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New Henry VIII exhibition at Deal Castle

By Eleanor Perkins

A new exhibition reveals how Henry VIII’s fears for the safety and security of his realm shaped the country’s defences and his own married life.

It has been installed as a permanent attraction at Deal Castle.

With new displays, audio and activities it is supported by contemporary artefacts, allowing the exhibition to concentrate on the rich and varied history of the Tudor artillery fort, alongside stories of the people who lived and worked there for more than 400 years.

The World Map as known in 1539 is a very popular new feature
The World Map as known in 1539 is a very popular new feature

At the centre of the ground floor, a large map shows 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 reveals why the castle was built and why Henry’s fourth wife would arrive at Deal on her way from Germany where she was born.

Never-before-seen objects, including the breech chamber from a late 16th century gun and a copper powder flask lid with intricate horse decoration 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.

Lydia Pepler, eight, listens to Francis 1 story
Lydia Pepler, eight, listens to Francis 1 story

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, First 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 from 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.

A new exhibition is now on show at Deal Castle
A new exhibition is now on show at Deal Castle

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

A new car park is planned for autumn/winter this year. Deal Castle is open daily until the end of October and weekends throughout the winter.

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