Just outside the Kentish seaside town of Deal stands the stalwart Walmer Castle, a structure that has borne witness to civil war sieges and political scandals.
The original castle was built around 1540 by the forces of King Henry VIII in response to threats from France and the Holy Roman Empire. It was one in a series of fortified structures constructed along the Kentish coast in the cinque port towns (towns of strategic military and economic importance). These castles were a new type of defensive structure, known as a “device fort,” featuring a circular keep and several towers allowing for a greater array of artillery to be deployed against an advancing enemy in the event of a seaborne invasion.
The invasion feared during the rule of Henry VIII never came. The castle was updated during the reign of his daughter Elizabeth I in response to the ongoing war with Spain, but again, the invasion never came.
The first recorded use of Walmer Castle during a war occurred in 1648 during the English Civil War when a group of besieged Royalist “Cavalier” forces held out here and fought a desperate battle against a surrounding army of “Round head” Parliamentarians but were eventually defeated and captured.
However, in the centuries that were to follow the strategic military importance of castles was to decline due to rapid technological advances in mortar warfare. Castles were to eventually become the luxury private residences or places of retreat for the English economic and political elite.
From the 18th century onward Walmer Castle was given as a residence to those who held the symbolic office and title of Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, including British prime minister William Pitt and the Duke of Wellington who famously went on to defeat Napoleon Bonaparte at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.
Know Before You Go
The castle is open Saturdays and Sundays from 10 am to 6 pm. Tickets are available on online and in person.