FolkestoneJack's Tracks

The most charming marine residence

Posted in Deal, England by folkestonejack on August 29, 2015

Our summer has seen us visit a selection of Henry VIII’s surviving defensive forts along the southern and eastern coastline. Some of these have hardly changed since they were first constructed whilst others have been modified time and time again to reflect the changing defensive needs of the country.

The story of Walmer Castle is different again – an artillery fort which has been transformed over the years into a comfortable official residence for the Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports. In that role the castle has accommodated many illustrious residents over the years, including prime ministers (William Pitt the Younger, Lord Liverpool, the Duke of Wellington, Palmerston, Lord Salisbury) and royalty (Queen Victoria, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother).

Walmer Castle, as seen from the moat

Walmer Castle, as seen from the moat

The castle is particularly associated with Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, who described it as ‘the most charming marine residence I have ever seen’ and stayed every autumn during his tenure as Lord Warden (1829-1852), entertaining many a passing royal whilst they were en route between Dover and London. The duke died in his armchair at the castle on the morning of 14th September 1852.

English Heritage have re-opened Walmer Castle this season after a major project to re-dress the interiors. The appearance of Wellington’s room at the time of his death has been newly recreated using the original contents, surviving samples of fabric and a watercolour showing the arrangement of the furniture. The result is impressive – a moment frozen in time.

The revamp also sees the rooms associated with William Pitt restored to their former appearance, following the rediscovery of the inventory taken just after Pitt’s death in 1806.

It was under Pitt’s tenure that significant improvements to the house and gardens were made, whilst he continued his duties as Prime Minister. Britain was at war for almost the entirety of Pitt’s time as Lord Warden with his time taken up with the very real threat of invasion by Napoleon’s forces (even helping to raise a local militia to defend the vulnerable stretch of coastline on which the castle sat).

The Queen Mother's Garden at Walmer

The Queen Mother’s Garden at Walmer

It is not hard to see why visitors have fallen in love with this beautiful castle, with its fascinating history, delightful gardens and the close proximity of the sea. It is a wonderful spot to visit in the summer, but I imagine it must be quite marvellous at any time of year (the autumn must be spectacular here as the colours turn on the vegetation climbing the walls).

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