Walmer is one of the Three Castles of the Downs, together with Sandown and Deal, constructed by Henry VIII after his divorce from Catherine of Aragon between 1538 and 1540 as part of a huge fortification of the south coast. Sandown and Walmer have identical plans, with Deal being slightly larger and a different shape.
Sandown, the furthest north, is now all but untraceable - the very last remnant having been smothered with concrete to 'preserve' it. Deal - in the middle - has remained very much as it was in Henry's day, a squat and at times rather dank fortress.
Walmer had perhaps the happiest fate of the three. In 1708 it became the official residence of the Warden of the Cinque Ports - which it still is today (up until 2002 the Warden was the Queen Mother). Because of this it has been made more comfortable over the years and is a peculiar hybrid of fortress and stately home.
Other Warden's have included William Pitt, Sir Winston Churchill and most importantly for Walmer the Duke of Wellington who died here in 1852. The chair in which he died still has the dents in it's cushion which he left behind.
The Gardens of Walmer Castle are a joy, particularly in the Spring and Autumn. A visit to the Three Castles of the Downs (Deal and Walmer being English Heritage and open all year) is recommended to see how three almost identical buildings can have three VERY different fates!
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