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Calshot Castle, Hampshire

Calshot Castle, Hampshire

Cartographer: Unknown

Medium: Ink and tempera on parchment

Date: 1539

Shelfmark: Cotton Augustus I.ii f.106

Length: 52.4

Width: 38.8

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Manuscript Map

This is a spirited drawing of fort at Calshot Point, the entrance to Southampton Water from the Solent. It dates from 1539, a period of large scale coastal survey and fortification. This was due to Henry VIII’s fear of an invasion from the combined forces of France and Spain as in 1538 Francis I of France, and Charles V Holy Roman Emperor and King of Spain signed a peace treaty. 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. The close proximity of Calshot to the important naval base of Portsmouth meant that this area figured prominently in the defensive strategy. In order to deny enemy access to Southampton Water it was proposed that a stone tower be built at the eastern end of a long shingle spit that extends across the mouth of the Water from its western shore. The idea of sitting a tower here was put forward in the King’s ‘Device’ of February 1539. However, in the name of expediency an emergency structure of timber and hurdles filled with earth and protected by sharpened stakes was constructed to meet the immediate threat in the spring of 1539. On 12th August it was reported that the new fortifications near Portsmouth and Southampton were almost finished but were not ‘very durable, being made of stakes filled with earth as if made in a hurry’ This drawing shows such a earthen fort, with stakes and canons blazing enthusiastically at a sinking ship.
A stone fort circular in form with three storeys, arrow slits and circular spaces for cannons and a curtain wall and moat was built here for more robust defence and was probably begun at around the same time as the emergency structure.

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