The heart of Hurst Castle is the Tudor fort. Hurst Castle was built between 1541 and 1544 by Henry VIII as one of a chain of artillery defences protecting key ports and landing places around southern England from continental attack.
It was sited to guard the Needles Passage, the narrow western entrance to the Solent and gateway to the trading port of Southampton and the new naval base at Portsmouth.
King Charles I in the winter of 1648 arrived by boat at Hurst Castle under Parliamentary guard from the Isle of Wight. He was held in the keep, probably on the first floor, from 1 to 19 December.
Sir Thomas Herbert, appointed by the king’s servant by the army, recalled: ‘the Captain of this wretched place was not unsuitable; for at the King’s going ashore, he stood ready to receive him, with small Observance: his look was stern, his Hair and large Beard were black and bushy; he held a Partizan (spear) in his hand and a … great Basket-hilt Sword by his side.’ Herbert noted that the room the king ate in was dark, even at noon, it being winter; and required candles, and that at night the king had a wax lamp set in a silver basin. For exercise Charles was allowed to walk along the spit.
According to Herbert, the king woke one night hearing the sound of the bridge being lowered and horsemen entering the keep. It was the arrival of orders to move him from Hurst Castle. On 19 December, he was taken on towards London for his trial and execution.
The fort retains much of its original 16th-century appearance, despite alterations made in the 19th century (1803-1807) by Royal Engineer Colonel John Evelegh.
It consists of a two-storey gun tower or keep, surrounded by an outer wall with three bold semi-circular bastions and a gatehouse protected with a portcullis. Originally the Tudor Castle had a drawbridge and was surrounded by a shallow moat. This was largely infilled when the massive granite, brick and iron wings were constructed in the 1860’s to house the huge new guns then coming into service.
The layout of this powerful fort is best understood as a whole from the roof of the Tudor keep, which allows a spectacular view of the entire castle, as well as its wider surroundings.
Discover the Portcullis Gate
Climb to the top to enjoy the view