Netley Castle

Has been described as a Certain Artillery Fort

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains

NameNetley Castle
Alternative NamesAbbey Hill; Netly; Letley; Letelege
Historic CountryHampshire and the Isle of Wight
Modern AuthorityHampshire
1974 AuthorityHampshire
Civil ParishHound

One of the Solent forts built in 1542 by Sir William Paulet at the request of Henry VIII. A single storeyed oblong structure with archways on the seaward side and strong battlemented parapet, the battlements curving convexly on their outward face. The fort was garrisoned until 1627 when it became a private residence. c1840 the fort substantially remained, with little enlargement. c1840-60, an upper storey was added, and in 1885-90 the building was transformed and greatly enlarged, with the addition of a third storey and a new wing on the SE side rising to three storeys (Pevsner; VCH).

Archaeological observations made during refurbishment works to convert the building into apartments proved the assessments of Colvin and others to be largely correct, except with respect to two significant features of the forts original form; there is no evidence of a moat, and the keep and northern platform enclosed open spaces at ground floor level probably roofed by wall fast timber structures.

Although estimates of the fort's construction date vary, it was functioning by at least 25th March 1545, when the records for payments to the garrison begin. The fort was one of a group of three around the Solent, with Southsea and St. Andrew's Point. It was maintained and garrisoned until at least 1626-7 when it was surveyed by Dutch engineers, and possibly as late as 1642 when it was reported as disabled. It was later repaired, in 1650, under the Commonwealth, in anticipation of royalist support for Charles II, but with the re-establishment of the monarchy the fort became redundant and its design obsolete.

The fort's ruinous fabric presented an ideal canvas for 19th century Romantic artists and Gothic architects. Early 18th century estate surveys indicate a gabled roof over the keep whilst the 1838 Tithes survey shows the presence of a tower at the south end by that time

Continuous redesign and refurbishment took place after the fort became a residence in the early 19th century. In 1936 the castle was sold and purchased for conversion into a convalescent home. It was converted to apartments in 2001 (M. Heaton archaeological watching brief).

A Solent fort built in 1542 and garrisoned until 1627. It then became private house. It was heightened in 1857 and an asymmetrical Gothic tower was built 1885-90. The 19th century additions added two more floors to the original single-storeyed Henry VIII building (Scheduled Monument Notification).

The Henrician artillery castle consisted of a single-storey rectangular tower (19.5m wide by 14m deep) flanked by gun platforms on either side. There were four wide embrasures facing the sea on the roof of the main building. It was built by Lord St John for Henry VIII (Harrington). (PastScape)

Gatehouse Comments

Solent fort, said to be built in 1542 by Henry VIll out of the Abbey materials. However, the licence granted in 1547, by Edward VI to William Paulett, pardoning his building of a fortilicium at Letley, is clearly for this building. This 'pardon' (this should not be read, in any way, as a transgression by Paulett) granted considerable lands to fund the fort and a garrison of 9 men.

- Philip Davis

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

This is a Grade 2* listed building protected by law

Historic England Scheduled Monument Number
Historic England Listed Building number(s)
Images Of England
Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceSU451088
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Photo by Therron Welstead All Rights ReservedView full Sized Image
Photo by Therron Welstead All Rights ReservedView full Sized Image
Photo by Therron Welstead All Rights ReservedView full Sized Image

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  • Camden, Wm, 1607, Britannia hypertext critical edition by Dana F. Sutton (2004)
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  • Hare, J.N., 1993, 'Netley Abbey: Monastery, Mansion and Ruin' Proceedings of the Hampshire Field Club Archaeological Society Vol. 49 p. 207-227 online copy
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Guide Books

  • Thompson, A. Hamilton, 1953, Netley Abbey (HMSO, London)
  • Batten, A.G., n.d., Netley Castle (slight)

Primary Sources

  • Lyte, H.C. Maxwell (ed), 1924, Calendar of Patent Rolls (1547-48) p. 66-8 online copy


  • The Conservation Practice, 1999, Netley Castle: Reversion to Residential Use and Additions to Existing Buildings (No publication feasibility study)