Sunday, 19 April 2009

Seen on my travels ... Victorian fortifications

The Victorians feared a French invasion, and built defences in and around Portsmouth and Southampton. These are often called 'Palmerston's Follies' and were finished just in time for the French and British to become allies!

The French also feared an invasion ... by the British, and built defences around their main ports. These are some of the sea forts built to defend Cherbourg.

They were also finished in time for the outbreak of Anglo-British friendship after the Crimean War, and were formally opened by Napoleon III and Queen Victoria.

This picture shows how the forts were joined together by moles, with each fort controlling access to one of the harbour entrances.


  1. Ah... my local waters... the top one is "No Mans Land Fort" and if you wanted to, is available to buy... :o)

    ...the article is old, but to the best of my knowledge KPMG have been (and still are) trying to sell it without success for at least the last two years.. maybe you could make them an offer!

    There were rumours at one time that it was going to be turned into a high status brothel for London whiz-kids... (very) wishful thinking I suspect!!

  2. Steve,

    Thanks for the information about the name of the fort. I hope to add this image and some others to the relevant section of my Colonial Wargaming website in due course.

    Personally, I would love to own something like it!

    Many years ago I ALMOST bought a Martello Tower near Eastbourne that had been converted into a house. The old gun platform - the top of the tower - had been glassed in to create a living room with a 360 degree aspect.

    My wife was very keen to purchase it, and we tried to buy it but our offer (the then asking price of £30,000) was rejected because a higher offer had been made. At the time we could not afford to increase our offer, so we 'lost' the Tower to another buyer.

    The Tower had a drawbridge and was cool in Summer and warm in Winter (so we were told). A true 'Englishman's Castle' but at a then affordable price. I hate to think how much it is worth now.


  3. Bob - no problem - being local, and my interest in military history, I've visited a few ..

    This picture site is good, and is on the home page for a local historical group interested in the forts as a whole ..

    I've actually visited Spitbank fort (that's the one directly opposite the harbour entrance) as it's sometimes hired out for social events... hugely impressive, but damp, dark and chilly even in summer down below!

    Of the one's on land, fort Widley was on top of the hill almost directly above my childhood home so we played there quite a lot - I remember that when you looked up the hill from behind there was no indication of the ramparts or defensive works - you found them as you walked up the hill - almost appearing at your feet...

    Fort Brockhurst (at Gosport) was for a long time the venue for a small wargame show put on by the Naval Wargaming Society so many happy Sundays there....

  4. Steve,

    Thanks for the link.

    I would love to visit one of the sea forts around the Portsmouth/Southampton area. I have already been to some of the land forts - Fort Nelson and Fort Purbrook (the latter for a weekend of wargames that was organised by John Curry of - but the sea forts have a special fascination all of their own.



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