Flanders Worcester Bristol Deal Castle Walmer Castle Cockham Wood Fort Cockham Wood Fort Chatham Upnor Castle Tilbury Fort Camber Castle Sheerness Carisbrooke Castle Portsmouth Gosport Southsea Castle Earith Bulwark Landguard Fort Harwich London Portland & Sandsfoot Castles

Southern England

Click on a fortress...

Southern England's lack of land frontiers has resulted in most of its artillery fortifications being coastal fortresses. The construction of these fortifications happened in several phases over a 300-year period. Most of these phases were brought about by a fear of invasion from the continent.

In the 1540s, the country was threatened with French invasion, so King Henry VIII'undertook a large-scale coastal defence programme, which led to the construction of a number of fortifications known as the device forts on the south coast (Deal Castle, Walmer Castle and Camber Castle are typical examples). These coastal forts typically consisted of a series of rounded gun terraces surrounding a central tower, rather than a trace of angular bastions. This meant that most of the device forts were obselete as soon as they were constructed, but they proved adequate for their purpose, which was chiefly to deter coastal raids or landings.

Towards the end of the 16th century, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth, some south coast sites including Portsmouth and Carisbrooke Castle were fortified by Italian engineers serving the English crown, such as Frederico Genebelli. The Elizabethan fortification programme was largely brought about by the Spanish Armada in 1588, which almost led to an invasion of England.

The mid-17th century saw the outbreak of Civil War'in England. Since there had been no internal wars in England for hundreds of years, many towns were unfortified or were only defended by crumbling medieval or even roman walls. This led to the hurried fortification of important sites such as London, Bristol and Worcester using the earthwork fortification techniques that were common in the Netherlands.

The second half of the 17th century witnessed various naval conflicts between the English and the Dutch, leading to concern for the safety of the coast and some naval dockyards. Bernard de Gomme'was a Dutch military engineer who served the Royalists in the civil war. He returned to serve King Charles II after the restoration, fortifiying many places in the region including Portsmouth, Plymouth and Tilbury, as well as building the Medway batteries at Cockham Wood and Gillingham.

In the late 18th and early 19th centuries the threat posed by Napoleonic France led to another period of fortification of the south coast. Key sites such as Chatham and Harwich were fortified and a series of towers known as Martello Towers were built along the Kent and Sussex coasts to guard against a French landing. After this period, bastioned fortification became obselete as artillery grew more powerful. The threat from France subsided, although some of the coastal forts were used as bases during the Second World War.

Back to Europe map