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No Man's Land Fort

A Scheduled Monument in Nettlestone and Seaview, Isle of Wight

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Latitude: 50.7401 / 50°44'24"N

Longitude: -1.0949 / 1°5'41"W

OS Eastings: 463960.379329

OS Northings: 93773.246254

OS Grid: SZ639937

Mapcode National: GBR BDW.D0R

Mapcode Global: FRA 87L4.388

Entry Name: No Man's Land Fort

Scheduled Date: 12 June 1967

Last Amended: 21 January 1999

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1018589

English Heritage Legacy ID: 26808

County: Isle of Wight

Civil Parish: Nettlestone and Seaview

Built-Up Area: Nettlestone

Traditional County: Hampshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Isle of Wight


The monument includes No Man's Land Fort, a circular 19th century Royal
Commission sea fort lying in the Solent 1300m north east of Nettlestone Point,
Isle of Wight. No Man's Land Fort was one of a chain of four sea forts in the
Solent recommended by the Royal Commission on the Defence of the United
Kingdom in 1860 and designed to protect Portsmouth dockyard from seaborne
attack. Construction started in July 1861 but was suspended between 1862 and
1864. The fort was completed in spring 1880. The construction of this fort is
almost identical to that of Horse Sand Fort.
No Man's Land Fort is circular in plan and includes sea bed foundation walls
of 8 ton pre-cast concrete blocks with an inner and outer casing of masonry.
At the sea bed the structure is 73m in overall diameter and the thickness of
the walls is 18m. Above this the structure tapers. The area enclosed by the
circular walls is filled with shingle capped with a slab of concrete 3m thick.
Above this lies a basement divided radially into compartments for ammunition
and stores and concentrically by three circular passages. The outermost, the
bolt passage, was to allow additional armour to be bolted on the stone and
granite clad exterior of the fort. Inside this the magazine includes 24 shell
stores and lifts opening off a circular central passage. Fourteen cartridge
stores and lobbies lead off the inner passage. In the central core steps led
down to a laundry, cookhouse, ablution room and coal store. Later the outer
ring of shell stores was blocked with concrete and the bolt passage filled
with sand to increase protection for the magazine and the central core was
altered to accommodate steam boilers and hydraulic machinery for powering the
Above the basement are two gun floors, each of which was fully armoured for
its entire circumference. The lower floor includes the landing stage and
entrance in addition to positions for 24 guns. To the rear of these and their
associated powder serving rooms and occupying the central area of the fort,
are officers quarters. The upper floor has positions for 25 guns to the rear
of which are powder serving rooms and soldiers' quarters. The central area of
the fort at this level includes quarters for a lighthouse keeper and officers'
The roof originally supported a lighthouse, ventilators and chimneys. Position
finding stations were added towards the end of the 19th century but were
removed by 1909. Emplacements were then added for three 6 inch breach loading
(BL) guns and later a fire control position, battery commander's post and a
naval signal station. The fort was later equipped with anti-aircraft
searchlights and, for brief periods, anti-aircraft guns. The roof also suports
the loading gantry. Originally it was intended that five turrets would have
been equipped with two 12 inch 35 ton rifled muzzle loader (RML) guns but
these were never fitted for financial reasons. By 1882 it was proposed to fit
12 inch 43 ton BL guns in alternate casements on the vulnerable sides of the
fort, with six pounder quick-firing guns in the spare casements. During 1886-
1887 some of the armament began to be fitted and hydraulic machinery was
installed to power operate the mountings for the 12 inch guns, together with
hydraulic lifts, operated by multiple pulleys, to raise the cartridges and
shells from the magazine. Most of the RML guns were removed by 1898, when two
6 inch BL guns on electrically operated mountings were fitted. These were not
a success and were removed to be replaced by three 6 inch MkVII BL guns on a
central pivot mounting by 1909. Subsequently the armament was reduced and the
hydraulic machinery stripped out. The fort was armed during both World Wars,
the last gun being removed in 1951.
All structures, fixtures and fittings associated with the conversion of the
fort to provide residential accommodation are excluded from the scheduling.

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.

No Man's Land Fort is a well preserved example of its class. As part of an
integrated sea based defensive line the massive structure of No Man's Land
fort provides a visual reminder of the strategic importance of the Solent in
the late 19th century.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Mitchell, G, 'Solent Papers no. 1' in Spit Bank And The Spithead Forts, (1986)

Source: Historic England

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