Ancient Monuments

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Bembridge Fort

A Scheduled Monument in Bembridge, Isle of Wight

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Latitude: 50.6711 / 50°40'15"N

Longitude: -1.1181 / 1°7'5"W

OS Eastings: 462415.33189

OS Northings: 86081.582807

OS Grid: SZ624860

Mapcode National: GBR BFM.S5J

Mapcode Global: FRA 87K9.D79

Entry Name: Bembridge Fort

Scheduled Date: 17 March 1964

Last Amended: 30 November 1995

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1012717

English Heritage Legacy ID: 22038

County: Isle of Wight

Civil Parish: Bembridge

Traditional County: Hampshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Isle of Wight

Church of England Parish: Bembridge Holy Trinity

Church of England Diocese: Portsmouth


The monument includes a late 19th century hexagonal fort on the east coast of
the Isle of Wight.
It has a central courtyard or parade ground enclosed by barrack blocks. Steps
at the north west end of the courtyard lead to an upper level walkway with gun
positions and bunkers. Outside the walls of the fort are a moat and earthen
The fort's construction was recommended by the Royal Commission on Defence of
the British Isles, 1860, and it was built between 1862 and 1867. It is built
on a hill commanding the space between Brading Haven and the sea, and its
purpose was as a barrack keep to the coast batteries in Sandown Bay and to
guard against a possible enemy landing. Originally there were casemented
barracks around most of the parade ground. However, the facade of the barracks
on the south side has been destroyed in its conversion into offices; this is
also the case on the east side where a new building has been inserted and on
the north side where there are workshops. Behind the new facades, however, the
converted buildings contain original features and fabric. A passage-way runs
around the inside of the wall on the south east and similarly on the north
west side of the fort, and the barracks and magazines open off from this.
Around the perimeter of the upper level walkway are a number of bunkers in
various states of repair. These have grass-covered roofs and are faced with
brick on their inside. The bunkers on the roof at the south end of the fort
have shafts which led to the munitions stores below. On top of four of the
bunkers are anti-aircraft gun positions dating from World War II. On the
angles at the upper level are gun positions faced with brick.
The fort was armed with six 7 inch Armstrong guns, with positions prepared
for a further four on the ramparts. There are three double tiered musketry
caponiers in the ditch and there were 64 pounder rifled muzzled-loaders at
each salient. The three caponiers emerge into the ditch on the north west,
south, and east angles of the hexagon. In the 1890s the guns were removed and
the fort became purely a barrack and store. It was never rearmed.
All temporary structures and annexes are excluded from the scheduling, as are
the modern buildings inserted into the western end of the parade ground, the
eight rooms on the south and east side of the fort facing the parade ground,
all now in use as offices, the six rooms, originally barracks numbers 1-6, in
use as industrial workshops on the north and west sides of the fort, leading
off from the modern building on this side, the modern brick buildings on the
east and south sides of the upper level, and the road to the south west of the
fort. The ground beneath all of these features is included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

The Royal Commission fortifications are a group of related sites established
in response to the 1859 Royal Commission report on the defence of the United
Kingdom. This had been set up following an invasion scare caused by the
strengthening of the French Navy.
These fortifications represented the largest maritime defence programme since
the initiative of Henry VIII in 1539-40. The programme built upon the
defensive works already begun at Plymouth and elsewhere and recommended the
improvement of existing fortifications as well as the construction of new
There were eventually some 70 forts and batteries in England which were due
wholly or in part to the Royal Commission. These constitute a well defined
group with common design characteristics, armament and defensive provisions.
Whether reused or not during the 20th century, they are the most visible core
of Britain's coastal defence systems and are known colloquially as
`Palmerston's follies'. All examples are considered of national importance.

Bembridge Fort survives well and is an excellent example of its class. Despite
its conversion to light industrial units, the fabric of the fort is
essentially complete. Although a poor survival, the presence of Culver Battery
at the end of the cliff c.1.2km away, which was constructed in 1896-7 to take
a new type of gun, constitutes an interesting association.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Hogg, I V, Coast Defences of England and Wales 1856-1956, (1974), 161
Saunders, A., IAM Report on AM107, (1964)

Source: Historic England

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