King Henry VIII: Securing the realm with wives and castles

English Heritage announces today the opening of a new permanent exhibition at Deal Castle in Kent, revealing how Henry VIII’s fears for the safety and security of his realm shaped the country’s defences and his own married life. With new displays, audio and activities, supported by contemporary artefacts, the exhibition concentrates on the rich and varied history of this Tudor artillery fort, alongside stories of the people who lived and worked there for over four hundred years.

At the centre of the ground floor, a large map inspired by those of the Tudor era gives our take on Europe in the mid-16th century. Surrounded by throne-like seats, visitors can sit and hear the thoughts of Henry, his adversaries, and Anne of Cleves, giving their own views on England’s peril in the year 1539. It further reveals why the castle was built and why Henry’s fourth wife would arrive at Deal on her way from the German lands of her birth.

Never-before-seen objects, including the breech chamber from a late 16thcentury gun and a copper powder flask lid with intricate horse decoration dating from the 17th century, highlight the castle’s purpose as an artillery fort with an active garrison. The imagined conversations of soldiers during the Civil War siege of the castle in 1648 can be overheard deep in the castle’s atmospheric tunnel, the Rounds, where children can don a pair of wellies, grab a wooden musket and find the voices of the past.

Deal Castle Henry

Upstairs, the newly-opened Captain’s apartments present some of the characters honoured with the title over the years. One of those was General Sir John French, 1st Earl of Ypres, who commanded the British Expeditionary Force in 1914-15 and established a chapel inside Deal Castle during his time as Captain of the Castle 1923-25. Research on the chapel’s stained glass window has revealed it to have been created not for Deal Castle but for French’s Irish residence in 1920. The window has been entirely restored and the chapel refurbished.

From at least 1724 to 1940 the castle’s layers of history are beautifully illustrated by the wide range of historic graffiti on the castle roof which is now showcased in a Grafitti lounge where children can design their own motifs while parents relax on the comfy sofa covered in bespoke graffiti print fabric.

The Castle has undergone conservation and redecoration and a new car park is planned for Autumn/Winter 2017. Deal Castle is open daily until the end of October and weekends throughout the Winter. The permanent exhibition is open from Wednesday 2nd August and to celebrate the opening day, Henrys and Annes go free along with up to 5 guests.