A Coloured Bird's Eye View of a "Castle in the Downes," Probably an Early Design for Deal Castle
Medium: Ink and tempera on parchment
This is a coloured bird's eye view of a "Castle in the Downs" dating from 1539. It is probably an early design for Deal Castle, one of a chain of castles along the south coast of England commission by Henry VIII to protect the Downs Anchorage and the "invasion coast". Fortification of large sections of coast was carried out at this time as Henry VIII feared an invasion from the combined forces of France and Spain. In 1538 Francis I of France, and Charles V Holy Roman Emperor and King of Spain signed a peace treaty. This union gave rise to the possibility that France and Spain may combine forces to invade England. France was England’s historical enemy and Henry VIII’s divorce of Catherine of Aragon, Charles V’s aunt, had offended the militantly catholic King of Spain.
Henry’s dissolution of the monasteries provided him with enormous wealth with which he was able to commission surveys of the vulnerable coastline and build defence fortifications.
This plan dates from 1539, the year that a survey of the south coast was made in order to construct defence for the ‘invasion beaches’ and the newly completed dockyards at Portsmouth. When completed Deal Castle resembled, in plan form, the emblem of the Tudor Rose.
It is likely that this drawing came from the drawing office of the Hampton Court team responsible for the construction of the castles in the Downs. The plan displays some domestic features and an ignorance of military matters. This can be explained by the fact that the team had previously worked on the royal palaces. Subsequent castle designs display a growth in understanding. Richard Benese was the surveyor at Deal, with William Clement and Christopher Dickenson working as master carpenter and master mason.