A coloured bird's eye view of a "Castle in the Downes," probably an early design for Deal Castle


Held in the Cotton Manuscripts collection, this coloured bird's eye view of a “Castle in the Downs” dates 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 King Henry VIII (1491–1547) to protect the Downs Anchorage and the “invasion coast”. Fortification of large sections of coast was carried out at this time because Henry VIII feared an invasion from the combined forces of France and Spain, who were united as a result of a treaty signed in 1538. 

The dissolution of the monasteries had provided Henry with enormous wealth, and, as such, he was able to commission surveys of the vulnerable coastline in order to bolster and build defensive fortifications. When completed, Deal Castle resembled 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 Hampton Court team had previously been employed to design royal residences, and therefore, these early plans for defensive castles appear to have been made with domestic comfort, rather than military practicality in mind. However, subsequent castle designs did 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.

Full title:
Design for Deal Castle (“Castle in the Downes”), by Richard Benese (d. 1547), Christopher Dickenson and William Clement
c. 1539
Manuscript / Illustration
Usage terms

Public Domain in most countries other than the UK.

Held by
British Library

Full catalogue details

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