We all love a trip to a castle and Deal Castle is one of the more unusual castles in Kent. It’s right on the sea front and is a great place to explore with children, especially if they love cannons and tunnels.
Deal Castle is actually a Tudor Artillery Fort and is one of the earliest and finest to be found in England. It was built between 1539 and 1540 by Henry VIII. He built it to protect England against invasion from France and the Roman Empire. There were three castles built in the Deal area and they are Deal Castle, Sandwich and Walmer Castle. Deal Castle is the middle one of these three artillery forts.
It’s quite elaborate in it’s design, looking very similar to a rose. It’s made up of 6 lower semi circle bastions with another 6 smaller semi circle bastions on top of this and then above, a round top.This is topped off by a central lantern. The whole thing is surrounded by a lobed designed moat, giving the impression of a flower. It was designed this way to give all round protection from incoming enemy fire from inland as well as from the coast.
Deal Castle was adapted by Sir John Norris and Lord Carrington during the 18th and 19th Centuries into a private house where the captain would live. In 1904 the war office opened the castle to the public when the Captain was not there and after the castle was bombed in the second world war the captain moved out, so the castle became a tourist attraction in the 1950s and is now run by English Heritage. The captain of Deal Castle at the moment is Major General Garry Robinson who is commandant General of the Royal Marines.
We walked around the bottom part of the castle first and down into the basement. This was used for storage , mainly ammunition, tools, weapons, food and drink. We then went into the “Rounds”. This is a narrow passageway which runs right around the castle basement inside the castle walls. It was very dark and spooky inside and on the day we had gone, it had been raining and there was quite a lot of water in the tunnels so the castle had provided us with wellies to wear. They even provided wooden muskets for the children to carry around and play with, which was great fun.
Right at the centre of the basement is the original well
We then walked around the courtyard and into the bastions on the ground floor. The Bastions were built for the soldiers with handguns. The outer wall has 53 gun enclosures. This was used by the gunmen primarily to protect the moat from the Rounds.
There are lots of secret tunnels and murder holes around the castle. Used by the gunmen to fire at intruders who had entered the castle.
The outer Bastions were for the larger guns and cannons on the ground floor. There are 66 firing positions all around the castle. There’s a rare shot furnace here which they think was built during the French Revolutionary War ( 1792-1802) – this was used to heat up the canon balls before they were fired, to cause maximum damage to their enemies ships, by setting them on fire from the heat of the balls on the wooden ships.
There’s fanatic view of the shore line from the castle and loads of canons. You can also get a good view of the moat from here which is 20 metres wide and 5 metres deep. The castle walls are 15 feet thick and made of kentish ragstone, locally made bricks and caen stone recycled from local monisteries.
We then had a look around the quarters on the first floor. The captains residence. From the early 1700s the post of captain of Deal Castle was an honourary position giving the Captain the use of the residential quarters at the Castle.
The quarters are made up of 4 bedrooms, two bathrooms and 2 guest rooms which were in the circular part of the floor and in the centre, winding stairs that lead up to the keep roof and the central lantern which has a 17th century bell inside. There was of course a kitchen/pantry and an armoury. All the rooms were lined with wooden panelling, put in during the 18th Century, all giving it a very homely feel. Off from this was the drawing room, dining room, study and telephone room.
There are a lot of interactive exhibits for children and adults in this part of the castle. You can sit on thrones and learn about the history of the castle through headphones and there are puzzles to do for the children and a fantastic colourful map which explains how Henry VIII prepared for invasion from other countries in Europe.
The children loved making the 4D puzzle of the castle
There is also part of the original tudor castle by the fireplace. It is thought the sunken floor may have held bellows used to forge weapons and tools.
It was a fantastic day out and there was loads to explore and if you love cannons then this is the place for you. The children loved exploring the basement and carrying the muskets, they loved walking around the castle and learning about it’s history with the interactive exhibits on the first floor. There’s some stunning views of the Deal shoreline from the castle. All in all a great day out and lots of fun had, there is definitely something for everyone here.