Portland Year Book


Portland Year Book 1905

Pennsylvania Castle
The Old Rectory House
Bow and Arrow Castle
Governors of Portland Castle
Portland's Fortifications


Pennsylvania Castle, the residence of Mr J. Merrick Head J.P. was commenced in 1797 and completed in 1800. It was built by John Penn, M. P., grandson of Wm Penn, the Quaker founder of Pennsylvania, U.S.A. Thomas Penn and Richard Penn, sons of Wm. Penn, and joint proprietors of Pennsylvania U.S.A., also occupied Pennsylvania Castle. The house, which was designed by the celebrated architect Wyatt contains many portraits of the Penn family and some collateral relations. The grounds are very 'romantic and are referred to in Queen Elizabeth's time by Leland. The grounds include the remains of two old churches dedicated to St. Andrew, the latest of these was dedicated in 1475. The other was burnt down or destroyed in the reign of Edward III. Rufus Castle also stand in the grounds. It is generally believed to have been built by William II (Rufus) The stone is native ashlar. The walls are seven feet thick and there are circular loop holes. The castle was besieged and captured by Robert, Earl of Gloucester, in 1192 during Matilda's attempt to dethrone Stephen.


The old rectory house, the ruins of which stood at the bottom of Wakeham is believed by those best able to judge not to have been a rectory house at all, but an oratory. It is evident from old paintings and prints that it was an ecclesiastical building (vide Grose's " Antiquities. ") It was destroyed by Cromwell and his soldiers, but the gable ends and walls remained until Penn and after his time It is greatly to be regretted that no attempt was made to preserve this interesting ruin.


Rufus or Bow and Arrow Castle is a very ancient structure in the form of a pentagon, and is full of small loopholes, from which it evidently derives its name of Row and Arrow Castle. It appears to have been the keep of a castle. It is sometimes called Rufus Castle because it ways probably built by that King. In 1148, Robert Earl of Gloucester took it from King Stephen for the Empress Maud. Little mortar or cement was used in the construction of the walls, which are roughly built of native ashlar. Three of the sides are considerably longer than the two others. On the side next the cliff there are no openings, which shows that it was originally constructed on the edge of the cliff. In the middle of each of the two principal faces exposed to assault area large corbels formed of three stones projecting outwardly beyond each other, which probably formed the support of an overhanging gallery, from which aft enemy approaching the walls could be advantageously annoyed with missiles. These corbels are in groups of three close together. The wall on the South side has now disappeared and the entrance which formerly existed is represented by the present archway. No trace remains of the " steepes of stone;' from the Church to the Castle, referred to in Grose's Antiquities and Coker's Dorset. The field adjoining the Castle is known as "Castle Hays" A view of the castle as it existed in 1756 is still extant.


In Queen Elizabeth's reign:
Charles Arundel
John Wadham
1584, John Lewson
1625, Gilbert Rawleigh
1628 Edward Sydenham;
1644, Col. William Ashburnham
1644 Sir Wm. Hastings
1646 Elias Bond

Charles II's reign
Wadham Strangways
Humphrey Weld (of Lulworth Castle)
1700 (about), William Taunton
1714, Richard Piercy
1728 William Clapcot
1741, Sydenham Williams
Thomas Gollop
1761, John Taver
1788 Gabriel Steward
1791 Gabriel Tucker Steward
1805, John Penn.

John Penn was the last Governor. The Castle was granted to the Rev. J. Manning in 1816 by the Duke of York, and in 1834 to Capt. Chas. Manning by the King.

On Queen Victoria's accession Capt. Manning was appointed resident magistrate.

The Castle is now a military residence [as at 1905 - MOD has now closed the adjacent Naval Air Station and the Naval Base]


The fortifications at Portland consist of the Verne Citadel, built in 1860, the East Weir Batteries, the inner Pier Head Battery, the Breakwater Fort and Blacknor Battery. The Verne Citadel occupies a very commanding situation, its great natural advantages making it almost impregnable. The South and West forts are protected by a ditch and parapet.. The barracks are constructed to accommodate about 500 officers and men in time of peace but as many as 1,000 could be sheltered in time of war.

^ back to top ^