Weymouth-Dorset.co.uk Local History

Sandsfoot Castle

Sandsfoot Castle, Weymouth with Portland in the background

Sandsfoot Castle and Portland 2003

Lying just to the West of Weymouth and lying within the ancient parish of Wyke Regis, on the edge of the cliff overlooking Portland Harbour, are the ruins of Sandsfoot Castle. Henry VIII built Sandsfoot at a time when there were threats of attacks by Roman Catholic enemies due to the change in the established religion in England. Henry had wanted a divorce from his then wife in 1527, Catherine of Aragon, but was forbidden by the church. This led to the Protestant Reformation with the King as head of the Church of England and Henry was able to divorce.

Fearing attacks from the Catholic continent, Henry built several castles along the south coast of England. Portland Castle opposite Sandsfoot was the first of these two to be completed in the late 1530's. The two castles were sited to act together to protect Portland Harbour and the Roads.

Some of the stone used in the building of Sandsfoot Castle was brought from the now ruined Bindon Abbey near Wool, Dorset.

Colonel Ashburnham, governor for the King, surrendered the castle during the civil war in 1644 to the parliamentary forces. It was used as a mint during the civil war and manned by the Militia of Wyke Regis.

The castle remained in the hands of the government for many years under its governor, Humphrey Weld. The Welds were a strong Roman Catholic family whose seat was at East Lulworth.

The coastal erosion at this point became so great that it undermined the cliff. Humphrey Weld left the castle whereupon it slowly began to crumble into the sea. From the beach below, the castle's foundations are part of the cliff face and many remnant rocks lie scattered on the beach. The building of the breakwater in 1849, the boundary of Portland Harbour, offered some protection from the tides. The castle has been unstable for many years and is a dangerous structure. Public access is prevented for safety reasons by railings.

During the past year or so (2002/3) the wooden bridge leading from the gardens to the castle has been removed, as can be seen in the photograph at the top of the page. There is a pathway which runs round to the left of the gardens to the castle and although somewhat hidden, it offers delightful views of Weymouth Bay.

The Royal Coat of Arms of Henry VIII, said to have originally been on Sandsfoot Castle, is now in All Saints church, Wyke Regis above the main door on the inside.

 

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West view of Sandsfoot Castle, Weymouth

West view

West view of Sandsfoot Castle, Weymouth, Dorset

West view

Looking through Sandsfoot Castle out to sea

Looking through out to sea

Sandsfoot Castle and Gardens 1991

Sandsfoot Castle and Gardens 1991

Coat of Arms of Henry VIII as in Wyke Regis church

Royal Coat of Arms, HenryVIII

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