Start your trail from outside the Land Gate
With your back to the Land Gate walk forwards and head through the gap in the fence to your right.
As you approach the Keep note how high it is above the walls.
Note how small the windows are.
Note the moat that runs around the base of the keep.
Note the many regularly spaced holes in the wall. They are putlog holes - a hole in a wall in which cross timbers, known as putlogs, were placed to allow scaffolding to be put up. Putlog holes are often left unfilled and are often the only evidence for the use of scaffolding.
Note the smoke holes - triangular openings to allow smoke to escape from a large fireplace inside the keep.
Note theses small openings or chutes. They are where waste from the garderobe (lavatory) emptied out into the moat.
Cross the grass and rejoin the path around the castle. The fence should be on your right, between you and the castle.
As you follow the path look to your right and you will see the Postern Gate or Sally Port as it is sometimes known. It is a small gateway cut through the curtain wall, used primarily as an outlet for counter-attacking forces.
Note the view to your left as it helps you to understand the castle's location.
Note the view to your left as it helps you to understand the castle's location.
As you reach the corner of the castle walls look back along them to get a sense of their scale.
As you have already walked past several of these towers, now stand diretly beneath this one to get a sense of its size.
Continue around the castle noting the size of the Roman walls and how they are built.
As you approach the Water Gate look at how it is built. Was this part built at the same time as the rest of the walls?
The Water Gate standing today replaced earlier Roman and Saxon ones.  Part of the Saxon gate still survives. The furthest arch in this photograph is Late Saxon and made from Greensand and Sandstone (stained by iron ore) blocks. The rest was built in 1321-25. It was then repaired in 1369 and its front section that sticks out beyond the walls was added. This addition could be closed by a portcullis, the groove for which still survives.
Turn your back to the Water Gate and look at the view.  Think about why this would have been a good place for the Romans to build their fort.
Continue on your route around the castle, noting the location of the castle in relation to the sea.
This tower was destroyed not by attackers but by damage from the sea over the years. You can imagine the waves during a storm crashing against the outside of the castle walls.
Look again at the view from the castle's defensive walls.
These holes in the wall as you turn the corner were originally part of the medieval monastery that was here. They are the drains from the reredorter (lavatories), so that the waste was disposed of outside into the sea.
Have a closer look at the drains, they are the same as the chutes seen in the Keep earlier on in the tour.
Look at the bastions (towers) as you walk past. Can you spot the divide between the Roman parts at the base of the tower and the medieval parts at the top?
These are some of the best preserved Roman walls in northern Europe.
The red (terracotta) tiles seen in the walls are a typical feature of Roman  buildings.
Note how once you have turned the final corner and move away from the shore, there is now a moat to your left.
The Roman walls were built in sections by teams of builders. Some times the sections built by different teams didn't match up exactly as they should have. Following the rows of red tiles is a good way to look for different sections.
The Land Gate was originally part of the Roman defences of Portchester Castle. However, most of what remains of it today dates from the 1300s. This was when Richard II (1367 – 1400) started a large programme of building work at the castle. Enter the outer bailey of the castle by going through the Land Gate.
Look at the remains of the gatehouse and try to work out how many times it has been extended over the centuries. Look for distinct changes in the stonework.
This would have been a drawbridge, capable of being retracted to prevent access to the inner bailey.
These holes were where the chains for the drawbridge went through, to allow it to be pulled up in times of danger.
The groove on the right is where the portcullis (from the French "porte coulissante" or gliding door) would have been. It was a large wooden door that was lowered down to prevent people getting in. The square hole on the left was to hold a large wooden bar that could be slid in front of the portcullis for even more protection. Look at the opposite wall to see the other side of the portcullis groove and the other slot for the door bar.
Looking up you can see a ledge that shows you that there was originally an upper floor to the gatehouse. This was a heated room for the guards.
If you look up and to the right you can just see a small hole. This was the chain hole for an earlier drawbridge across the moat.
As you walk through the Gatehouse turn around and look back at it. From here you can see how it would have formed a series of obstacles to prevent unwanted people from entering the castle.
Enter the site through the ticket office.
Walk past the East Range Kitchen to stand in the courtyard of the Inner Bailey.
You are now in the Inner Bailey of the medieval castle, head towards Ashton's Tower which is in the far right-hand corner.
Note the well as you walk to Ashton's Tower. A fresh supply of water is essential to any settlement.
The 'floating' doorways and rows of holes in the walls next to them show that you are actually in what was a three storey building. Go into the tower and look for other clues to the building's use.
Then take the stairs up to the Keep.
Notice how you enter the Keep on the first floor. This was standard in most Norman/medieval fortified buildings.
Note the well in the left-hand corner of the Keep as you enter. Access to fresh water was vital.
This was the main area where the medieval king held court. Read the information panel for more details about life in the Medieval Hall.
A set of stairs was first inserted here when the castle was used by prisoners of war in the 18th century. Head up the stairs to the second floor.
The V shape on this wall is the original roof line of the Keep. It dates from the 1130s. Within 20 years of it being built this roof was replaced as two more storeys were added to the Keep.
Head round the stairs and into the next room.
It is known that plays were held in the castle from the Napoleonic period, when the castle housed prisoners of war. However, this painted decoration must date from after 1830, as it uses French Ultramarine, a pigment that only came into use after this date.
This is a reconstruction drawing of the theatre showing its design in relation to the present viewing platform. Very little is known about the history of the theatre. It is known that plays were held at the castle by the Napoleonic Prisoners of War that were kept there. However, the painted decoration that remains must date from after 1830, as it includes French Ultramarine which was not made until this date.
These beams show where extra floors were added to the keep in the 18th century. This was to allow more prisoners of war to be kept here. Some of the beams still have the iron hooks that were inserted into them, so that hammocks could be hung from the ceiling of each floor.
This is a reconstruction drawing of what it would have been like for the Napoleonic prisoners of war who were crowded into Keep. The conditions must have been appalling. The castle had been used as prison since 1665. In 1760 it is recorded that there were 3,200 prisoners kept at the castle. In 1794 13 new timber houses were built within the castles walls, each to hold 500 prisoners, with 1,000 more to be kept in the keep.
A close up of the surviving hooks that were used by prisoners of war to suspend their hammocks from the beams.
This room was probably used as lodgings for the castle guard or visitors. It has a latrine in the corner.
This room was probably used as lodgings for the castle guard or visitors.
Take the spiral staircase up to the roof.
As you go up the stairs pause to note the various bits of graffiti written by French prisoners of war.
This is the view from the south-west corner of the keep. The Land Gate is on the right, the remains of the Gatehouse are in the centre and St Mary's church is on the left.
This is the view from the south-east corner of the keep. The remains of the East Range are in the foreground and St Mary's church and the Water Gate are in the background.
This is the view from the north-east corner of the keep. The roman walls can be seen with bastions on the outside part and the remains of Ashton's Tower on the inside.
This is the view from the north-west corner of the keep. The industrial buildings around Port Solent can be seen.
Now take the stairs all the way down to the ground floor.  Here you may wish to explore the exhibition, before continuing with the tour.
Leave the exhibition area and head out into the Inner Bailey.
The entrance to the royal apartments on the first floor was through this projecting porch in the middle of the Great Hall. Rising up from this entrance door were stairs, now lost, to the first-floor door of the hall.
To either side of the porch are two curious pedestals with hat-shaped covers set above them. These are housings for lamps to light the entrance.
Take a moment to look at the outside (exterior) of Richard IIs Palace. Note the position of the various doors and windows.
Take a moment to look at the outside (exterior) of Richard IIs Palace. Note the position of the various doors and windows.
This is a cutaway reconstruction drawing of what Richard II's palace would have looked like in the 14th century.  The rooms shown here (clockwise from bottom left) are the kitchen, buttery and pantry, Great Hall, south-west chamber, exchequer chamber and chapel.
Now enter the range of buildings through the Exchequer Chamber.
You are standing in the room below what was probably Richard IIs Exchequer Chamber. This would have been the room for financial and legal work, that was described in the 1390s building accounts. If you look up you can work out where the floor of the room above would have been. Also look for doors, windows and fireplaces to help understand what the room would have looked like.
Now walk through the doorway into the Great Chamber Range.
You are standing in one of the 'lower chambers'. These were the three rooms on the ground floor, with the Great Chamber and Inner Chamber above them. The lower chambers were a series of lodgings for the King's retinue (people "retained" in the service of a noble or royal person) . If you look up you can work out where the floor of the room above would have been. Also look for doors, windows and fireplaces to help understand what the room would have looked like.
The Great Chamber was the main state room of the palace buildings, with four windows and a large fireplace. The windows at the south end of the chamber were carefully designed to let in the maximum amount of light from a small opening in the curtain wall. You are standing below the inner chamber. This was the King's bedroom, the door above and to your right was the entrance to a latrine - the King's toilet!
Walk back to go out of the door you came in by. As you walk back look at the wall of the keep ahead of you to spot all the doors, windows, rooflines and put-log holes.
Having left the Great Chamber re-enter the Palace through the Great Hall.
The room on the first floor of this building was the Great Hall. The King and Queen would have sat directly above where you are standing now. The hall must have been splendid. It was lit down one side by high windows. According to the building accounts, the glass in the windows was decorated with coats of arms and heraldic borders. Explore this building and make your way through to the kitchen at the far end of the range.
This is a reconstruction drawing of what Richard II's palace would have looked like in the 14th century. It shows the Hall with the Kings banquet in progress.
The thick stone wall between the kitchen and the Great Hall was probably to safeguard against the spread of fire. The kitchen is small by medieval standards and probably had a central fire. It was open to the ceiling (no 1st floor above) and building accounts from 1398 mention a vent in the roof to let the smoke out. An open staircase was built against the eastern wall to allow the food to be carried up to the first floor to be served in the Great Hall.
Before finishing your trail you may like to explore the East Ranges. They were originally built in the 12th century and were the residence of the constable of the castle. It was remodelled many times over the centuries, the last time in the 17th century by the last constable, Sir Thomas Cornwallis.
You have now finished your tour of the castle. When you are ready make your way out as you came in, via the shop and ticket office.
Explore Portchester Castle
Cat
Author: Cat (ID: 12269)
Posted: 2011-08-03 09:12 GMT+00:00
Mileage: 1.46 km
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Tags: Adventure, heritage, history, trail, architecture, building, port, castle, seaside, fort, medieval, palace, roman, royal
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Take a tour around Portchester Castle to discover nearly 2,000 years of England's history.

Land Gate
Start your trail from outside the Land Gate
Path around castle
With your back to the Land Gate walk forwards and head through the gap in the fence to your right.
Keep - Walls
As you approach the Keep note how high it is above the walls.
Keep - Windows
Note how small the windows are.
Keep - Moat
Note the moat that runs around the base of the keep.
Keep - Putlog Holes
Note the many regularly spaced holes in the wall. They are putlog holes - a hole in a wall in which cross timbers, known as putlogs, were placed to allow scaffolding to be put up. Putlog holes are often left unfilled and are often the only evidence for the use of scaffolding.
Keep - Smoke Holes
Note the smoke holes - triangular openings to allow smoke to escape from a large fireplace inside the keep.
Keep - Garderobe Chutes
Note theses small openings or chutes. They are where waste from the garderobe (lavatory) emptied out into the moat.
Cross the grass
Cross the grass and rejoin the path around the castle. The fence should be on your right, between you and the castle.
Sally Port (Postern Gate)
As you follow the path look to your right and you will see the Postern Gate or Sally Port as it is sometimes known. It is a small gateway cut through the curtain wall, used primarily as an outlet for counter-attacking forces.
Location - Natural Harbour
Note the view to your left as it helps you to understand the castle's location.
Location - Natural Harbour
Note the view to your left as it helps you to understand the castle's location.
Defensive line
As you reach the corner of the castle walls look back along them to get a sense of their scale.
Roman Bastion (tower)
As you have already walked past several of these towers, now stand diretly beneath this one to get a sense of its size.
Roman Walls
Continue around the castle noting the size of the Roman walls and how they are built.
Water Gate - Phases
As you approach the Water Gate look at how it is built. Was this part built at the same time as the rest of the walls?
Water Gate - Features
The Water Gate standing today replaced earlier Roman and Saxon ones. Part of the Saxon gate still survives. The furthest arch in this photograph is Late Saxon and made from Greensand and Sandstone (stained by iron ore) blocks. The rest was built in 1321-25. It was then repaired in 1369 and its front section that sticks out beyond the walls was added. This addition could be closed by a portcullis, the groove for which still survives.
Location - Port
Turn your back to the Water Gate and look at the view. Think about why this would have been a good place for the Romans to build their fort.
Location - Port
Continue on your route around the castle, noting the location of the castle in relation to the sea.
Missing Corner Bastion
This tower was destroyed not by attackers but by damage from the sea over the years. You can imagine the waves during a storm crashing against the outside of the castle walls.
Corner View
Look again at the view from the castle's defensive walls.
Medieval Lavatories
These holes in the wall as you turn the corner were originally part of the medieval monastery that was here. They are the drains from the reredorter (lavatories), so that the waste was disposed of outside into the sea.
Medieval Lavatories
Have a closer look at the drains, they are the same as the chutes seen in the Keep earlier on in the tour.
Bastions
Look at the bastions (towers) as you walk past. Can you spot the divide between the Roman parts at the base of the tower and the medieval parts at the top?
Roman Walls
These are some of the best preserved Roman walls in northern Europe.
Roman Walls - Roman Tiles
The red (terracotta) tiles seen in the walls are a typical feature of Roman buildings.
Roman Walls - Moat
Note how once you have turned the final corner and move away from the shore, there is now a moat to your left.
Roman Walls - Builders
The Roman walls were built in sections by teams of builders. Some times the sections built by different teams didn't match up exactly as they should have. Following the rows of red tiles is a good way to look for different sections.
Land Gate
The Land Gate was originally part of the Roman defences of Portchester Castle. However, most of what remains of it today dates from the 1300s. This was when Richard II (1367 – 1400) started a large programme of building work at the castle. Enter the outer bailey of the castle by going through the Land Gate.
Gatehouse
Look at the remains of the gatehouse and try to work out how many times it has been extended over the centuries. Look for distinct changes in the stonework.
Gatehouse - Bridge
This would have been a drawbridge, capable of being retracted to prevent access to the inner bailey.
Gatehouse - Chain holes
These holes were where the chains for the drawbridge went through, to allow it to be pulled up in times of danger.
Gatehouse - Portcullis & Door Bar
The groove on the right is where the portcullis (from the French "porte coulissante" or gliding door) would have been. It was a large wooden door that was lowered down to prevent people getting in. The square hole on the left was to hold a large wooden bar that could be slid in front of the portcullis for even more protection. Look at the opposite wall to see the other side of the portcullis groove and the other slot for the door bar.
Gatehouse - Upper Floor
Looking up you can see a ledge that shows you that there was originally an upper floor to the gatehouse. This was a heated room for the guards.
Gatehouse - Earlier Chain Holes
If you look up and to the right you can just see a small hole. This was the chain hole for an earlier drawbridge across the moat.
Gatehouse & Inner Bailey
As you walk through the Gatehouse turn around and look back at it. From here you can see how it would have formed a series of obstacles to prevent unwanted people from entering the castle.
Ticket Office & Shop
Enter the site through the ticket office.
East Range Kitchen
Walk past the East Range Kitchen to stand in the courtyard of the Inner Bailey.
Inner Bailey
You are now in the Inner Bailey of the medieval castle, head towards Ashton's Tower which is in the far right-hand corner.
Well
Note the well as you walk to Ashton's Tower. A fresh supply of water is essential to any settlement.
Ashton's Tower
The 'floating' doorways and rows of holes in the walls next to them show that you are actually in what was a three storey building. Go into the tower and look for other clues to the building's use.
Stairs to Keep
Then take the stairs up to the Keep.
Keep - Entrance
Notice how you enter the Keep on the first floor. This was standard in most Norman/medieval fortified buildings.
Keep - Well
Note the well in the left-hand corner of the Keep as you enter. Access to fresh water was vital.
Keep - Medieval Hall
This was the main area where the medieval king held court. Read the information panel for more details about life in the Medieval Hall.
Stairs to Second Floor
A set of stairs was first inserted here when the castle was used by prisoners of war in the 18th century. Head up the stairs to the second floor.
Original Roof
The V shape on this wall is the original roof line of the Keep. It dates from the 1130s. Within 20 years of it being built this roof was replaced as two more storeys were added to the Keep.
Doorway to Wall Paintings
Head round the stairs and into the next room.
Theatre Wall Paintings
It is known that plays were held in the castle from the Napoleonic period, when the castle housed prisoners of war. However, this painted decoration must date from after 1830, as it uses French Ultramarine, a pigment that only came into use after this date.
Theatre Wall Paintings - Reconstruction
This is a reconstruction drawing of the theatre showing its design in relation to the present viewing platform. Very little is known about the history of the theatre. It is known that plays were held at the castle by the Napoleonic Prisoners of War that were kept there. However, the painted decoration that remains must date from after 1830, as it includes French Ultramarine which was not made until this date.
Prisoners of War - Inserted Floors
These beams show where extra floors were added to the keep in the 18th century. This was to allow more prisoners of war to be kept here. Some of the beams still have the iron hooks that were inserted into them, so that hammocks could be hung from the ceiling of each floor.
Prisoners of War - Reconstruction
This is a reconstruction drawing of what it would have been like for the Napoleonic prisoners of war who were crowded into Keep. The conditions must have been appalling. The castle had been used as prison since 1665. In 1760 it is recorded that there were 3,200 prisoners kept at the castle. In 1794 13 new timber houses were built within the castles walls, each to hold 500 prisoners, with 1,000 more to be kept in the keep.
Hammock Hooks
A close up of the surviving hooks that were used by prisoners of war to suspend their hammocks from the beams.
Third Floor
This room was probably used as lodgings for the castle guard or visitors. It has a latrine in the corner.
Third Floor
This room was probably used as lodgings for the castle guard or visitors.
Stairs to roof
Take the spiral staircase up to the roof.
Graffiti in stairwell
As you go up the stairs pause to note the various bits of graffiti written by French prisoners of war.
Rooftop View
This is the view from the south-west corner of the keep. The Land Gate is on the right, the remains of the Gatehouse are in the centre and St Mary's church is on the left.
Rooftop View
This is the view from the south-east corner of the keep. The remains of the East Range are in the foreground and St Mary's church and the Water Gate are in the background.
Rooftop View
This is the view from the north-east corner of the keep. The roman walls can be seen with bastions on the outside part and the remains of Ashton's Tower on the inside.
Rooftop View
This is the view from the north-west corner of the keep. The industrial buildings around Port Solent can be seen.
Stairs from roof
Now take the stairs all the way down to the ground floor. Here you may wish to explore the exhibition, before continuing with the tour.
Exit the Exhibition
Leave the exhibition area and head out into the Inner Bailey.
Richard IIs Palace - Porch
The entrance to the royal apartments on the first floor was through this projecting porch in the middle of the Great Hall. Rising up from this entrance door were stairs, now lost, to the first-floor door of the hall.
Richard IIs Palace - Porch Lantern
To either side of the porch are two curious pedestals with hat-shaped covers set above them. These are housings for lamps to light the entrance.
Richard IIs Palace - Exterior East
Take a moment to look at the outside (exterior) of Richard IIs Palace. Note the position of the various doors and windows.
Richard IIs Palace - Exterior West
Take a moment to look at the outside (exterior) of Richard IIs Palace. Note the position of the various doors and windows.
Richard IIs Palace - Reconstruction
This is a cutaway reconstruction drawing of what Richard II's palace would have looked like in the 14th century. The rooms shown here (clockwise from bottom left) are the kitchen, buttery and pantry, Great Hall, south-west chamber, exchequer chamber and chapel.
Richard IIs Palace - Exchequer Chamber
Now enter the range of buildings through the Exchequer Chamber.
Richard IIs Palace - Exchequer Chamber
You are standing in the room below what was probably Richard IIs Exchequer Chamber. This would have been the room for financial and legal work, that was described in the 1390s building accounts. If you look up you can work out where the floor of the room above would have been. Also look for doors, windows and fireplaces to help understand what the room would have looked like.
Richard IIs Palace - Great Chamber Range
Now walk through the doorway into the Great Chamber Range.
Richard IIs Palace - Great Chamber Range
You are standing in one of the 'lower chambers'. These were the three rooms on the ground floor, with the Great Chamber and Inner Chamber above them. The lower chambers were a series of lodgings for the King's retinue (people "retained" in the service of a noble or royal person) . If you look up you can work out where the floor of the room above would have been. Also look for doors, windows and fireplaces to help understand what the room would have looked like.
Richard IIs Palace - Great Chamber Windows
The Great Chamber was the main state room of the palace buildings, with four windows and a large fireplace. The windows at the south end of the chamber were carefully designed to let in the maximum amount of light from a small opening in the curtain wall. You are standing below the inner chamber. This was the King's bedroom, the door above and to your right was the entrance to a latrine - the King's toilet!
Richard IIs Palace - Great Chamber Range
Walk back to go out of the door you came in by. As you walk back look at the wall of the keep ahead of you to spot all the doors, windows, rooflines and put-log holes.
Richard IIs Palace - Great Hall Range
Having left the Great Chamber re-enter the Palace through the Great Hall.
Richard IIs Palace - Great Hall Range
The room on the first floor of this building was the Great Hall. The King and Queen would have sat directly above where you are standing now. The hall must have been splendid. It was lit down one side by high windows. According to the building accounts, the glass in the windows was decorated with coats of arms and heraldic borders. Explore this building and make your way through to the kitchen at the far end of the range.
Richard IIs Palace - Great Hall Reconstruction
This is a reconstruction drawing of what Richard II's palace would have looked like in the 14th century. It shows the Hall with the Kings banquet in progress.
Richard IIs Palace - Kitchen
The thick stone wall between the kitchen and the Great Hall was probably to safeguard against the spread of fire. The kitchen is small by medieval standards and probably had a central fire. It was open to the ceiling (no 1st floor above) and building accounts from 1398 mention a vent in the roof to let the smoke out. An open staircase was built against the eastern wall to allow the food to be carried up to the first floor to be served in the Great Hall.
East Ranges
Before finishing your trail you may like to explore the East Ranges. They were originally built in the 12th century and were the residence of the constable of the castle. It was remodelled many times over the centuries, the last time in the 17th century by the last constable, Sir Thomas Cornwallis.
Way Out
You have now finished your tour of the castle. When you are ready make your way out as you came in, via the shop and ticket office.
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