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Sunday, 11 August 2013
Two very different castles: Portland and Clun
Portland castle overlooks the harbour on the Isle of Portland in Dorset. It was built in 1539/40, by order of King Henry VIII, to guard the important anchorage there known as the Portland Roads. It only saw real action during the English Civil War of 1642 to 1649.
The building doesn't have the feel of a Tudor building from the outside, probably because the hard-wearing stone hasn't weathered too much. There's no timber framing visible either! The low profile of the fort made it harder to hit with cannon fire and the side facing the sea is rounded, so that cannonballs would be deflected off.
We didn't have a chance to go inside, but you can and the building is looked after by English Heritage.
Looking at the castle from the side facing towards the mainland, you can see the crosses in the wall through which defenders could fire towards the sea. The castle looks very small in front of the towering apartment blocks nearby, which were built for the Navy and also to house athletes competing in the sailing events at the recent Olympics.
The Isle of Portland is famed for it's limestone, which has been quarried for use in construction all over the world. The 'island' is connected to the mainland by a tombolo, a causeway of shingle that is part of Chesil Beach. In the photo above, you can see the flat top of the island, from the quarries that covered it.
Many of London's finest buildings are made of Portland Stone. As Portland castle shows, the stone from the best beds is hard but carves well and this is the material of choice for many British stone carvers. These carvings set into the wall by the Chesil Beach Visitors Centre are examples of such work:
This is the address for the English Heritage website page about Portland Castle:
Clun castle was already in ruins when Portland castle was being built. It is situated in the village of Clun in Shropshire, on the Welsh borders. The castle is thought to have been established by Picot De Say not long after the Norman invasion and was owned by the Fitzalan family for many years.
The Great Hall built by them was impressive, but impractical. It is on the side of the motte, or mound, so would have been very vulnerable to being undermined during a siege. Eventually, the Fitzalans decided to spend their time on their more luxurious Sussex estate at Arundel and by the 16th century the castle was a ruin.
Visiting Clun castle is still worth it though. The remains have a romantic, ruined grandeur about them and the area around is very beautiful.
The ruins of Clun castle are also looked after by English Heritage and their web page is here: