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The first castle on the site was built in the 11th century and probably consisted of a motte with wooden fortifications. In 1281 Stephen of Penchester was granted a licence to crenellate by Edward I and built a stone castle. The oldest part of the castle shows a distinctive herringbone pattern In the 15th century the castle was converted into a fortified mansion.
Although the castle was never attacked or besieged a major fire in around 1600 left only enough of the castle to make a farmhouse. In the early part of the 20th century the castle was restored by the explorer Sir Martin Conway.
In 1951 following the comprehensive restoration the site was taken over by the Carmelite order who do not open the castle to the public.
After Henry VIII divorced his Catholic wife, Catherine of Aragon, in 1533 England was threatened by attack by France and Spain. To protect the southern coast Henry immediately set about building a series of forts using the proceeds from the disolved monastries. Deal and Walmer, just to the south, are two of these forts. Both castles are plain, functional constructions whose only purpose was defence.
Deal Castle consists of six semi-circular bastions in the form of a tower with an outer wall of the same shape to protect it. The walls had a series of gun loops so arranged that any attacker faced five tiers of canons. Walmer was built to a simpler plan with a circular tower protected by a quatrefoil outer wall. It also was well supplied with artillery to face an enemy at any angle.
However, neither castle was attacked from the seas and Deal was not threatened until 1648. The castle was a Royalist stronghold during the Civil War and when it was attacked by Parliamentarians suffered extensive damage.
The castle was not attacked again until World War II when it was bombed.
Built of a high cliff, in a strategic position facing threats from Europe, Dover castle has always been an important part of Britain's line of defence. The Romans built a 80 feet high flint lighthouse on the remains of an iron age fort. In Saxon times a chapel was built for the castle garrison.
Immediately after the Battle of Hastings William the Conqueror went to Dover Castle and spent eight days strengthening this key fortification.
Henry II carried out a complete reconstruction between 1168 and 1188 providing the castle with the towered walls of the inner bailey, the beginning of the outer walls and the great square keep - the largest in England.
In 1216 during the reign of King John the castle was besieged by Prince Louis, heir to the throne of France. The French breached the barbican and undermined the gatehouse causing the east tower to collapse. The French forces would have certainly penetrated the inner walls if it wasn't for the fact that King John died at during the time of the seige and was succeeded by his son Henry III.
Henry had the support of the Church, many influential barons and the loyality of Dover castle. Because of this new unity Prince Louis retreated to France. Henry III spent a considerable sum of money to strengthen the castle.
The Constable's Gate was rebuilt around 1227 and it is here that subsequent Constables have had their residence.
The castle was seized by a small force of Parlimentarians during the Civil War in 1642. It remained in Cromwell's hands until the Restoration which ensured the castle remained intact unlike most other castles in England.
During the Napoleonic wars the castle underwent drastic alerations. The ditches were lowered, earth ramparts were constructed behind the walls and the outer walls were cut down to provide suitable platforms for artillery.
In World War II the bastions were rebuilt to enable heavy guns to be mounted over the harbour.
No other castle in Britain has such a long recorded history.