Bouldnor Battery


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:


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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Isle of Wight (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SZ 37888 90187, SZ 37934 90064

Reasons for Designation

The use of fixed artillery to protect the coast from hostile ships is one of the oldest practices in the history of England's defences. From the 15th century until the second half of the 20th century, coastal artillery provided home security as well as protecting communications and trade networks across Britain's empire. During this time batteries of fixed guns formed the first line of defence for the navy's anchorages and the larger commercial ports. Apart from a brief period early in World War II, when improvised batteries formed a continuous cordon around the coast, England's modern stock of coast artillery sites was dominated by positions originating before 1900. Coast artillery was finally stood down in 1956. Four classes of 20th century coastal batteries can be identified: anti-motor torpedo boat batteries; defended ports, within which were counter-bombardment, close defence and quick-firing batteries; emergency batteries of World War II; and temporary and mobile artillery. Unlike other classes of World War II monuments, these coastal batteries display considerable variation according to and the use of earlier fortifications; the types of gun housed on these sites; and their precise function. Primary sources examined as part of a national study of 20th century fortifications indicate that in the period 1900-56, 286 locations in England were occupied by 301 separate batteries, of which there is now no trace of at least 115. Close defence batteries of the period 1900 to 1956 typically required a good field of view over the water by day and night and therefore high sites, well forward of the defended area, were preferred. The sites generally included three emplacements for 6 inch guns, a gun store, magazine and battery observation post. All examples where enough survives to illustrate the site's original form and function will be considered of national importance.

The Solent, with its proximity to Europe, its natural berthing facilities and the naval base at Portsmouth, has had an important military strategic role since at least the 16th century, with the result that a large and diverse group of features has developed specifically for the purpose of coastal defence. Bouldnor Battery forms an integral part of this group and is one of eleven contemporary fortifications associated with the defence of the Needles Passage. The construction of this battery with only two emplacements represents an unusual arrangement.


The monument includes the emplacements, shell stores and troop shelter of a 20th century close defence coastal battery, and a pillbox, associated with the defence of Portsmouth and situated on the north west coast of the Isle of Wight. It lies on a north west facing slope overlooking the western entrance to the Solent. This battery, for two 6 inch Mark VII breech loading guns, was built in 1938 to cover a new examination anchorage east of Yarmouth. The scheduling falls into two separate areas of protection: one containing the emplacements and associated structures; the other the defensive pillbox. The battery has two emplacements separated by a buried troop shelter, and two buried magazines, one to the west of the western emplacement, and one to the east of the eastern emplacement. These buried components are no longer accessible, but do survive below ground and are represented on the surface by an earthwork up to 0.5m high. The underground magazines are connected to the emplacements by ammunition lifts which are located in the flanks of each of the emplacements. In the western emplacement is a painted diagram of battleships, for target practice recognition. During 1940 a concrete air defence cover was placed over each of the emplacements. The emplacements and associated structures form part of what is a much larger battery, the plan form of which can still be traced through the road layout, which extends for about 1km down to the main road, and by the presence of some other buildings or their footings and foundations. The battery observation post, west of the western magazine, has been demolished and replaced with a modern structure. Also, two searchlight positions, forward of the emplacements, are no longer visible, along with the huts representing garrison accommodation and built on the site in the winter of 1939-40. One further building that does survive is the defensive pillbox, of hexagonal plan, that guards the site's entrance 100m south of the emplacements. This pillbox is included in the scheduling. The battery was built on blue slipper clay and soon after their construction the searchlight positions began to slide into the sea. As a result the battery ceased to operate in December 1942, although a 40mm Bofors anti-aircraft gun was added in January 1944. Although the guns and searchlights were finally removed in 1947, the battery was reactivated in September 1951 when two 6 inch guns from Cliffe End were installed. On the disbandment of coast artillery, all equipment was removed in January 1957.

MAP EXTRACT 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.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
Cantwell, A, Sprack, P, Solent Papers Number Two The Needles Defences 1525-1956, (1986), 33-34


This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

End of official listing

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