When was the first fortification built on the site, and why was it chosen by the Romans?
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When was the first fortification built on the site, and why was it chosen by the Romans? The Romans decided to build a series of 'Saxon shore forts' to defend the south coast from the Saxons. Evidence shows (mainly from coins) that Portchester castle was built at the end of 3rd Century AD. Portchester was a perfect place for the Romans to build a fort for many reasons. Portchester Castle was built on a promontory. This was perfect for the Romans because it would dramatically slim the chances of the Saxons invading. The Castle sticks out into the sea with a good view. The only way and invaders could invade would either be to cross the marsh that was Portsmouth or from in-land. Another reason Portchester was built where it was because of the extremely deep harbour. The deep harbour was perfect for the Royal Navy's fleet to dock. At present time, the harbour is not deep at all because of silt. Over many hundreds of years Portchester harbour has silted up and become un-useable. The Saxon shore forts were dotted along the south-east coast of England. A table follows of the Roman names of the 'Saxon shore forts' Brancaster Branodunum Richborough Rutupiae Burgh Castle Gariannonum Dover Dubris Walton Castle (?)
A typical Motte and Bailey castle (Picture from http://www.castles-of-britain.com/castlesa.htm) How and why did the site change during the thirteenth century (the reigns of King John and Henry III)? King John often stayed at Portchester, although the area was now used much less as a town, with the new navel development at Portsmouth attracting workers and future residents. When King John was King, the barons revolted and French associates captured the castle for a time. Portchester was repaired after the war, but declined in importance as a royal residence, belonging to a succession of Queens. The main reason not much was changed was properly due to the reason of Portsmouth. It wasn't just Portchester that wasn't changed much; it was most castles across Britain. The reason for this was Britain and its people were improving economically and socially. This did not last for long as the result of many factors coming into action i.e. the war with France. Many castles in this time were concentric but Portchester wasn't concentric because of its Roman Fort skeleton. Concentric castles were the hallmark of Edward I and his castle builder, James of St George. The design, which created identical or nearly identical curtain walls and towers, created a symmetry that made the castle easily defensible by a surprisingly small number of men.
Well of coarse nobody will ever be able to answer these questions but they spring a thoughtful idea to your mind. If you look back through history, the fastest period of time has got to be the 100 years war. Of coarse the '100' years war was not actually 100 years exactly but is just called that for catchy name. During the hundred year's war, the most changes were made to Portchester over the space of about 9 years. This happened before Edward III came here while getting together his army of 15,000 men, ready to sail to France and to victory at Crecy. The next major improvement made to the castle is as followed-A new Hall was built in 1356 and improvements were made to the south coastal defenses. All of this happened because Edward the third was basically very scared about the French. Because the French had burnt Portsmouth, he didn't want the same to happen to hid pride castle. In changing the castle as much as he good for defense purposes, it was made sure that the defenses were supreme. Over history, a lot has happened to Portchester and it has been in many hands. If you think how at one point nearly all the money was going into defense then at another point it was a palace to impress a wife, you can see the deep contrast of its existence. Matthew Roberts.
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