Sources for Hurst Castle

The following lists provide a summary of the main sources – material, visual and written – for our understanding of the history and development of Hurst Castle.

Coloured plan of Hurst Castle in 1750, drawn by JP Desmaretz, showing the three bastions still surrounded by a moat
Plan of Hurst Castle in 1750, drawn by JP Desmaretz, showing the three bastions still surrounded by a moat © Historic England Archives (MP/HUR0002)

Primary Written Sources

The National Archives, Kew

Researchers should initially consult the National Archives website and make use of Discovery, the extensive online catalogue.

Among the most important classes of documents relating to Hurst Castle are:

  • WO 44, WO 46 and WO 55 [series relating to the construction, maintenance and modification of British fortifications]
  • MPHH1/592, /595, /687; WORK 31/687, /688, /689, /704, /705, /706, /708, /709 [some of the most useful items from the extensive collection of plans of the castle in the National Archives, mostly dating from between 1793 and 1902]
  • WO 192/288 [the Fortress Record Book, which contains a short history of the castle and invaluable information about its wartime role in the 20th century].

Royal Engineers Library, Brompton

The Royal Engineers’ Library holds the records of the Royal Engineers who were responsible for fortifications, working in conjunction with the Board of Ordnance.

  • The POR/01 series of letter books contains reports covering fortifications in the Portsmouth area.

Hampshire Archives and Local Studies, Winchester

Hampshire Archives hold an important collection of documents relating to the day-to-day life of Hurst Castle and its inhabitants from the 16th to the 19th centuries. The catalogue can be searched online.

Items of particular interest are:

  • 1555B/05 [inventory of Thomas Bartie, Captain of Hurst Castle, 1555]
  • 44M69/G5/50/73 [letter from Lord Portland to the deputy lieutenants of the county, about the removal of men from the trained bands to serve in the garrisons at Hurst Castle and at other castles along the south coast, 22 June 1636]
  • 49M95/309/12 [plan of Hurst Beach and Castle, not dated (c 1801)]. 

Antiquarian Sources

Grose, F, The Antiquities of England and Wales, vol II (London, 1783), 194–7 [accessed 8 April 2014]

One of the two 12.5-inch rifled muzzle-loading guns of the 1860s in position at Hurst Castle on a replica green riveted carriage
One of the two 12.5-inch rifled muzzle-loading guns of the 1860s, salvaged from Cliff End Battery on the Isle of Wight, and now on display in the west wing at Hurst Castle (the carriage is a replica)

Material Sources/Collections

English Heritage holds an extensive collection of equipment, fixtures and fittings relating to the later military use of the site.

Visual Sources

British Library, London

The British Library has a number of 18th-century topographical drawings of Hurst, including:

Hampshire Archives and Local Studies

Hampshire Archives in Winchester have a number of photographs of Hurst Castle dating from the late 19th century onwards which can be researched through their online catalogue, including:

Isle of Wight Heritage Heritage Service

The Isle of Wight Heritage Service holds a collection of watercolours of Hurst Castle and its surroundings made by Thomas Rowlandson and a travelling companion in the 1780s (IWCMS.2002.74–IWCMS.2002.77) (see also Research on Hurst Castle). 

Published Visual Sources

  • Buck, S and Buck, N, 'The East View of Hurst Castle, in Hampshire', c 1728, published in Buck's Antiquities or Venerable Remains of above four hundred Castles, Monasteries, Palaces, &c. in England and Wales. With one hundred views of Cities and Chief Towns, vol 1 (London, 1774), pl 107.

Plans and Photographs in the Historic England Archives

Among the items in the Historic England Archive at Swindon relating to Hurst Castle is an extensive portfolio (PF/HUR) of 423 sheets of measured drawings, measured surveys, photogrammetric surveys, maritime charts, lists and sketches of Hurst Castle, ranging in date from January 1742 to January 2012. These include:

  • plan showing Hurst in 1750 by JP Desmaretz (see above), the distinguished Royal Engineer (MP/HUR0002)
  • a number of sheets from the later 19th century relating to the new lower lighthouse at Hurst Castle, together with a selection of other sheets from this date of plans of various parts of the castle, including the magazines, gun casemates and keep, and plans and sections of the east and west wings
  • several sheets dating from 1907–8 which relate to the Number Ten 'EL' Light Emplacement at Hurst Castle, and sheets dating from 1910 which relate to the lighthouses and lanterns at the site
  • a series of sheets produced in December 1948 consisting of labelled plans of the keep
  • sheets from the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s concerned with coastal protection work at the site, and with the re-asphalting of the roof
  • twelve sheets of measured drawings relating to the Lower Lighthouse, created by Trinity House in the late 20th century
  • seven sheets of a hydrographic survey at the site produced in 1978–9, and eight sheets consisting of a beach survey undertaken in 1983–4.

Also held in the Historic England Archives is an album of 140 photographs (AL0756) of the castle and associated structures ranging in date from the early 19th century to 1974.

More details of these and other items can be found in the online catalogue. Some material is not yet listed in the online catalogue, including a large collection of aerial photography; for a full search, please contact the search team.

Copies of images and documents can be ordered through the website or by contacting the archive. For details of current charges for these services see the archives price list.

Secondary Sources


Biddle, M, Colvin, HM, Hale, JR, Merriman, M and Summerson, J, The History of the King's Works, vol 4: 1485–1660, part 2 (London, 1982), 539–44

Coad, JG, 'Hurst Castle: the evolution of a Tudor fortress 1790–1945', Post-Medieval Archaeology, 19 (1985), 63–104 [subscription required; accessed 9 April 2014]

Coad, JG, 'Hurst Castle', in The Isle of Wight: Report and Proceedings of the 152nd Summer Meeting of the Royal Archaeological Institute in 2006, ed M Gardiner and DJ Tomalin, supplement to Archaeological Journal, 163 (2007), 56–61 [précis of the 1985 guidebook and other published sources]

Coad, JG, Hurst Castle (English Heritage guidebook, London, 2013) [buy the guidebook]

Craster, OE, Hurst Castle (London, 1949)

Hague, DB and Christie, R, Lighthouses: Their Architecture, History and Archaeology (Llandysul, 1975)

James, J, Hurst Castle: An Illustrated History (Wimborne, 1986)

Kenyon, JR, 'An aspect of the 1599 survey of the Isle of Wight: The State of all the Queenes maties Fortresses and Castelles', Post- Medieval Archaeology, 13 (1979), 61–77

Osborne, M, Defending Hampshire: The Military Landscape from Prehistory to the Present (Stroud, 2011)

Page, W (ed), The Victoria History of the County of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, vol 5 (London, 1912), 111–12 [accessed 9 April 2014]

Saunders, AD, 'Hampshire coastal defences since the introduction of artillery, with a description of Fort Wallington', Archaeological Journal, 123 (1966), 136–71

Saunders, AD, Fortress Britain: Artillery Fortification in the British Isles and Ireland (Liphook, 1989)

Saunders, AD, Channel Defences (London, 1997)

Stewart, S and Manning, T, Wall Painting Condition Audit, Hurst Castle, Hampshire, English Heritage AML Reports (new series) 48/1997 (London, 1997) [accessed 9 April 2014]


Coad, JG, 'Hurst Castle: a conservation statement', English Heritage (2002)

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