Camber Castle

The History Of Camber Castle

LocationRye, County of Sussex, England (Google Maps)
Open for VisitorsYes
Owned byEnglish Heritage
Official WebsiteCamber Castle
Rooms AvailableNo

Lying between Rye and Winchelsea, Camber Castle is a historic castle built by Henry VIII. Camber Castle walk will help you explore the flower-like shape of the curtain wall, the brick-vaulted tunnels.


Camber Castle is one of the series of Device Forts built by Henry VIII along the south coast to counter threats of a possible French invasion during the 1530s. The sea initially lapped at the foot of the castle, but silting over the centuries means that the castle now stands alone in a low-lying field over a mile from the shore. The construction of the castle began in 1539, a year after France and Spain had signed a treaty of alliance. The castle was designed to house a heavy artillery force. In 1539, King Henry ordered the outer curtain wall to be built around the tower, which was raised in height. Gun platforms were made at alternate corners, and a passage was built inside the curtain wall which linked the gun platforms. 

In the 1580s, the Rye Fellowship of Fishermen was granted the right to maintain a beacon at the castle to assist the boats navigating the Rye harbour approaches. The invasion fears of Henry VIII’s reign passed without any action, as did those of Elizabeth I’s reign. By the early 17th century, the castle was in a poor state of repair. In 1613, the north and south bastions were filled with earth to make the structure cheaper to maintain. However, the changing shape of the castle, which was backing up quickly by this time, had made the castle obsolete. It was too far inland to be effective as a defensive fort.

In 1626, Charles I ordered for the castle to be destroyed. However, the order was never carried out. The guns were removed and shifted to Rye, and for a while, the crumbling castle was utilized as a source of building stone by local residents. For almost 300 years, Camber Castle was not put to any use and became a picturesque ruin. However, in 1943, it was fortified as an anti-aircraft gun base. The castle was restored after the war and incorporated into the Rye Harbour Nature Reserve, having footpaths linking it to Rye and Rye Harbour.


Camber Castle, by Barbara van Cleve, is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

Camber Castle was built as a fortress in a geometric design with rounded bastions arranged around a central tower. Although its interior is only accessible during guided tours, its dramatic exterior provides an exciting visit to visitors exploring the coastline. Today it remains almost in the same condition as it was during its completion in 1544. The castle is an unusual example of an unchanged 16th-century Device Fort and provides a fascinating look into early modern military architecture. The castle’s flower-shaped curtain walls are an intriguing feature and characteristic of the period, as star-like forts later became the military norm across Europe. Walking across the footpaths of the Rye Harbour Nature Reserve, coastline defences old and new can be explored by the visitors, along with Camber Castle and the pillboxes of World War II sitting short distances apart. 

The exteriors of the castle can be visited, but the interiors are only open by guided tour. Camber Castle opening times are available to be viewed on the English Heritage website. Camber Castle parking is a 1-mile walk from Rye through fields with livestock.

If you liked the story of Camber Castle, you should also read about Amberley Castle!

Frequently Asked Questions

How to get to Camber Castle?

Camber Castle is situated in the Rye Harbour Nature Reserve in Rye, county of Sussex, England. The nearest train station to the castle is Rye, just over 1 mile away, after which you have to take a 35-minute walk to the castle.

Who owns Camber Castle?

Today Camber Castle is owned by English Heritage and is part of the Rye Harbour Nature Reserve, managed by the Sussex Wildlife Trust.

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