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Walmer Castle

Walmer Castle is to be found in the County of Kent, in the South-East of England. Perched on the picturesque Kentish coastline, it was built as part of King Henry VIII’s coastal defence network in 1539-1540 in order to counter the threat of invasion from Catholic Europe. Walmer Castle was the Southernmost of three artillery forts constructed to defend the Downs, an area of safe anchorage in the English Channel. The entrance to Walmer Castle faces the seafront on Kingsdown Road. It is only 3.22km away from Deal Castle, and six miles away from Dover Castle.

History of the Walmer Castle

After divorcing the Spanish Queen Catherine of Aragon and splitting from the Catholic Church, King Henry VIII feared an invasion and therefore planned to construct a chain of defensive castles on the coast. Amongst these castles are Sandown Castle, which was almost entirely destroyed in the 19th century, Deal Castle which is a gem of architecture, and Walmer Castle, which has a very unique history.

Following the execution of King Charles I in 1468, its defences were put to the test during what is known as the English Civil War. The castle was initially held by Parliament, and later by the Royalists, when the forces manning it switched allegiance. After a three-week siege led by Colonel Rich, Parliamentary forces once again took control of Walmer Castle. (more)

Today

The centre of Walmer Castle comprises a circular keep, surrounded by an open courtyard and protected by a concentric wall. Four semi-circular bastions project outwards from this wall, creating a flower-like four-petalled structure. The gatehouse is to be found in the Northern bastion. A gallery runs around the castle’s basement, and a deep wide moat surrounds it. Elegant apartments grace the upper levels of the outer bastions, making the Castle an elegant home.

The Castle is operated by the English Heritage, and at the present date sports a tea room and a gift shop. Audit tours are available to help visitors appreciate the Castle’s history and features, of which there are many. This is because after William Henry Smith, the First Lord of the Admiralty and Member of Parliament, became Lord Warden in 1891, he initiated the Indenture of Heirlooms by an Act of Parliament, so that historic items would remain at Walmer Castle permanently and be displayed for public viewing.

As a result, when in the 1930s there was a restoration of the Duke of Wellington’s bedroom in order to transform it back as it had been at the time of his death, the original contents of the room were returned to the Castle by the Fourth Duke of Wellington (the Lord Warden’s heir). Wellington’s bedroom, which is decorated with period-appropriate wallpaper, now also holds his campaign bed, various items of clothing, his uniform, and the armchair in which he died.

Today the Castle also hosts the Lucas Collection of Wellington Memorabilia, which was donated to the property in 1966. This collection is on display and contains portraits and busts, as well as pot lids, paperweights and other things – all of them portraying the Duke of Wellington. There is also a smaller room containing the Wellington museum, which offers a number of other objects associated with this famous personage, including a pair of his well-known Wellington boots and hand-printed instructions describing their design. The collection also contains an impressive death mask of the Duke.

There is also the Pitt Room, where many of William Pitt the Younger’s personal items are preserved. His niece, Lady Hester Stanhope, designed many of the beautiful grounds surrounding the Castle. Other rooms on display at Walmer Castle include the royal bedroom suite used by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert during their month-long visit in 1842.

Another important Lord Warden whose presence is still felt strongly on the premises is Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, who regularly stayed at the Castle. Some of the rooms she used are open to visitors. Most impressive is the magnificent garden created in celebration of her 95th birthday, which is one of the highlights of the castle grounds and includes a commemorative lawn, a woodland park, a croquet lawn, and a working kitchen garden. The main Kitchen Garden on the other hand, has been growing produce for the Castle for nearly 300 years. One can step into the greenhouse and admire the flowering shrubs and plants, some of which are on sale at the gift shop. There is also an area dedicated specifically to children within the nearby moat.

The grounds are truly beautiful, offering spectacular views across the channel. Visitors are encouraged to use either one of the three free car parks present close-by.

Opening Hours of Walmer Castle

6 July to 30 September – 10.00am – 6.00pm
1 October to 1 November – 10.00am – 5.00pm
2 November to 14 February – closed from Monday to Friday, Sat & Sun – 10.00am – 4.00pm
15 February to 19 February – 10.00am – 4.00pm
20 February – 24 March - closed from Monday to Friday, Sat & Sun – 10.00am – 4.00pm
Closed from 24 – 28 December, on 31 December, and on 1 January
Please check as well opening hours at official castle page
 
Text: Melisande Aquilina