Bembridge Fort


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


Ordnance survey map of Bembridge Fort
© Crown Copyright and database right 2019. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
© British Crown and SeaZone Solutions Limited 2019. All rights reserved. Licence number 102006.006.
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This copy shows the entry on 18-Sep-2019 at 14:28:20.


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

Isle of Wight (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SZ 62413 86084

Reasons for Designation

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 ones. 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.


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 rampart. 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.

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


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

Legacy System number:
Legacy System:


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


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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