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The original Roman fort is believed to have been built between AD 285 and 290,
at a time when barbarian pirates were launching attacks along the coasts of Britain and Gaul.
Tucked away out of sight from the sea, and about as far inland as it was possible to get by sea-going boat, Portchester would be the ideal place for a transit camp and warehouse.
The site appears to have been continually occupied after the Romans left, but not much changed until the Normans came along.
Desperate to secure anywhere defensible, they built a castle in one corner of the old square enclosure, together with a church (and briefly a priory) in the opposite corner.
It is a measure of how large the Roman Fort was that a medium sized castle fills less that a quarter of the site.
Little is known of the early history of the castle; the Keep and Inner Bailey wall we see today probably date from around 1140 when it was held by the splendidly named William Pont de LʼArche.
Various domestic buildings were added to the Inner Bailey over the years: the South and West Ranges were built by Richard II between 1396 and 1399,
and the East Range by Sir Thomas Cornwallis, Constable of the castle under Elizabeth I, in the early seventeenth century.
The castle led a largely uneventful life. From time to time it was pressed into service as a prisoner of war camp, but it never saw any military action.
Easily missed are the wall paintings on the second floor of the keep, so easily missed that I had to go back in to find them.
These date from some time after 1830 when this part of the castle was used as a theatre.
There is an audio guide, which may be very good. I gave up after being introduced to a soldier and a prisoner-of-war with a 'zilly French accent'. Iʼm all for audio guides
such as the one at Portland Castle were a knowledgeable and informed guide points out features of interest.
I have to be in the right mood to listen to unknown actors performing the scripted recollections of imaginary characters. It doesnʼt happen very often.
For opening times, admission prices, etc. please see English Heritageʼs official site detailed below.