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Weymouth – Sandsfoot Castle

This Tudor fort was completed around 1541 and is part of Henry VIII’s network of coastal defences to protect against attacks from Roman Catholic enemies, both French and Spanish, following the change in the established religion in England. Sandsfoot Castle stands opposite Portland Castle and between them their artillery protected shipping in Portland Harbour from foreign attack.

A century later the country was moving toward civil war and from 1642 the castle was held for King Charles I until 1644-45 when Colonel Ashburnham, governor for the king, surrendered it to Parliamentary forces.

From 1642 the Parliamentary authorities had full control of the Royal Mint within the Tower of London, which was able to supply all the currency demands of its new masters. Interestingly, the king’s opponents continued to use King Charles’ portrait and titles on their coins until 1649, when he was executed.

Charles I issued currency of equal intrinsic value mainly from his headquarters in Oxford, the mint there being in New Inn Hall, but also from various places throughout the country including Sandsfoot Castle, where the dungeons were used as a mint. Its use as a place for striking coinage gave the castle more importance than it had as a strategic military asset. After the Royalist surrender of the castle it was held for the government by Humphrey Weld but as its condition deteriorated it appears to have been abandoned until a use for it was found as a storehouse and this continued until 1691. The castle was in a ruinous state by the end of the 18th century and in 1837 parts of it fell into the sea.

The castle had suffered damage from coastal erosion quite soon after its completion, repairs being undertaken in 1584; further repairs were necessary in 1610 and 1623. A Grade II listed building since the mid 20th century, it has in more recent times benefited from Heritage and Lottery grants that have facilitated restoration works, making it safe for free access to the public.


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