Solent Forts

Spitbank Fort
Spitbank Fort

The Solent Forts form a zig-zag line in the Solent between Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight.  There are four large circular forts in total. These were built as a line of defence to protect Portsmouth from invasion by the French.

Despite their construction, the Solent Forts were never used in anger. It took 15 years before completion, and by the time they were ready, the threat of invasion had already subsided. They were to become known as the Palmerston Follies, named after the Prime Minister at the time, Lord Henry Palmerston.

The Solent Forts were built in the 1860s. Horse Sand Fort, No Man’s Land Fort and St Helens Fort were constructed first, and the fourth, Spitbank Fort, two years later in 1867.

Captain E H Stewart designed the forts.  Colonel WFD Jervois, Assistant Inspector General of Fortifications, oversaw them.

Spitbank Fort

Spitbank was smaller than the two main Solent fortresses of No Mans Land and Horse Sand. Its purpose was to defend against ships that made it past the two main forts.

On the seaward side, one floor and the basement were fitted with armour plating. From 1884 additional guns were added, which were in use until after World War 1.

In 1898 its role was adapted to defend against light aircraft attacks, and the roof was fitted with two guns and searchlights. By the early 1900s, most guns had been removed, leaving three original large guns remaining.

By 1962 the Ministry of Defence no longer needed the base, and by 1982 Spitbank Fort had been sold off. It was bought by a private venture as a function and accommodation venue.

In June 2002, the fort was used as a set for a TV show, Banged up with Beadle. In each episode, a member of the public was trapped in the dungeons of Spitbank Fort for a week with TV presenter Jeremy Beadle. They would feature on Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway programme. The contestant would have to complete a task, winning cash if they succeeded. Beadle would receive a luxury item to help with his following week’s incarceration.

The fort was also featured in an episode of the TV series Most Haunted.

By 2009 the property was on the market again and sold before auction. By 2012 it was owned by the current Horse Sand Fort and No Man’s Land Fort owners and was renovated as a luxury spa hotel and retreat with nine-bedroom suites.

Horse Sand Fort
No Man’s Land Fort
Photo © Colin Babb (cc-by-sa/2.0)

No Mans Land Fort

No Man’s Land Fort is almost identical to its sister Horse Sand Fort.

It was sold to several different owners between 2000 and 2009, and in 2012 it was purchased by the owners of Spitbank and Horse Sand Fort.

No Man’s Land Fort was featured in the 1972 Doctor Who series The Sea Devils.

It has a replica lighthouse known as the beacon.

Access to the forts is by boat, and No Man’s Land Fort also has a helipad. Access is possible in most sea conditions.

Horse Sand Fort
Horse Sand Fort
Photo © Hugh Venables (cc-by-sa/2.0)

Spitbank FortEstablished: 1878 Discontinued: Engineer: Tower Height: Light Character: Fl R 5 s Range: 7 miles Fog Signal: Elevation: 18 metres Automated:
Horse Sand FortEstablished: 1866 Discontinued: Engineer: Tower Height: Light Character: Iso G 2 s Range: Fog Signal: Elevation: 21 metres Automated:
No Man's Land FortEstablished: 1866 Discontinued: Engineer: Tower Height: Light Character: Iso R 2 s Range: Fog Signal: Elevation: 21 metres Automated: