30 May 2009 - Deal (Walmer Castle), England
Walmer Castle and its beautiful formal gardens are a major attraction for visitors. The official residence of Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports since the 18th Century. Famous Lords Warden have included Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, Sir Winston Churchill, William Pitt the Younger, and the Duke of Wellington (of the Battle of Waterloo fame). Wellington lived there for 23 years and the castle houses not only a collection of Wellington memorabilia but also the room in which he died. The Castle was built in 1540 as one of three on this part of the Kent coast by orders of Henry VIII. The others were nearby Deal and Sandown (north Deal) - Sandown has been lost to coastal erosion.
Walmer Castle - View across the moat
At the centre of Walmer Castle is a circular keep, surrounded by an open courtyard and protected by a concentric wall, from which four, squat, semi-circular bastions project. The northern bastion forms the gatehouse and would have had a gun on its roof; the other bastions would have had guns mounted inside them and on the roof. The central keep would also have had guns mounted on its roof giving the castle the capacity to mount 39 guns.
Walmer Castle - Viewed from the moat
A gallery running around the castle at basement level has 32 loops for hand-guns covering the moat.
Walmer Castle - Across the moat looking to the castle
The defences were never put to the test during the Tudor period and it wasn't until 1648, during the English Civil War, that the castle finally came under siege. The three 'castles of the Downs' were initially held for Parliament, but the forces switched allegiance to support the Royalist cause. It took Parliamentary forces, led by Colonel Rich, nearly three months to defeat the three castles, with Walmer surrendering first after a three week siege.
Walmer Castle - Invasion defences
The Cinque Ports Confederation originated in the 11th century when the five ports of Hastings, Romney, Hythe, Dover and Sandwich joined forces to provide ships and men for the defence of the coast and protection of cross-channel trade. In return for these services they received substantial local privileges including immunity from all external courts of justice and from national taxation. In the 13th century the office of Warden was instituted to oversee and regulate the affairs of the Confederation.
Walmer Castle - The beautiful gardens I
The gardens surrounding the house include a commerative lawn, woodland walk and a working kitchen garden. The remainder of the grounds are mostly wildlife gardens.
Walmer Castle - The beautiful gardens II
Over the years successive Wardens converted the fort and its grounds into a comfortable country house and gardens. Resident Wardens included William Pitt the Younger (whose niece Lady Hester Stanhope initiated the castle's gardens, using labour from the local militia).
Walmer Castle - Duke of Wellington's death mask
The scourge of Napolean, the Duke of Wellington held the post of Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports for 23 years. This position originally carried real power, but with the forming of a Royal Navy and the decline of the Cinque Ports, the role of Warden became more of an honorary position.
Walmer Castle - Duke of Wellington's death chair
This is the armchair in which Wellington died on 14th September 1852. Many of his personnel effects can be seen in the Wellington museum including his campaign bed.