Camber Castle | Rye Harbour Nature Reserve
Camber Castle

Camber Castle

Henry VIII's Camber Castle lies within the nature reserve between Rye and Winchelsea. It was originally located overlooking the shallow sea on a shingle spit which protected the approach to these towns.

Camber means a safe haven (the English fleet could safely anchor behind the castle) derived from the French 'chambre', meaning bedroom.

Following a recent survey, the English Heritage have announced that Camber Castle will remain closed to the public this summer. Unfortunately, the masonry has deteriorated substantially and we will therefore be cancelling our guided tours of the interior. We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause and will endeavour to keep you updated.

The nature reserve did manage public access to Camber Castle. There were castle open days and wildlife guided walks from Rye that included a visit inside the castle. We hope these will resume at some time.


Several footpaths lead to the castle - see our map - click here.

Camber Castle timeline

1287 - The Great Storm. Old Winchelsea, sited somewhere near the present mouth of the river Rother, is finally destroyed following severe storms over the previous 30 years. New Winchelsea created on the hill of Iham overlooking the Camber.

1486 - Sir Richard Guldeford is granted the lordship of Iham (now Winchelsea), in return for building and maintaining a tower on this site (the tower was not yet built).

1512 - Sir Edward Guldeford built the central tower, at the end of a shingle spit and only a few metres from the sea.

1538 - A treaty between France and Spain made England vulnerable to attack. Henry VIII began building a series of artillery forts along the coast (including castles at Deal and Walmer).

1539 - Work began on Camber Castle. The tower was extended upwards, and the outer bastions constructed.

1542 - The final work on remodelling the outer defences began, enlarging the bastions and heightening internal structures.

1544 - Castle is completed.

1580s - The Rye Fellowship of Fishermen were given the power to maintain a light at Camber Castle to help guide boats into the port of Rye.

1626 - By this time, the sea had receded so far that the harbour was out of range of cannons, and the castle was useless. King Charles gave permission for the castle to be demolished, but for some reason it was left.

1637 - The castle was decommissioned only 100 years after its final alterations. This was partly due to changes in fortifications, but mainly because the retreating sea had left it stranded inland.

1642 - The guns were removed from the now derelict castle and taken to Rye. The ruin was used as a quarry for a short while, the stone being taken for buildings in local villages.

1644 - The remaining timber and lead was removed by the Mayor and Jurats of Rye.

1943 - The castle was used as an anti-aircraft gun base during World War II.

There is a detailed book about the castle that is available as a free 32MB  PDF - click here.

Now managed by English Heritage, it was taken into guardianship in 1967, and initial consolidation work was carried out between 1969 and 1975. This involved structural work, particularly to the keep, hard capping the wall tops, extensive repairs to the brickwork and excavation of the infilled bastions. A further programme of consolidation, particularly to the courtyard surfaces and re-pointing of brickwork in lime mortars, was completed in 1995. This work has enabled a limited public opening of the castle, but you can visit the outside of the castle on any day - see our map for location and footpaths. For satnav, the postcode for the start of the walk to the castle is TN31 7TD.

Camber Castle in mist

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English Heritage

English Heritage

More information can be found on English Heritage website
Camber Castle booklet

Camber Castle booklet

Download a 36 page information booklet about Camber Castle

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