Today all that remains of Sandown Castle is part of the west side of the castle including bastions and a section of the central tower. Remains of the castle have been incorporated into the sea defences.
Sandown is one of the principal coast defences constructed by Henry VIII. at the time when a foreign invasion by the Catholic powers was believed to be imminent. It was the largest of these coast forts, and was, throughout the seventeenth century, provided with a captain, or governor, and a small garrison. Placed near the town of Deal it was well removed from the sea, and people now living remember when the waves did not often approach it, bud for many years the sea has been encroaching on the shore towards Pegwell Bay, and has at last undermined a large part of the fort. The place became a source of danger to the people frequenting the shore, and in February 1894 it was partly destroyed with guncotton by the Royal Engineers, two flank casemates, and a central one facing seaward, being blown down.
There is little recorded about this fortress, and the historic interest attaching to it arises from its having served as the prison of Colonel Hutchinson, an officer of Cromwell’s army, whose fame is chiefly derived from the memoirs of him and his times by his wife ; the portion relating to Sandown is pathetic, as he died in con¬finement here. Colonel Hutchinson was a cousin of Ireton, and was appointed Governor of Nottingham Castle (q.v.) in 1643, which post he held stoutly against the forces of the King. Then he became a member of the Parliament, and was much employed by Cromwell, who, in 1649, appointed him a member of the first Council of State, but after the breaking up of this Parliament by Cromwell, Hutchinson left him, and retired into private life at his own property of Owethorpe, Notts. Here in October 1663, at the Restoration, he was arrested, brought prisoner to Newark, and thence to London, where he was placed in the Tower, a close prisoner, on the charge of conspiracy. In April 1664 Hutchinson was removed to Sandown, whither his wife accompanied him, living at Deal, as she was not allowed quarters in the fort. His widow describes it as a lamentable, ruined old place, the rooms all out of repair, not weather proof, with no kind of proper accommodation either for lodging or diet, or any conveniency of life. The chamber appointed him was a thoroughfare, and he had to glaze it ; it had five doors, one of which opened on a gun platform exposed to the bleak air of the sea, which at times washed the front of the walls, “and though these walls were four yards thick, yet it rained in through the cracks in them ; and then one might sweep a peck of saltpetre off of them every clay, which stood in a perpetual sweat upon them.”
The imprisonment is represented on the tomb at Owethorpe as “harsh and strict,” and the account of it given in the memoirs certainly bears this out. The wife was not permitted to share her husband’s captivity, but lived with her son and daughter at “the cut-throat town of Deal,” and walked every day to him to dinner, “and back again at night with horrible toil and inconvenience.” The governor too, Captain Freeman, was a rough and sour person, and they endured much extortion and uncivil treatment at his hands. Yet the colonel bore it all so cheerfully that he was never more pleasant and contented in his whole life. “When no other recreations were left him, he diverted himself with sorting and shadowing cockle shells, which his wife and daughter gathered for him.” After some time an order was with difficulty obtained giving him leave to walk by the sea, with a keeper, which made the imprisonment less irksome. In August, Mrs. Hutchinson left to go home on account of her children, and to get supplies for the colonel, who had then fallen into bad health, being seized with fever and ague, and the illness, due to the inclemency of his lodgings, increased so rapidly that he sank and died September 11, 1664, aged forty-eight only, the doctors making affidavit “that the place had killed him.”
The attachment of Colonel Hutchinson to his wife has a somewhat romantic story. “This lady, the authoress of the famous memoirs, was Lucy Apsley, daughter of Sir Allan Apsley, who for fourteen years was lieutenant of the Tower of London (died in I630), by his second wife Lucy, daughter of Sir John St. John of Lidyard. Hutchinson fell deeply in love with this beautiful maiden, before ever seeing her, from the account of her given him by one of her young sisters, and became engaged to her. But Lucy was seized with the small-pox, “which made her the most deformed person that could be seen for a great while after she recovered.” However, Hutchinson “was nothing troubled at it, but married her as soon as she was able to quit the chamber, when all who saw her were affrighted to look upon her; but Heaven recompensed his justice and constancy by restoring her as well as before.”
The trace of Sandown is very similar to that of its neighbours, the forts of Deal and Wapner : a low central circular tower, surrounded by from four to six semicircular turrets, or casemates, with a gun platform. Outside these is the ditch, with a masonry counterscarp, concentric with the bastions. Since the destruction of the bastions undermined by the sea, in 1864, the Corporation of Deal have acquired from the War Office what was left, for the sum of £35, for the purposes of sea defence.(Castles Of England, Sir James D. Mackenzie, 1896)