Artillery castle at Deal


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:


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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Dover (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
TR 37771 52197

Reasons for Designation

Artillery castles were constructed as strong stone defensive structures specifically to house heavy guns. Most date from the period of Henry VIII's maritime defence programme between 1539 and 1545, though the earliest and latest examples date from 1481 and 1561 respectively. They were usually sited to protect a harbour entrance, anchorage or similar feature. These monuments represent some of the earliest structures built exclusively for the new use of artillery in warfare and can be attributed to a relatively short time span in English history. Their architecture is specific in terms of date and function and represents an important aspect of the development of defensive structures generally. Although documentary sources suggest that 36 examples originally existed, all on the east, south and south east coasts of England, only 21 survive. All examples are considered to be of national importance.

The history and development of the artillery castle at Deal is documented by many contemporary records and illustrations, providing evidence for the changing function of the monument over five centuries. Despite subsequent alterations and World War II damage, the monument survives well, retaining much of its original fabric. The castle is one of three which form a distinctive and well known group of coastal fortifications. Together these illustrate the strategic role assigned to this stretch of coast during the 16th century.


The monument includes an artillery castle situated on the low-lying east Kent coast in the modern seaside town of Deal. The castle is the largest of a group of three, the other two being located at Walmer 2km to the south and Sandown 2km to the north, built between 1539-40 by Henry VIII in order to protect the shallow semi-sheltered anchorage between the Goodwin Sands and the coast, known as the Downs. This was of great strategic importance because, by the 16th century, there were few other safe places of refuge for ships along the channel coast between Kent and Portsmouth. The castles of the Downs were built in the face of the political crisis and consequent fear of invasion occasioned by the king's divorce of Catherine of Aragon in 1533. They were financed from the proceeds raised by the Dissolution of the Monasteries.

The castle, which has been the subject of alteration and repair over the centuries, is built of Kentish ragstone from local quarries and the sea shore, brick, and Caen stone reused from nearby disused religious houses. It was designed around an essentially circular, symmetrical plan and originally incorporated up to 145 gunports or embrasures on five tiers. At the centre is a three-storeyed circular citadel, or tower, with six semicircular, slightly lower towers projecting from its external face. The citadel has a central, newel staircase. Timber and wattle-and-daub partitions, some of which survive, divided the area surrounding the central stair well into interconnecting rooms, with the ceiling joists radiating from the centre like the spokes of a wheel. The citadel provided accommodation for the permanent garrison, originally a captain, deputy, porter and 16 gunners, with the officers' accommodation on the upper floor. The ground floor also housed a kitchen and bakery, of which the ovens and fireplace survive. In the centre of the rib-vaulted, brick-lined basement is a large, circular well. The basement is ventilated by shafts leading down from the ground floor and was used to store ammunition and supplies.

Surrounding the citadel beyond a narrow ward are six low semicircular bastions connected by a curtain wall which provided platforms on their upper levels for heavy guns, now represented by four 18th century cast-iron guns mounted on carriages on the eastern, seaward side. Within the outer wall of the basement of the bastions, facing into the moat, is a continuous gallery known as the rounds, pierced by 53 hand-gun ports which gave complete coverage of the bottom of the moat. Vents over the ports were designed to draw off the gun smoke, and at irregular intervals in the wall behind are L-shaped ammunition lockers. Contemporary illustrations show that the citadel and outer bastions were originally capped by broad rounded parapets pierced by gun embrasures. Traces of these survive on two bastions on the western side, but most were replaced by battlements during alterations carried out in 1732.

The castle buildings are further protected by a stone-lined dry moat up to 20m wide and 5m deep, originally crossed on its western, landward side by a wooden drawbridge. The slots for the lifting gear survive above the pointed archway entrance, constructed within the westernmost bastion, although the drawbridge has been replaced by a stone causeway. A portcullis originally fronted the iron studded oak door. Defensive features incorporated within the gatehouse include five murder holes, or vents (through which offensive materials could be dropped on attackers) set in the ceiling of the large entrance passage, a gunport in the back wall covering the doorway and a staggered approach to the ward and citadel. The defences were originally augmented by a series of bulwarks, or earthen defences, built along the coast between the castle and its sister castles at Walmer and Sandown, although these defences no longer survive.

The castle saw no action until the Civil War when, during the Royalist revolt in Kent in 1648, it was captured and held out against Parliamentary forces for several weeks. Its defences continued to be maintained during the late 17th and 18th centuries and during the Napoleonic wars, although its strategic function was much diminished by this time. Substantial alterations carried out during the early 18th century reflected the decreasing military importance of the castle and included the construction of a captain's lodging house within the ward on the seaward side, the conversion of many of the gun embrasures of the citadel into casement windows and the building of a wooden lantern, which contains a bell circa 1655, on top of the central tower. In 1802 further alterations were made and the lodging house was demolished and rebuilt, serving as a residence for the holder of the now honorary post of Captain until destroyed by an enemy bomb during World War II.

This occasioned further repair and restoration work to the castle, although the lodging house was not rebuilt. The castle continues to form part of the Crown Estate and is now in the care of the Secretary of State and open to the public.

Excluded from the scheduling are all parts of the castle in use as the honorary Captain's apartments, the modern surfaces of all paths and the causeway, all modern fixtures, fittings, partitions, railings, signs and exhibition boards and the modern walls of the toilet block situated on the upper deck of the northermost bastions, although the structures and ground beneath all these features are included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
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Books and journals
Saunders, A D, Deal and Walmer Castles, (1982)


This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

End of official listing

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