Portsmouth Town Defences

Has been described as a Certain Urban Defence, and also as a Certain Artillery Fort

There are earthwork remains

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

The defences for Portsmouth were under construction between 1421 and 1424 but by 1539 they were so decayed that new ramparts had to be thrown up. These had fallen down two years later but were rebuilt in the late 16th century. During the Civil War Portsmouth was one of the most important and heavily defended south coast ports. The Royalist garrison was secure behind the medieval earth ramparts and stone walls until Portsmouth surrendered in September 1642. The fortifications were remodelled by Sir Bernard de Gomme between 1665-8 and a map by de Gomme shows that these defences were practically identical with those shown on the OS 25'' of 1867. By 1800 the town had become a military fortress. The town walls were demolished between 1871 and 1878. (PastScape)

Gatehouse Comments

Earth rampart raised on landward side of town in 1386, continued along seafront from 1560 and strengthened elsewhere by arrow head bastions. Now mainly demolished. Kings Bastion surviving part of Portsmouth's defences. Rebuilt to its present stone form in C17. Begun as an earthwork c.1522. Also The Saluting Platform - Battery Platform dated c.1522-1526 and altered in 1568. It was redesigned in the late C16 and early C19. In 1987 part of the wall collapsed during a storm. See also Round and Square Towers which survive and formed part of these defences. Murage granted in 1342 but town petitioned for its repel because of lost trade two years later.

- 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 ReferenceSZ633991
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink
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.

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  • Salter, Mike, 2013, Medieval Walled Towns (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 120
  • Osborne, Mike, 2011, Defending Hampshire: The Military Landscape from Prehistory to the Present (Stroud: The History Press) p. 245 (listed in Appendix)
  • Creighton, O.H. and Higham, R.A., 2005, Medieval Town Walls (Stroud: Tempus) p. 36, 87, 139, 182, 202-3, 214, 225, 257
  • Salter, Mike, 2002, The Castles of Wessex (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 50
  • Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 88-9
  • Bond, C.J., 1987, 'Anglo-Saxon and Medieval Defences' in Schofield, J. and Leech, R. (eds) Urban Archaeology in Britain (CBA Research Report 61) p. 92-116 online copy
  • 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. 196
  • Colvin, H.M. et al, 1982, The history of the King's Works Vol. 4: 1485-1660 (part 2) p. 488-527
  • Barley, M.W., 1975, 'Town Defences in England and Wales after 1066' in Barley (ed) The plans and topography of medieval towns in England and Wales (CBA Research Report 14) p. 57-71 download/view online
  • Lloyd, D.W., 1974, Buildings of Portsmouth and its Environs (Portsmouth) p. 59
  • Renn, D.F., 1973 (2 edn.), Norman Castles of Britain (London: John Baker) p. 285
  • Turner, H.L., 1971, Town Defences in England and Wales (London) p. 158
  • Pevsner, N. and Lloyd, D., 1967, Buildings of England: Hampshire and the Isle of Wight (Harmondsworth) p. 422-424
  • Corney, A., 1965, Fortifications in Old Portsmouth (Portsmouth) p. 25-29
  • Lilley, 1923, Early Portsmouth Defences (Portsmouth)
  • Harvey, Alfred, 1911, Castles and Walled Towns of England (London: Methuen and Co)
  • Page, Wm (ed), 1908, VCH Hampshire and the Isle of Wight Vol. 3 p. 187-190 online transcription



  • Creighton, Oliver, 2006, ''Castles of Communities': Medieval Town Defences in England; Wales and Gascony' Château Gaillard Vol. 22 p. 75-86
  • Fox, R.T., 1991, 'Portsmouth's ramparts revisited' Fortress: The castles and fortifications quarterly Vol. 11 p. 29-38
  • Fox, R.T., 1988, 'Portsmouth — Old Portsmouth, Camber Bastion' Archaeology in Hampshire: Annual Report for 1987 p. 32–4 < >
  • Fox, R.T., 1988, 'Portsmouth — Old Portsmouth, the Saluting Platform' Archaeology in Hampshire: Annual Report for 1987 p. 34–6 < >
  • Fox, R.T., 1988, 'Portsmouth — Old Portsmouth, Spur Redoubt' Archaeology in Hampshire: Annual Report for 1987 p. 36–7 < >
  • Fox, R.T., 1988, 'Portsmouth — Old Portsmouth, King James' Gate' Archaeology in Hampshire: Annual Report for 1987 p. 38
  • Kenyon, J.R., 1981 'Early Artillery Fortifications in England and Wales: a Preliminary Survey and Re-appraisal' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 138 p. 220
  • Saunders, A.J., 1966, The Archaeological Journal Vol. 123 p. 142-145, 179-182

Primary Sources

  • Maxwell Lyte, H.C. (ed), 1900, Calendar of Patent Rolls Edward III (1340-43) Vol. 5 p. 562 (murage grant) online copy
  • Maxwell Lyte, H.C. (ed), 1902, Calendar of Patent Rolls Edward III (1343-45) Vol. 6 p. 322 (petition to revoke murage) online copy
  • Maxwell Lyte, H.C. (ed), 1900, Calendar of Patent Rolls Richard II (1385-89) Vol. 3 p. 214 (writ de intendendo to prepare defences) 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
  • - < >Also see the Gatehouse murage pages for full details of murage [grants > http://www.gatehouse-gazetteer.info/murage/murindex.html], [petitions > http://www.gatehouse-gazetteer.info/murage/mupindex.html ] and [other such > http://www.gatehouse-gazetteer.info/murage/muaindex.html]. < >


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