Hurst Castle and lighthouse


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.

New Forest (District Authority)
National Park:
National Grid Reference:
SZ 31663 89733

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 artillery castle at Hurst survives well, despite later alteration, and forms the focus of a defensive structure which, in its final form, is the most powerful of those established to guard the western entrance to the Solent. The massive scale and intended firepower of the casemated wing batteries added in the 1860s shows the contemporary response to the introduction of steam driven warships while later alterations and additions show the continuing strategic importance of the fort during the major conflicts of this century. Within the monument the construction of lighthouses from 1786 onwards, with surviving examples dating from 1865, represents an important sequence of navigational lighting. The monument is a prominent land and sea mark within the western Solent and is open to the public.


The monument includes Hurst Castle, a mid-16th century stone built artillery castle, much altered in the early to mid-19th century, to which two casemated wings were added in the 1860s. The castle also supports defensive structures dating to the periods of both World Wars and lighthouses dating to 1865 and 1911. The castle lies at the tip of Hurst Spit, a long shingle bank which curves out from the Hampshire coast at Milford on Sea. From this point, only 1200m from the shore of the Isle of Wight, it guards the western entrance to the Solent and thence to Southampton and Portsmouth. The monument also includes the 19th century lighthouse and associated gas house to the north of the castle, the remains of late 19th century gun batteries to its east and west, the dock and site of the storehouse on its northern landward side, and the remains of the associated 1880s narrow gauge railway. The Tudor castle, built between 1541 and 1544, centres on a great 12 sided tower or keep. This is surrounded by a narrow courtyard beyond which lies the outer curtain wall with its three substantial semicircular bastions. Both keep and bastions were altered successively during the 19th century. Outside the castle is a moat which survived intact until the alterations carried out in the 1850s. The moat is largely infilled although part of its counterscarp, reconstructed in the 1850s, survives on the south side of the castle. Within the moat on the northern side of the castle is a caponier, the sole surviving example of three built in 1852. Added on to the east and west sides of the Tudor castle are two huge casemated wing batteries constructed in the 1860s and designed to house a total of 30 heavy guns. Each casemate is built of brick with massive granite faced elevations to the sea and has a flat roof. The rear of each wing is enclosed by granite faced walls, equal in height to the casemates, with the main magazines, two at opposite ends of each wing, located at the rear of the enclosed areas. The magazines have a thick earth covering on their roofs. The east and west wings contain ancillary buildings. The west wing of the castle includes two lighthouses, the earlier built into the rear wall in 1865 and provided with direct access from outside the fort. This was superseded by the adjacent iron lighthouse built in 1911. These, together with the High Light, the free standing lighthouse built on the eastern end of the spit between 1865 and 1867, represent the surviving elements of a history of navigation lighting at Hurst which dates from 1786. Together with the 1911 iron light, the High Light is gas lit and retains its largely original lighting mechanism. Immediately south west of it is a separate building containing the original plant for the manufacture and storage of acetylene gas. Added to the far (northern) end of the east wing of the fort are concrete emplacements built in 1893 to mount three 6 pounder quick-firing guns. To the west of the west wing are the remains of the West Battery of 1852. Although now considerably eroded by the sea, the earthworks of the battery survive together with the footings for defensible barracks to the rear. The castle dock, originally stone built, was constructed in the early 1850s, initially to serve the contractors working on the batteries. A building on its east side, now demolished, may have been an associated storehouse. In the 1880s a narrow gauge railway, part of the track of which survives, was built to shift stores and ammunition from the dock. All display items (including guns), security and custodial fittings and facilities are excluded from the scheduling although the ground beneath these features is included. The castle and the end of Hurst Spit on which it stands are in the care of the Secretary of State. The lighthouse is Listed Grade II.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.


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

Legacy System number:
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Books and journals
Coad, JG, Hurst Castle, (1995)
Coad, J G, 'Post Medieval Archaeology' in Hurst Castle: The Evolution of a Tudor Fortress 1790 - 1945, , Vol. Vol 19, (1985)
Coad, J G, 'Post Medieval Archaeology' in Hurst Castle: The Evolution of a Tudor Fortress 1790 - 1945, , Vol. Vol 19, (1985), 63 -104
Coad, J G, 'Post Medieval Archaeology' in Hurst Castle: The Evolution of a Tudor Fortress 1790 - 1945, , Vol. Vol 19, (1985), 63-104
Coad, J G, 'Post Medieval Archaeology' in Hurst Castle: The Evolution of a Tudor Fortress 1790 - 1945, , Vol. Vol 19, (1985)


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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