Ancient Monuments

History on the Ground

This site is entirely user-supported. See how you can help.

Fort Cumberland

A Scheduled Monument in Eastney and Craneswater, Portsmouth

We don't have any photos of this monument yet. Why don't you be the first to send us one?

Upload Photo »

Approximate Location Map
Large Map »

If Google Street View is available, the image is from the best available vantage point looking, if possible, towards the location of the monument. Where it is not available, the satellite view is shown instead.


Latitude: 50.7888 / 50°47'19"N

Longitude: -1.0336 / 1°2'0"W

OS Eastings: 468218.975858

OS Northings: 99250.257276

OS Grid: SZ682992

Mapcode National: GBR BDC.HHS

Mapcode Global: FRA 87Q0.94V

Entry Name: Fort Cumberland

Scheduled Date: 16 March 1964

Last Amended: 29 October 1999

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1015700

English Heritage Legacy ID: 26723

County: Portsmouth

Electoral Ward/Division: Eastney and Craneswater

Built-Up Area: Portsmouth

Traditional County: Hampshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Hampshire

Church of England Parish: Milton St James

Church of England Diocese: Portsmouth


The monument includes Fort Cumberland, a large late 18th century angled
bastioned fort lying on Portsea Island, a narrow spit of land on the west side
of the channel leading into Langstone Harbour.
The fort, which lies on the site of an earlier example dating from the mid-
18th century, is a regular star shape with five bastions and a ravelin on its
western side. The interior contains a number of free-standing buildings,
including officers' quarters, a hospital, stores and workshops, the majority
dating from the use of the fort in the 19th and 20th centuries. The defences
supported the main armament of the fort. Stone-faced with a brick parapet, the
earthworks cover casemates, located mainly on the western side of the fort,
which initially provided the majority of its accommodation. Four of the five
lengths of curtain have central gates and the fifth, the Land Curtain, is now
pierced by a modern vehicle entrance. The flanks of the five bastions have
embrasures to provide enfilading fire along the curtains. Beyond the ramparts
on all but the western (landward) side is a dry ditch, the outer face of which
is brick-lined, rising up to a covered way which incorporates places of arms
and traverses. The entrance in the left (seaward) curtain is approached by a
road which crosses a place of arms and the ditch. The defences for this
entrance were later strengthened by the construction of Pivot Battery housing
a 10 inch RML gun. On the western side of the fort is a ravelin designed to
cover approaches from the landward side. Beyond both ditch and ravelin is a
glacis which survives only partly, having been damaged by the construction of
water treatment works on the east side of the fort. On the southern, seaward
side within the area of Fraser Battery the glacis has, in places, been
disturbed by later military building although parts of it will survive as a
buried feature beneath levelling-up deposits. To the south of the ravelin a
high angle fire battery was inserted into the glacis in the 1890s,
necessitating the construction of an access tunnel from the ditch. To the west
and north west of the ravelin the profile of the glacis has been restored
after episodes of minor disturbance.
The first fort on the site, named after the Duke of Cumberland, was
constructed around 1747 in the form of an irregular pentagon with two
principal bastions, facing south and east. Little of this first fort remains
although the guardhouse and storeroom survive, the latter with 19th century
The second fort, which remains largely intact, was built between 1785 and 1812
on the same site but to a different and larger plan. During the 1860s
additional accommodation was added and in the 1890s the fort was modernised to
take new breech loading guns on the left, south and centre bastions. The
armament of the fort was again modified during the First and Second World
A number of features within the area are excluded from the scheduling; these
are all modern fence posts, security and custodial fittings and facilities,
lighting, the surfaces of all paths, roads and areas of hard standing,
military buildings within Fraser Battery and all free-standing buildings
within the interior of the fort; the ground beneath all these features, is
however, included.
The monument is in the care of the Secretary of State and is Listed Grade II*.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

The strategic position of Portsmouth, vital for the defence of the Channel
coast and supporting a major naval dockyard, has led to the development of
extensive and complex systems of fortification. Many owed their design and
construction to periods of political unrest within Europe, or to specific
threats of invasion, both real and imagined. Their development can be seen as
a response to the sometimes rapidly changing nature of warfare and, in
consequence, many were obsolete by the time that they were completed.
Portsmouth is one of four locations in England where there has been continuity
of fortification over at least five centuries. Of these, Portsmouth has the
most widespread defensive network and shares, with Plymouth, the greatest
concentration of 18th and 19th century forts and batteries.
Portsmouth's defences began around the harbour, the large expanse of shallow,
sheltered water spreading out behind the coastline and below Portsdown Hill.
From here a defensive network which eventually included both land and sea
forts, batteries, bastions and defensive lines spread to eventually include
the Solent from the Needles Passage to Spithead and, on land, Portsdown Hill.
Within this network, individual fortifications such as Fort Cumberland, the
last self-contained, fully bastioned fortress to be built in England, are of
considerable importance. Little altered from its original condition, Fort
Cumberland is one of the most impressive pieces of 18th century defensive
architecture remaining in England.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Saunders, A D, Fortress Britain, (1989)

Source: Historic England

Other nearby scheduled monuments is an independent online resource and is not associated with any government department. All government data published here is used under licence. Please do not contact for any queries related to any individual ancient or schedued monument, planning permission related to scheduled monuments or the scheduling process itself. is a Good Stuff website.