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near Port Solent, City of Portsmouth, Hampshire, England
Six miles north west of the city of Portsmouth and the harbor's northern shore, Portchester Castle sits overlooking the English Channel.
The castle buildings include a 12th century tower keep, gatehouse, palace, inner and outer bailey with gates and a moat, and the church of St. Mary's.
The extremely well preserved ten acre site not only house the Norman castle but the six meter high walls and towers of the previous building on the site, a Roman Fort.
The castle is open from 10am until 6pm daily from April to September and between 10am and 4pm October to March.
Included in the admission to the castle is an audio tour outlining what life was like at the castle though the eyes of those that worked and were imprisoned there over the centuries. The keep also houses an exhibition with archeological finds from the site as well as detailed history information.
The first fortification on the site was a Roman Fort dating back to 285 AD. A small single storey Norman keep was added in 1090 along with wooden defenses on two sides with the Roman Walls becoming the outer bailey.
In the 1100's a priory and other domestic buildings were added and the wooden defenses were replaced by stone walls. The keep; the only building never to have been significantly rebuilt, was also constructed across the Roman walls. The 14th century saw major rebuilding work carried out prior to it being used by Edward III to assemble his army of 15,000 soldiers before leaving for France.
Portchester Castle was then transformed into a magnificent palace for Richard II and was host to Henry VII before he too set off in battle against the French in the Battle of Agincourt. On his return the castle lost much of its importance when he founded a Royal Dockyard at Portsmouth.
The castle was used during the Napoleonic Wars to house French prisoners and from the mid 1600's it was owned by the Thistlethwaite family who only ever lost control over it for a short time when it was seized by the army for use as a prison. The family owned the castle until 1984 when it was handed over to English Heritage.
Other Castles in the Area
Carisbrooke Castle, Isle of Wight
Southsea Castle, Hampshire