No Man's Land Fort


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)
Nettlestone and Seaview
National Park:
National Grid Reference:
SZ 63960 93773

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.

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.


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 armament. 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' servants. 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.

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


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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