-32
  • Colvin, H.M., Brown, R.Allen and Taylor, A.J., 1963, The history of the King's Works Vol. 1: the Middle Ages p. 495-7
  • Colvin, H.M., Brown, R.Allen and Taylor, A.J., 1963, The history of the King's Works Vol. 2: the Middle Ages (London: HMSO) p. 792-3
  • Lilley, 1923, Early Portsmouth Defences (Portsmouth) p. 2, 8-9, 28-9
  • Page, Wm (ed), 1908, VCH Hampshire and the Isle of Wight Vol. 3 p. 187 (history only) online transcription

Antiquarian

  • Camden, Wm, 1607, Britannia hypertext critical edition by Dana F. Sutton (2004)
  • Chandler, John, 1993, John Leland's Itinerary: travels in Tudor England  (Sutton Publishing) p. 208, 209
  • Toulmin-Smith, Lucy (ed), 1907, The itinerary of John Leland in or about the years 1535-1543 (London: Bell and Sons) Vol. 1 p. 282-3 online copy
  • Celia Fiennes, 1888, Through England on a Side Saddle in the Time of William and Mary (London: Field and Tuer, The Leadenhall Press) Vision of Britain online transcription

Journals

  • Kenyon, J.R., 1981 'Early Artillery Fortifications in England and Wales: a Preliminary Survey and Re-appraisal' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 138 p. 214

Primary Sources

Other

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