Camber Castle - History and Facts | History Hit

Camber Castle

Rye, England, United Kingdom

Camber Castle is a vast 16th century fortification built by Henry VIII.

Lily Johnson

29 Mar 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Camber Castle

Camber Castle, also known as Winchelsea Castle, was one of a number of forts built by Henry VIII to protect England’s southern coast.

Camber Castle history

Construction of Camber Castle began in 1539, a year after France and Spain had signed a treaty of alliance. One of Henry VIII’s Device Forts, Camber Castle was built to defend the country against any subsequent invasions from the south, and was designed to house a heavy artillery force.

A highly symmetrical and vast sandstone construct shielded by a curtain wall, artillery platforms and semi-circular towers, Camber Castle was built in stages and at last completed in 1544. However, soon after its completion the Camber and its surrounding harbours began silting up, causing the coastline to recede away from the fort. Ships could no longer use the harbours, and Camber was rendered useless – a state further exacerbated by peace with France and rapid military advancements in Europe.

Nevertheless it remained garrisoned for nearly a century, seeing repairs in 1584 under Elizabeth I in the wake of the Spanish Armada invasion, before its troop of almost thirty men was disbanded in 1637 by Charles I. The following year it was dismantled by Parliamentarian forces, fearing it may be used by the Royalists in the English Civil War, and has since lay in ruins.

Camber Castle today

Today Camber Castle is an English Heritage site and part of the Rye Harbour Nature Reserve, managed by the Sussex Wildlife Trust. Its interior is only accessible by guided tour, yet its dramatic exterior still provides an interesting visit to those exploring the coastline. Remaining largely the same condition as it did upon its completion in 1544, Camber Castle is an unusual example of an unchanged 16th century Device Fort, and provides a fascinating look into early modern military architecture.

Its flower-shaped curtain walls are an intriguing feature and characteristic of the period, as star-like forts later became the military norm across Europe. Walking across the footpaths of the Rye Harbour Nature Reserve, coastline defences old and new may be explored, with Camber Castle and the pillboxes of World War Two sitting short distances apart.

Getting to Camber Castle

Camber Castle is located in the Rye Harbour Nature Reserve in Rye, Sussex. There is no road access to the site, however parking is available 1 mile away on Winchelsea Road, following which the site can be reached by following the public footpath from Brede Lock. off the A259. The nearest train station is Rye, just over 1 mile away, after which a 35-minute walk will take you to the site. A number of buses also run into Winchelsea or Rye, from which the site is approximately a 30-40 minute walk away.

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