Southsea Castle in Hampshire, England was one of the new types of castle. It was built on the orders of King Henry VIII between 1544 and 1545.
The castle was one of several forming a system of defence along the south coast of England. King Henry had the most extensive fortification building scheme seen in Britain since the time of the Romans. There were fears of an invasion by France, and Southsea Castle formed part of the defences of Portsmouth Harbour and its naval dockyards.
The castle when built was specifically designed to defend against attack by cannon instead of medieval siege engines such as the Trebuchet. The castle as seen today is the result of centuries of modification and enlargement but does demonstrate how castles changed from the days before cannon. The
lighthouse in the photograph is a somewhat more modern addition, built in 1860.
Southsea Castle has a moat and the castle enclosure was built with a low profile. It had a central Keep which is 50 feet square. Two projecting angled salients were constructed at the northern and southern ends.
These were new features to fortifications, and were devised as a result of the dominance of artillery in warfare. The salients or bastions, presented a small target to a frontal assault, but guns on them had an excellent field of fire along the face of the castle to provide close support if required.
The castle was subject to continued development over the next 400 years in to the castle as we see it today. During the 1800s, a Counterscarp Gallery was added to the outer edge of the
moat to provide additional defence should outer defences be breached and an enemy be at the walls. The gallery was accessed by means of a tunnel under the moat. Firing slots can be seen in the walls of the Counterscarp in the photograph to the right. Men in the gallery would have used these to fire
on insurgents in the moat. The Counterscarp Gallery turned the moat into a killing field.
The land outside Southsea Castle was used for coast batteries in the late 19th and the 20th Centuries. 6-Inch BL and 9.2-Inch BL Guns were emplaced there.
An 1853 68-Pounder smooth-bore muzzle loading cannon outside the castle. This type was among the last to be cast, and also among the last of the smooth-bore cannon. The low profile of the castle can easily be seen in the photograph. Southsea Castle was in military service until 1960. It is now in the care of Portsmouth City Council.
Singaporean Servicemen and Servicewomen will have seen a similar cannon by the Director Tower near the landing pier at Pulau Tekong Training Centre.
Southsea Castle and nearby Coast Artillery Batteries on Google Earth.
Southsea Castle and nearby Coast Artillery Batteries on Bing Maps Bird’s Eye View.