Notes: The castle has no dedicated parking itself but there is limited on road parking nearby. Alternatively the castle isn’t far from more established local parking.
WHAT IS THERE TO SEE?
Remains of the rectangular accommodation block of the Henrician Artillery Fort albeit heavily corroded. The original gun platform has long since been lost having fallen into the sea in the nineteenth century. The castle is free to access set within a small garden.
1. Even a few decades after construction, the exposed position of the fort caused problems. A report of 1574, just 33 years after commission, reported the castle in a ruinous condition.
With its huge sheltered anchorage, the Portland Roads were singled out as a significant weakness in England’s defences by the Tudor surveyors. Partnered with Portland on the other side of the harbour, Sandsfoot Castle completed the artillery coverage across the bay against any invasion attempt here.
HISTORY OF SANDSFOOT CASTLE
Paired with Portland Castle, Sandsfoot was one of the Henrician artillery forts built 1539-41 in response to invasion fears. In 1534, to international outrage, Henry VIII had signed the Act of Supremacy - a legal provision which had made the King, rather than the Pope, "supreme head" of the English church. Furthermore peace between France and the Holy Roman Empire gave the former the capacity to mount an invasion. Henry commenced a castle building programme to mitigate against this threat and Portland was identified as a vulnerable area prompting construction of the two castles. Together they covered the approaches into the Portland Roads and the sheltered harbour behind the Chesil beach. Built from Portland stone, reused from nearby Bindon Abbey following its dissolution, it comprised of a tower for accommodation purposes and a gun platform housing artillery on both an internal lower level and on the ramparts above.
Although the invasion fears of the mid-sixteenth century came to nothing, the castle was later garrisoned during the Elizabethan Spanish War (commencing with the Great Armada of 1588). During the Civil War Portland supported the Royalists and it was garrisoned for the King but was surrendered in 1644 as the Parliamentary forces under the Earl of Essex advanced into the South West. Thereafter the fort was briefly used as home to a coin mint.
The castle’s last military use was during the Anglo-Dutch wars of the mid-seventeenth century when it was garrisoned to protect Portland from Dutch attack. Thereafter it was allowed to fall into ruin with the gun platform itself falling into the sea in 1837. With help from the National Lottery Heritage Fund the castle, such as is left, was stabilised and opened to the public in 2012.