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Steyne Wood Battery

A Scheduled Monument in Bembridge, Isle of Wight

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Latitude: 50.6786 / 50°40'42"N

Longitude: -1.0941 / 1°5'38"W

OS Eastings: 464099.887531

OS Northings: 86936.951707

OS Grid: SZ640869

Mapcode National: GBR BFN.67L

Mapcode Global: FRA 87L8.X60

Entry Name: Steyne Wood Battery

Scheduled Date: 28 September 2015

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1427301

County: Isle of Wight

Civil Parish: Bembridge

Built-Up Area: Hillway

Traditional County: Hampshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Isle of Wight

Church of England Parish: Bembridge Holy Trinity

Church of England Diocese: Portsmouth


A late C19 High Angle battery for six 9-inch RML guns, constructed between 1889 and 1894.

Source: Historic England


A late C19 battery, constructed between 1889 and 1894.

The battery is broadly triangular on plan with its gun emplacements in an arc on a north-south axis, facing east. These are arranged in pairs and are numbered on original plans from south to north. Between each pair of guns is a Bomb Proof Shelter, also numbered from south to north. The original plans are then later annotated and they are renamed Cartridge Stores. Between Nos. 2 and 3 emplacements and also between Nos. 4 and 5 are Cartridge and Shell Stores. Behind No 4 is the Artillery Store (now - in 2015 - a cottage and therefore not included in the scheduling). In front of the guns (to the east) is a rampart and ditch. To the rear (west) is a parados, a bank of earth behind the guns to protect the soldiers from a surprise rear attack. The parade is to the west of the parados. To the rear (west) of the parade is a further rampart and ditch of Twydall profile. The entire battery was surrounded by a palisade fence which has been removed although the line of it remains clear and it is understood that some standards for the fence survive. The entrance to the battery is from the south where an access road approaches the entrance, just inside of which is the Guard House (marked on the original plans as such, also ‘Caretaker’s Quarters’ and now (2015) a cottage and therefore not included in the scheduling). To the immediate north of the Guard House is a well and to its north-east is a building known as the ‘Actylene House’ (which was a secondary function in association with the domestic use of the site and the supply of gas to the house) but which was originally the Position Finder Store.

Each gun emplacement has a concrete gun pit designed to accommodate a 9-inch RML (Riffle Muzzle Loading) High Angle Gun (removed). The emplacements survive in good condition and while the base plates have been removed the position of the gun with racer is visible in most. There are steps up onto the top of the emplacements, and some retain the rails for the trolleys which were used to move the shells to the muzzle of the gun. No. 6 emplacement is the only example which retains one of its two derricks (called ‘loading davits’ on the original plans and which were used to lift shells to the top of the emplacement): the railings here are later, mid-C20 additions. No. 4 retains its holdfast rings, while the position of these only is visible in the others. There are ready use ammunition lockers in the side walls of the emplacements, and blocked entrances to the magazines.

Between each pair of guns is a bomb proof shelter, later used as cartridge stores. These comprise small subterranean structures. Externally they take the form of concrete revetted ‘pits’ accessed by steps down from the west. West facing, solid timber, double doors provide access to the interior. To the north of each door is a wall mounted external metal ladder providing access to a fresh air intake with a wooden cover with an iron opening ring. Safety railings in front of No. 3 appear to be later additions.

Of the three examples of this type of shelter, No. 2 (between Gun Emplacements 3 and 4) was inspected in detail and internally although all are understood to survive in similar condition. This has two small rooms, the outer of which retains two original wooden benches. The original solid timber doors (with door furniture) survive and there is an internal window opening with a metal frame between the two rooms. Above its exterior door is a sign, the lettering on which is hard to discern but is presumed to have read ‘Cartridge Store’.

Between Nos. 2 and 3 Gun Emplacements and also between Nos. 4 and 5 are two subterranean Cartridge and Shell Stores. As with the Bomb Proof Shelters these two take the same form. They are broadly cross shaped in plan entered from the west where the entrances are approached by downward sloping ramps with concrete revetted sides. Solid timber panelled double doors are flanked by fresh air intakes with wooden covers as before, and above is a sign identifying the function of the structure: ‘CARTRIDGE AND SHELL STORES / FOR 9IN 12TON R.M.L. GUNS’; beneath wording originally indicated the number of the shell store but was then changed to express the numbers of the guns served. Internally in plan, from west to east, is a shelter, a shell store, and a shifting chamber, the latter to the north of a cartridge store. The 'arms' of the cross-plan consist of ramped passageways providing access to the adjacent guns, with issue hatches at the ends. All interiors are brick built and barrel vaulted.

No. 4 Cartridge and No. 2 Shell Store, the northernmost of the two examples located between No. 4 and No. 5 Gun Emplacements, was inspected internally although both examples are understood to have a similar degree of survival. Within the first room – the shelter – is a wooden rifle rack and a shell hoist. Above the arched doorway leading through to the shell store is a painted sign which reads ‘SHELL STORE / FOR 9-IN 12-TON R.M.L. GUNS. / IV. V. VI.’ In the next room – the shell store – is a wooden shelving unit marked ‘TUBES’ and underneath ‘PERCUSSION / FUZES / TIME’. The serving hatches as the ends of the underground passages linking to the adjacent guns have been blocked, but above them is further signage ‘SERVING HATCH / 9-IN 12-TON R.M.L GUNS.’ and then below is the number of the pair of guns that was served. The Shifting Lobby has a sign indicating its function, also original wooden benches and racks. There is further signage about the arched doorway to the cartridge store: ‘CARTIRDGE STORE / FOR 9IN 12TON R.M.L GUNS IV. V. VI’. The wooden double doors and architrave to this room also survive. Throughout are safety lamp recesses with non-ferrous metal surrounds (to avoid sparks), some with their glazed doors intact.
The parados originally had two tunnelled entrances through it. That to the rear of No. 5 Gun survives intact with a concrete barrel-vaulted roof and battered concrete revetments. To the south, to the rear of No. 1, the tunnel has been converted to a garage with double doors at the west end of the arch and the east end walled-in with a pedestrian door and window inserted.

The parade is now a flat lawned area. A house with swimming pool is a later addition here, and is not included in the scheduling.

These defences are of dual aspect in that there is a fire step facing east (towards the guns) and also defences facing outwards to the west (to protect the rear of the emplacement. These ramparts are very well preserved with a sharp profile. Cut into the scarp are a number of traverses, shown on the original plans as being open to the back of the earthwork. These are mounded over with earth but are visible within the ditch because of their trapezoidal, reinforced concrete, east-facing elevations.

The position of the outer defences, originally marked by an iron fence (removed but understood to retain some standards) is marked in part by a hedge line, and has a slight bank and ditch.

This is a single storey, flat-roofed building constructed of brick which has been painted. It is located to the north-east of the Guard House. Access to the interior, which was not inspected, is through a segmental-arched doorway with a pair of solid double wooden doors. To its west is a similarly arched sash window with external security bars. There is a chimney at its west end and original plans show that there was a stove here internally as well as shelving around the other walls.

The scheduled area includes the entirety of the footprint of the historic battery including its outer fence line.

The former Artillery Store (known as the 'Forge and Saddlery'), the 'Equipment Store', the Guard House, the C20 Steyne Wood Battery House with swimming pool, and the listed Experimental Boat Testing Tank Facility (including the circular wells (marked as ‘pit’ on the design drawings) extending below the ground floor in the Experimental Boat Testing Tank Facility) are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath them is included. Modifications to adapt the south parados tunnel to a garage are also not included. Also excluded from the scheduling are modern railings (such as though added to Gun Emplacement No. 6 and No. 3 Bomb Proof Shelter and garden fencing/railings) although remnants of the original palissade are included. Also excluded are lamp posts, telegraph poles, and fixed garden features, greenhouses, bridges across and steps onto the ramparts (although steps up onto the gun emplacements are included), and the tarmac access road, although the ground beneath all of these features is included.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Steyne Wood Battery, a late-C19 High Angle battery constructed between 1889 and 1894, is scheduled for the following principal reasons:

* Survival/condition: this is one of the best surviving Victorian batteries currently known including sharp profiles to its earthworks and quite extraordinary survival in its Bomb Proof Stores and Cartridge and Shell Stores including original external and internal fixtures and fittings and painted signage;

* Rarity: Steyne Wood Battery is one of only six High Angle batteries ever built in England, designed as a response to increasingly armoured enemy warships, and is one of only four survivors. It therefore represents a very rare site type nationally;

* Diversity: all of the fort's principal features survive including all six emplacements, one unusually retaining a derrick for lifting shells, its Bomb Stores, Cartridge and Shell Stores, parados, parade, Twydall profile rampart, remnants of its outer palisade (which rarely survive) and ancillary buildings including its Position Finder Store; also a rare survival;

* Period: the battery had a short but clearly-defined period of use and is representative of that period in terms of cutting-edge fortification technology; also as it was not subject to later adaption its form remains highly legible;

* Documentation: the historical documentation for the battery, particularly a fulsome set of original plans and sections allows favourable comparison between the design and execution and aids our understanding of the components and layout of a High Angle battery;

* Group value: Steyne Wood Battery forms one component in the extensive and continually developing defences of Portsmouth Harbour and the Isle of Wight and therefore possesses group value with other contemporary fortifications.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Clements, B, 'The British 9-in and 10-in RML High-Angle Gun Batteries 1884-1922' in Casemate, , Vol. 93, (January 2012), 35-37
House of Commons Parliamentary Debate (7 July 1909), accessed 2 October 2014 from
Steynewood High Angle Battery , accessed 1 September 2014 from
Committee of Imperial Defence: Miscellaneous Reports and Papers. subject: Approved Armaments 1898-19, 10. The National Archives: CAB 18/19
Portsmouth Area: Isle of Wight: Steyne Wood Battery (Original Plans). The National Archives: WO 78/5032
Portsmouth National Defences Isle of Wight. Steyne Wood Battery near Bembridge. C.D.E.B. Carey Lt. Col. R.E. (5 December 1892), (Original Plans). The National Archives: WO 78/2623
Précis of Correspondence relating to Coastal defences of Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight, 1860 – 1893, 33-34 . The National Archives: WO 33/2770
Steyne Wood Battery, Bembridge, Isle of Wight County Archaeology and Historic Environment Service Historic Environment Record Monument Report reference 2692 – MIW2677

Source: Historic England

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