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West Cowes

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Cowes Castle; Cowfort

In the civil parish of Cowes.
In the historic county of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.
Modern Authority of Isle of Wight.
1974 county of Isle of Wight.
Medieval County of Hampshire, Isle of Wight.

OS Map Grid Reference: SZ49389657
Latitude 50.76653° Longitude -1.30111°

West Cowes has been described as a certain Artillery Fort.

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains.

This is a Grade 2* listed building protected by law*.


Royal Yacht Squadron Headquarters. Remains of Henrician coastal defence of 1538-9 with C18 stair turret and enlargements by Salvin of 1856-7. Of the C16 fort there remain the low bastion fronting the promenade along the sea, with its castellated parapet, and the 2-storey squat round tower behind. They are built of limestone ashlar, said to have been brought across the Solent from Beaulieu Abbey which was then partially demolished. At the south-east corner of the tower a turret was added in the C18 which contains quite a good C18 staircase. The remainder of the building consists of the C18 house as altered and greatly enlarged in the C19 by Salvin, when the north-west turret, amongst other portions was added. This is of 2 to 3 storeys stone rubble having mansard roof with some gables and incorporates a one storey cemented and castellated lodge. The building is listed for both architectural and historic interest. The historical interest is as the sole remaining fort of 2, built in 1538-9 by Henry VIII to defend the mouth of the Medina, the other having been built at East Cowes. During the Commonwealth period the building was used as a prison and amongst others Sir William Davenant was imprisoned there. He wrote the heroic poem "Gondibert" during his captivity. The castle was added to and became a private house in the C18 and in 1856 it was bought by the Royal Yacht Squadron which was founded in 1813 and had been previously housed in what became subsequently the Gloucester Hotel, The Parade, Cowes owed its fortunes in the C19 to the visits of the Duke of Gloucester, the Prince Regent and other royal princes who were early patrons of the Yacht Club and after 1863 of the Prince of Wales, which made the town fashionable. (Listed Building Report)

The original castle was a round tower flanked to the east and west by rectangular wings with a semi-circular curtain wall on the seaward side. Eight guns were mounted at the castle in three tiers. The castle was built from material from the abbey at Beaulieu and possibly from Quarr Abbey.
Little remains of the present day castle apart from a low bastion fronting the promenade along the seaward side and a fragment of the northern segment of the original round tower. The rest of the building consists of the 18th century house with its three storey tower and its castellated conservatory style lodge. (PastScape)
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Sources of information, references and further reading
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:20:07

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