About Portchester Castle
Portchester Castle is a medieval castle set within the walls of a 3rd century Roman fort, the most completely preserved example in Northern Europe. Today, the castle is run by the English Heritage charity organisation.
Portchester Castle history
Built during Roman times, probably in the third century AD, Portchester Castle is the country’s only example of a Roman fort whose walls still stand complete up to around six metres.
Over the centuries, Portchester Castle has been renovated and rebuilt many times and its use has altered to suit the needs of its owners. In the 11th century, parts of Portchester Castle were rebuilt into a Norman keep and in the 14th century Richard II transformed it into a palace. Like their Roman predecessor, both of these incarnations served a defensive function.
Yet, during the Napoleonic Wars, the role of Portchester Castle changed, as it became a prison for around 7,000 French prisoners of war. This change was due in large part to the reduced importance of Portchester Castle as a defensive structure following the building of the Portsmouth Royal Dockyard by King Henry VII.
Portchester Castle today
There are few attractions you can visit today that consist of a Norman church within a Roman fort. And so, whether you are crazy about the classical era or mad for medieval history the Castle has so much to offer.
Today’s visitors can take in the exhibition within the keep, which interprets the history of the castle and of the wider Portchester village. There are also a number of items on display that were found during excavations on the site. An audio tour helps explain life in the castle over the centuries.
On warm summer days, visitors can enjoy a family picnic on the lawns within the Portchester Castle walls – surrounded by history and just a stone’s throw from the water.
The keep also hosts a number of special exhibitions, featuring a diverse range of works from notable artists. Most recent was Les Murs Sont Témoins | These Walls Bear Witness – a sound installation by Elaine Mitchener which explored the lives of prisoners of war held at Portchester during the 18th century, brought to life through findings from prisoner letters, registers and staged theatricals.
Portchester Castle also hosts an array of family-friendly events thoughout the year.
Getting to Portchester Castle
Portchester Castle is on the south side of Portchester off the A27 which can be joined by exiting the M27 at Junction 11. There is free parking located just outside the castle, less than 200 metres from entrance (contains about 100 spaces and 3 coach bays).
If travelling via public transport, Portchester train station is less than a mile away from the Castle. There are direct lines to Portchester from London Waterloo and Southampton.
The bus route 3 will drop you to within 1⁄4 mile of the Castle.