About Walmer Castle & Gardens
Originally built during the reign of Henry VIII as a response to the perceived threat of invasion from Europe, Walmer Castle & Gardens have stood on the Kentish coastline for nearly 500 years. Today, English Heritage manage the gardens as a visitors attraction, with the castle being protected under UK law as a scheduled monument, with the surrounding gardens being grade II listed.
History of Walmer Castle & Gardens
After Henry VIII‘s break with Pope Paul III to annul the long-standing marriage to his wife, Catherine of Aragon, The Holy Roman Empire and France declared an alliance against Henry in 1538, and were encouraged by the Pope to invade England. This prompted Henry to order the construction of a series of forts along the English coastline, of which Walmer Castle is one.
Walmer Castle was built in 1539-40. It was equipped with a range of brass and cast iron guns, as well as arquebuses and bows for close defence. In spite of this, no invasion took place. The castle was, however, involved during the first English Civil War (1642-51), the Second Dutch War (1665-7), and had a continuing military role during the ‘long 18th century’ (1688-1815) when Britain was often at war with Spain and France.
The castle then became a Garrison under the jurisdiction of the Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports. The garrison served a militaristic purpose as well as functioning as a central point for the administration of maritime law, pilotage, and salvage.
Between 1725 and 1749, the castle was repaired and modernised, becoming more of a palace for the newly-instated Lord Walden’s personal use. The gentrification of the castle was also observed in the construction of a walled and hedged kitchen garden and new stables.
In 1792, Prime Minister William Pitt became Lord Warden, and visited Walmer Castle & Gardens occasionally in the summer. Pitt developed larger grounds around the site which are now the gardens and meadows. The castle and gardens were then later greatly improved and expanded by the 2nd Earl Granville between 1865 and 1891.
The garden covers 32 acres of land which is split evenly between formal ornamental gardens and parkland.
By the early 1900s, Walmer Castle was a very old building which was prone to cold and damp. From 1905, a new regime began, with the former porters and gardeners becoming wardens, park-keepers, and custodians of both the castle and gardens. During the 20th century it was visited by Elizabeth the Queen Mother amongst other famous figures.
From the 21st century, Walmer Castle & Gardens are managed by English Heritage and are open to the public, attracting some 150,000 visitors a year.
Walmer Castle & Gardens today
Today, Walmer Castle & Gardens are open to the public, who enjoy the site for its historical relevance and beauty in equal measure. The garden includes the beautiful The Queen Mother’s Garden as well as multiple terraces with different architectural influences and designs.
Getting to Walmer Castle & Gardens
By car, the site is reachable by the coast South of Walmer, on A258; Junction 13 of M20 or from M2 to Deal. By bus, the Stagecoach East Kent service 82/82A is best. Walmer train station is a mile away.