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Studland Castle and battery

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Handfast Point; Castell Leyes; castellum de Studlande

In the civil parish of Studland.
In the historic county of Dorset.
Modern Authority of Dorset.
1974 county of Dorset.
Medieval County of Dorset.

OS Map Grid Reference: SZ055825
Latitude 50.64297° Longitude -1.92225°

Studland Castle and battery has been described as a certain Artillery Fort, and also as a probable Fortified Manor House.

There are no visible remains.


The Foreland or Handfast Point (SZ 055825) is a high promontory shown on Ralph Treswell's map 1585-6 (see Hutchins p. 580) as partly occupied by Studland Wood, and by an 'enclosure' further inland called "Castell Leyes" (shown at circa SZ 047823). Coker in 1732 said of this place, "the land stretcheth forth a short promontory furnished with a blockhouse, for the more grace called Studland Castle" (Hutchin).
Mills adds that a "castellum de Studlande, the Castle of Studland" is mentioned in 1381 (PiH Papers in BM) (Mills).
Handfast (Point) is probably derived from 'rock' or 'high stronghold' with reference to Studland Castle or an earlier fort here. Battery or bulwark at Handfast Point. Between May 1584 and October 1586 a bulwark or battery was built at Handfast Point. A stone magazine was acquired and a new drawbridge called for. Of the battery, no trace remains (HKW). (PastScape)

Hutchins (1861, 644) records that "there was anciently a castle at Studland" and suggests that King John stayed there when he visited Studland in 1205 and 1213. There is a reference to the castle of Studland in 1381 (Mills 1986, 46). Ralph Treswell's map of 1586 shows a stalk of chalk at Old Harry linked at that time to the mainland by a narrow bridge of land. This stack is called "Studland Castle" or Hanfast (stronghold) Point. Also on the Treswell map is a nearby patch of woodland called "Castell Leyes". These place names are repeated on William Woodward's map of 1775 although the woodland at "Castle Leyes" had been cut down and replaced with three enclosures called "East, South-East and West Castle". The bridge of land to the stack called Studland Castle is shown as eroded to a thin line on the map. Coker (1732, 16) describes the castle as a "block-house, for the more grace called Studland Castle" and from this it appears that he knew something of the structure of the castle despite the fact that not even the c. 1539 coastal defence map of the south coast shows a castle here (Cotton Collection, British Museum). In the medieval period Handfast Point would have been less eroded and offered a larger building site linked by a wider bridge of land. The site has good views across Studland Bay and the southern approach to Poole Harbour. Any building remains have probably been removed by coastal erosion. There is a possibility that structural evidence of the castle survives on the top of the stacks at Handfast. These chalk stacks are covered in rough grass. The site can only be seen from Old Nicks Ground. From this vantage point there are no structures visible eroding from the cliff line. (National Trust HBSMR)

The C16 battery is certain. The C13 'castle' may have been an Iron Age promontory fort or some other such, presumably lost to cliff erosion or ploughing, but it is more likely to have been a medieval manor house near the Saxo-Norman parish church of Studland (SZ036825). Tresswell's C16 map shows much of this heath land area as deer park and that may well have been true in the early C13 giving some substance to the suggestion King John visited Studland. Presumably the 'Castle Leyes' were part of the demense of this manor house. Studland may have been a town of moderate importance in the C10-C12 but may have been declining by the late C13 (?coastal change) where Edward I supported the founding of a new borough, although this never developed (Dorset Historic Towns Survey). It is possible the old manor may have abandoned at this time. (Were the lands given to the church? PastScape record 457661 details obtuse earthworks near the church.)
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:20:10

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