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Portchester Castle’s remarkable history begins in the 3rd century AD when the Romans built a vast fort here. In the 5th century this waterside fortress was transformed into a Saxon settlement, and after the Conquest of 1066 it became a Norman castle. For medieval kings it was an important embarkation point for crossing the Channel.
From 1665 Portchester served as a prisoner-of-war camp – a role that reached its height during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars of 1793–1815, when it housed up to 8,000 prisoners, of many nationalities and backgrounds, at any one time.
During the wars with France between 1793 and 1814, thousands of prisoners of war were held at Portchester Castle. Where did they come from, and what was life like at the castle?
Read the extraordinary story of a group of over 2,500 prisoners of war who were brought to Portchester Castle in 1796 from the Caribbean island of St Lucia.
After their release from Portchester, the Caribbean prisoners of war were forced to negotiate complex ideologies around slavery, race and colonial rule. Here we trace just a few of their journeys.
To accompany a new theatre production, we examine the connections between Haiti and Portchester, and look at some key events and characters of the Revolution.
How much do we know about other black people living in Britain around the time the prisoners from the Caribbean were being held at Portchester?
Find out about the theatre set up and run by French prisoners of war at Portchester Castle between 1810 and 1814.
In the episode of our Speaking with Shadows podcast, Josie Long visits Portchester Castle to learn about the black prisoners of war who were imprisoned there in the 18th century.
Discover the importance of Portchester’s buildings, from the exceptionally well preserved Roman fort to Richard II’s royal palace.
Read a description of the castle – the walls and towers of the Roman fort and the medieval buildings within it.
Find out how archaeology has informed our understanding of the castle, and what remains to be discovered by further research.
Use this list of visual and written sources, published and unpublished, to learn more about Portchester Castle and its history.
Download this PDF plan of Portchester to explore the castle and see how its buildings have developed over time.
This guidebook gives a vivid account of the castle’s extraordinary history and its occupants, as well as a full tour of the buildings.