The ruins of an unusually unaltered artillery fort, built by Henry VIII to guard the port of Rye. There are monthly guided walks round Rye Harbour Nature Reserve, including the castle.
Camber Castle (or Winchelsea Castle) stands in the marshes, on a peninsula two miles N.E. of the town of Winchelsea, and about half a mile from the sea. It was erected by Henry VIII., in 1539-40, perhaps on the site of an earlier work, being one of the coast forts or block-houses, built for the protection of the southern coasts at a time when a combined attack upon England by some of the Continental Powers seemed imminent. Hall, in his Chronicle, thus alludes to these forts : “The Kynges hyghnes, whiche never ceased to stody and take payne for the advancement of the common wealth of this his realme of England, and also for the defence of al the same, was lately confourmed that the Bishop of Rome had moved and stirred dyverse great princes and potentates of Christendome to invade the reahme of England and utterly to destroy the whole nation of the same; wherefore his Majestic in his owne persone, without any deley, toke very laborious and paynefull journeyes towards the sea-coaste ; also he sent dyverse of his nobles and counsaylours to view and search all the portes and daungers on the coastes, where any week or convenient landyng place might be supposed.”
Henry obtained, with much difficulty, a grant towards the cost of building block-houses, it being objected that this was a time of profound peace ; but it was urged that the keeping of his subjects in peace cost more than the most burdensome war.
The forts in question cost £23,000, or over a quarter of a million of our money. Like others erected at the same epoch, Camber Castle consists of one large, low, round tower in the centre, which served as a keep, and was surrounded by several smaller ones of the same figure set round it, each connected by short curtain walls—a poor form of military architecture, almost incapable of defence.
It is curious to remark, from a drawing in an old MS. in the British Museum representing the ancient castle which once stood at Buckenham, that the form of this is very much the same as Camber, Buckenham Castle having; been built about the year 1156. The trade of the once flourishing town of Winchelsea having been totally lost by the retreat of the sea from its harbour, whilst the growing strength of the navy protected the coasts from a hostile landing, the value of this castle ceased, and it was suffered to fall into decay and ruin. (Castles Of England, Sir James D. Mackenzie, 1896)