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Historic England Research Records

Yarmouth Castle

Hob Uid: 459201
Location :
Isle of Wight
Yarmouth
Grid Ref : SZ3539108978
Summary : Yarmouth Castle, an artillery castle, was built after the French raid on the Isle of Wight in 1545. It was one of the last of Henry VIII's chain of coastal defences built to defend England from the threat of French and Spanish invasion. In 1597-8 an earth bulwark with bastions was added and in 1609 additions were made including corner buttresses. Further alterations were made in 1632, and in 1669 the castle was reduced in size with the demolition of the earthworks and the filling in of the moat. The fort was garrisoned until 1885. Yarmouth Castle has one of the earliest examples of an Italianate style "arrowhead" or "diamond" bastion which replaced the Henrician style of concentric or curvilinear fortifications. The castle is built of ashlar with part of the south front made of red brick. It is square in plan with sides 30 metres long and there is a sharply pointed two-storey angular bastion at the south east corner. The north and west walls face the sea whilst the south and east sides were originally protected by a moat. There were recessed flankers that jutted out from the south east side of the bastion providing covering fire to the moat. The original entrance was to the east and had a carved royal coat of arms above it. It was built by George Mills and later modified by Richard Worsley, Captain of the Island. The earthworks were demolished and the moat filled in by Sir Robert Holmes, Governor of the Island in 1669. The castle is now an English Heritage property and is open to the public.
More information : [SZ 35398979] Castle [G.T.]. (1)

Yarmouth Castle was built in 1546-7, by Henry VIII as one of the chain of coastal forts defending Southern England consequent to French raids.

The 'arrowhead' bastion dates from the original construction, and is thus the earliest of its kind in England.

In 1597-8, an earthen bulwark, with bastions and ravelins was constructed outside the moat, and in 1609 further additions were made which included two corner buttresses of neat ashlar. In 1632 other alterations were made and in 1669 the castle was reduced by the demolition of the earthworks and filling in of the moat.

The castle remained in the hands of the War Department until taken over by the Ministry of Works in 1913. (2)

The castle is in excellent condition and is open to the public. The site of the moat is now occupied by ornamental gardens of the adjoining George Hotel. (3)

The castle was probably constructed May - November 1547. (4)

It may not have been completed until 1559. A 1623 survey of south coast fortifications, does not mention the outworks said to have been built in 1597 - 8. (5-8)

Yarmouth Castle, Grade II Former coastal fort now a Scheduled Ancient Monument. Begun after the French raid of 1545, the last of Henry VIII's coastal forts and in use by 1547. Builder George Mills. The arrow-headed bastion was a new departure in fortifications and the first to be built in England. c.1560. The building was modified by Richard Worsley, Captain of the Island and minor alterations were made in the following century until c.1670 when Sir Robert Holmes, Governor of the Island filled in the moat, renewed additions and established the present entrance. It was garrisoned until 1885.

Built of ashlar, part of south front red brick. Square in plan with sides nearly 100 feet long and sharply pointed bastion at South east corner. North and west walls face the sea, South and east sides originally were protected by a moat. The original entrance was to the east with 4 centred arched entrance with carved royal coat of arms above. The present entrance in the south side also has a 4 centred archway. To the right is the early C17 gunner's lodging and brick magazine of c.1718 which has a beehive-shaped roof. To the left is the Master Gunner's house of c1560 with top storey added in 1609. This is of ashlar with renewed slate roof having gable ends with kneelers. 3 storeys. 3 windows. Attic floor has gabled dormers with kneelers. Mullioned windows 4 centred arched doorcase to left hand side.

Ground floor kitchen has massive wooden lintel to fireplace and bread-oven. Corner has garderobe pit. One 1st floor chamber has a C17 stone fireplace with plain chamfer end beam with ovolo moulding and bar stops. The other chamber has a 4 centred arched fireplace and beam with heart shaped stops (1609), 4 centred arched fireplace with high stops and relieving arch and small garderobe chamber in the corner with square- headed opening. Attic room over kitchen has renewed roof of scalloped principal rafters and tie beam with heart-shaped stop. Attic room over parlour has C17 brick fireplace and plain collar beam roof. To the right hand side in the Long Room of 1632 constructed on top of 4 earlier barrel vaults. This is of brick with tiled roof and has a roof structure with tie beams and collar. The platform was constructed between 1559-1565 to carry all the heavier armament of the castle parapet with parapet of 1632. Its rounded internal angles date from 1813. It has the remains of 4 rails from the traversing carriage of C19 guns. (9)

The original fort consisted of a series of internal ranges 8.5m high surrounding a central courtyard. These ranges mounted cannon on the roof and handguns on the lower floors. it was defended on the landward side by a ditch, the right angle of which was commanded by a two-storey arrow-headed bastion at the SE corner, which was one of the earliest of the Italian variety in England. t was roofed in 1565.

Between 1561-5 the seaward ranges were demolished and the rubble used to build a large platform in the North half of the fort, and which mounted the main armament thereafter. he platform was raised in height in 1609 and an earth parapet raised to defend it in 1632. A new gate was cut in the S side in the late 17th century when the ditch was filled in and a battery was built on the quay to the SW. In 1760 that mounted five 9-pounders and the castle eight 6-pounders. In 1813, racers for four naval guns on traversing slides were laid down on the fort platform, and new guns, probably 32-pounder smooth bores, substituted in 1855. The fort was disarmed in 1885. (10)

The artillery castle at Yarmouth embodied the latest developments in military fortifications with the introduction of the triangular or angle bastion replacing the Henrician concentric design. The square enclosure was defended on the landward side by a moat and a large angle bastion which had flankers jutting out to provide cover fire to the moat. Although an innovative design it was a bit of an anomaly as it still had various weak areas. The faces of the bastion were unprotected and the walls were too high and lacked any earth backing to absorb any impacts they might receive. (11)

The artillery castle at Yarmouth embodied the latest developments in military fortifications with the introduction of the triangular or angle bastion replacing the Henrician concentric design. The square enclosure was defended on the landward side by a moat and a large angle bastion which had flankers jutting out to provide cover fire to the moat. Although an innovative design it was a bit of an anomaly as it still had various weak areas. The faces of the bastion were unprotected and the walls were too high and lacked any earth backing to absorb any impacts they might receive. (12)

Yarmouth castle is the last and most sophisticated of Henry VIII's coastal defences. It was completed in 1547 after his death and was the first to have the new-style "arrowhead" artillery bastion. The castle now has displays recreating life in the castle in the 16th century as well as an exhibition on the numerous wrecks in the local area. (13)

Sources :
Source Number : 1
Source : Ordnance Survey Map (Scale / Date)
Source details : OS 6" 1907-42
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 2
Source : VIRTUAL CATALOGUE ENTRY TO SUPPORT NAR MIGRATION
Source details : Ministry of Works pamphlet, 1966, (S.E.Rigold). (includes plans).
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 11
Source : Fort : the international journal of fortification and military architecture
Source details :
Page(s) : 83-4
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 13, 1985
Source Number : 12
Source : The Castles of Henry VIII
Source details :
Page(s) : 19, 58
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 13
Source : English Heritage Visitor Handbook 2009/10
Source details :
Page(s) : 79
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 3
Source : Field Investigators Comments
Source details : F1 FGA 22-OCT-67
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 4
Source : The history of the King's Works, volume 4 : 1485-1660 (Part 2)
Source details : (M. Biddle, J. R. Hale and J. Summerson)
Page(s) : 395, 565-9
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : part 2
Source Number : 5
Source : VIRTUAL CATALOGUE ENTRY TO SUPPORT NAR MIGRATION
Source details : Acts of the Privy Council, (ed. J. R. Dassent, et al)
Page(s) : 94,105,113,120,124,100,000
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 2
Source Number : 6
Source : Proceedings of the Hampshire Field Club and Archaeological Society
Source details : (J. Kenyon)
Page(s) : 140-1
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 7
Source : VIRTUAL CATALOGUE ENTRY TO SUPPORT NAR MIGRATION
Source details : BL MS Harley 1326 ff 63-65
Page(s) :
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Source Number : 8
Source : VIRTUAL CATALOGUE ENTRY TO SUPPORT NAR MIGRATION
Source details : Yarmouth Castle IOW 1978 (SE Rigold)
Page(s) : 5
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 9
Source : List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest
Source details : Isle of Wight, 28-Mar-1994
Page(s) : 219-220
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 1354
Source Number : 10
Source : The English Heritage visitors' handbook 1998-99
Source details :
Page(s) : 63
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :

Monument Types:
Monument Period Name : Post Medieval
Display Date : Built 1545-7
Monument End Date : 1547
Monument Start Date : 1545
Monument Type : Artillery Castle, Artillery Fort, Moat, Earthwork
Evidence : Extant Building
Monument Period Name : Post Medieval
Display Date : Addition 1597-8
Monument End Date : 1598
Monument Start Date : 1597
Monument Type : Bastion
Evidence : Earthwork
Monument Period Name : Post Medieval
Display Date : Buttresses added 1609
Monument End Date : 1609
Monument Start Date : 1609
Monument Type : Bastion
Evidence : Structure
Monument Period Name : Post Medieval
Display Date : Altered 1632
Monument End Date : 1632
Monument Start Date : 1632
Monument Type : Artillery Fort, Artillery Castle
Evidence : Extant Building
Monument Period Name : Post Medieval
Display Date : Earthworks demolished 1669
Monument End Date : 1669
Monument Start Date : 1669
Monument Type : Moat, Earthwork
Evidence : Levelled Earthwork
Monument Period Name : Post Medieval
Display Date : Decommissioned 1885
Monument End Date : 1885
Monument Start Date : 1885
Monument Type : Artillery Castle, Artillery Fort
Evidence : Extant Building
Monument Period Name : Late 20th Century
Display Date : Change in function late 20th C
Monument End Date : 2000
Monument Start Date : 1967
Monument Type : Historical Site
Evidence : Extant Building

Components and Objects:
Related Records from other datasets:
External Cross Reference Source : Scheduled Monument Legacy (County No.)
External Cross Reference Number : IW 42
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : Scheduled Monument Legacy (National No.)
External Cross Reference Number : 22016
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : Listed Building List Entry Legacy Uid
External Cross Reference Number : 393277
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : EH Property Number
External Cross Reference Number : 233
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : National Monuments Record Number
External Cross Reference Number : SZ 38 NE 1
External Cross Reference Notes :

Related Warden Records :
Related Activities :
Associated Activities : Primary, FIELD OBSERVATION ON SZ 38 NE 1
Activity type : FIELD OBSERVATION (VISUAL ASSESSMENT)
Start Date : 1967-10-23
End Date : 1967-10-23