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Fortifications of the Isle of Wight - East Wight Fortifications

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Fortifications of the Isle of Wight

West Wight Fortifications
Freshwater Redoubt | The Needles Old Battery | New Needles Battery | Hatherwood Battery | Warden Point Battery
Fort Albert | Cliff End Battery | Fort Victoria | Golden Hill Fort | Bouldnor Battery
East Wight Fortifications
Puckpool Battery | Nodes Point Battery | Steynewood Battery | Culver Battery | Bembridge Fort
Redcliff Battery | Yaverland Battery | Sandown Granite Fort | Sandown Barrack Battery
Solent Sea Forts
St Helen's Fort | No Man's Land Fort | Horse Sand Fort | Spitbank Fort

Unlike the coastal defences of the West Wight, of which all but one defended the Freshwater Peninsula, the Victorian coastal forts of the East Wight were in two distinct groups, with three very different tasks. These were:

  1. The protection and support of the Spithead sea forts. This was covered by Puckpool Battery and later Steynewood and Nodes Point batteries.
  2. The defence of the anchorage of St Helens.
  3. The defence of Sandown Bay, the part of the Isle of Wight most vulnerable to invasion.

The Protection Of Spithead

The eastern part of the Solent known as Spithead, just outside Portsmouth Harbour, has been home to the Royal Navy since Portsmouth established itself as Britain's principal naval dockyard in Tudor times with the construction of the world's first drydock in 14971. As such, Spithead would be a principal target for any force invading or attacking Britain, and so the defence of Portsmouth and Spithead was the priority of the Royal Commission on the Defences of the United Kingdom when it published its report in 1860.

The Anchorage Of St Helens

A smaller consideration was the defence of the anchorage of St Helens. The waters known as St Helen's2 Roads3 were used extensively by the Royal Navy, who anchored off shore from Henry VIII's time. Water from St Helens was believed to be exceptionally pure and stay fresh, even on long voyages. St Helen's Roads leads to the harbour of Bembridge and, in mediaeval times, Brading. The French landed a considerable invasion force here in 1545.

At some point between 1538 and 1545 when Henry VIII, fearing a French attack, constructed castles on the Island, an earthwork, known as St Helen's Bulwark, was built at what would later be Nodes Point to defend the eastern Yar4. St Helens Bulwark was unable to repel the large French attack on 21st July, 1545 and was captured.

The Importance Of Sandown Bay

The south coast of the Isle of Wight from the Needles to Dunnose Point, Ventnor, consists almost entirely of steep chalk, clay and sandstone cliffs, with little beach below for an invading force to land on. The only vulnerable parts of the Island to attack were the mouths of the rivers on the north of the Island's coast – the western river Yar, the river Medina at Cowes, and the eastern Yar – and Sandown Bay on the south-east coast of the Island. At Sandown Bay5, five miles of firm, sandy beach lay before a 2,000 yard gap in the protective cliffs between the headlands of Culver Cliff to the north and Dunnose Point to the south.

Instead of the cliffs found at the rest of the Island, the only obstacle between Sandown and nearby Yaverland was a gentle slope. Furthermore, 600 yards of this bay could be landed on safely no matter what the tide, and the bay itself was shelted from the prevailing south-west winds. Although shoals meant that large vessels would be unable to approach the bay closer than a mile, Sandown Bay was viewed as a stepping stone for invasion for forces landed in small rowing boats and barges.

In recognition of this, in 1537 work began on planning and constructing a small castle to defend Sandown Bay, positioned in the middle of the most vulnerable part of the bay, halfway between Sandown and Yaverland.

Sandown Castle

Sandown Castle6 was built as one of Henry VIII's Device Forts to defend and fortify England.

Work on constructing Sandown Castle was started in 1544. It was still being built during the French invasion on 1545, when the Mary Rose sank. The castle was thus needed most when it was still under construction, and French invaders reportedly fought defenders over the foundations of the castle. The cost of construction was approximately £3,000. It was designed as a rough square, with a semi-circular gun battery bastion on its south-east side, facing the sea. The north and west corners of the castle, the ones facing inland either side of the drawbridge over the 40 foot wide wet moat, the castle's only entrance, were further fortified. The west corner was defended by a square tower, whilst the north corner was defended by an arrow-head bastion two storeys tall, the first angle bastion built in Britain. There was also a square keep in the castle's centre, near the gatehouse.

By the time the castle was finished in 1547 it mounted 11 guns and had a garrison of a captain and 23 men. By 1587, the time of the threat of the Spanish Armada, the guns were considered unserviceable. Also, the castle was built too near the sea; by the late 1580s it was unusable, and was abandoned. It has since been eroded by the sea, and the remains of it can sometimes be seen as a pile of rocks on low tide, opposite Fort Street, a road named after it. A second castle was later built further inshore (see below).

The 1545 Invasion

The first attempt to seriously defend the Isle of Wight from invasion was towards the end of the reign of King Henry VIII, when four castles and two minor forts were constructed on the Island. These were:

  • Yarmouth Castle – Built to defend the entry to the western river Yar.
  • Cowes Castle and East Cowes Castle – these castles defended the mouth of the river Medina, one on either side.
  • Sandown Castle – supported by Sharpenose Blockhouse and St Helen's Bulwark.

These were constructed in the 1530s-40s at the principle landing points on the Island, as Henry feared an invasion attempt by France at the time. This fear was well-justified – as hinted at above, a full French invasion of the Island took place in 1545.

In 1545 England was ruled by the now ageing King Henry VIII (1509-1547). When Henry left the Catholic church in 15387, there was a very real and imminent threat of invasion. His decision had resulted in the Pope demanding that King Francis I of France and Emperor Charles V of Spain, the nephew of Catherine of Aragon, invade and remove Henry from power. In preparation to meet this threat, in the 1540s an extensive campaign to fortify England was begun. The dissolved monasteries were demolished, and their stones reused to construct a series of castles across the coast of England. Henry VIII's castle-building strategy was to defend all harbours, and to deny the enemy any harbour or anchorage that could be used to establish a base for a more serious assault.

In 1544 Henry VIII, allied with Emperor Charles V of Spain, declared war on France. His 40,000 men quickly captured Boulogne, yet Francis I negotiated a truce with Charles V and swore revenge. On 3 January, 1545, King Francis I announced his intention to invade England, 'to liberate the English from the Protestant tyranny that Henry VIII had imposed on them'. His ultimate aim was to capture Portsmouth, Henry's naval base, taking advantage of the absent English army that was spread across France, Scotland8 and Ireland. Henry called all available remaining resources to the defence of Portsmouth. In June, Henry launched a pre-emptive strike at the French fleet assembling in Le Harvre before it set sail. The English fleet was chased out of the mouth of the Seine without inflicting any damage on the French fleet, and thus failed to delay the invasion. By July Francis I had gathered a large fleet of 150 battleships, 60 decked pinnaces, and 25 galleys - 235 ships in total - under the command of Admiral Claude d'Annebault, as well as 30,000 troops poised to attack Portsmouth and Henry's Navy Royal.

The English fleet gathered in Portsmouth, with 40 large warships, and about 100 requisitioned merchantmen. On 15 July, Henry and his Privy Council moved to Portsmouth to await the invading army. Henry had only some small part-time local militias (the Isle of Wight militia, for example, contained barely 2,000 men) and a few mercenaries to fight France's 30,000 men, of which over 10,000 were professional soldiers.

The French fleet also had its share of problems. On 6 July d'Annebault held a state dinner aboard his flagship, the 800-ton Carraquon. During the meal, the cook accidentally set fire to the vessel – the stores of gunpowder caught fire and promptly exploded. D'Annebault was one of the few survivors. He transferred his flag to another ship, La Maitresse, which ran aground when leaving Le Havre. Despite this, d'Annebault continued in the damaged ship, which later sank outside Bembridge.

By 18 July the French fleet was seen and dropped anchor off St Helens. With Henry watching its arrival from Southsea Castle, they began their attack. The 25 galleys, each with a single massive cannon in the bow (which was aimed by turning the ship to face the enemy), moved in on the English fleet, which was secure in Portsmouth Harbour. In reply, Great Harry and Mary Rose led the fleet to attack the galleys, whose main target was Great Harry. The French did little harm, and were soon chased off by English rowbarges. The English fleet was badly outnumbered and could not hope to win the battle and sheltered in the superbly defended Portsmouth Harbour. The French fleet could not approach Portsmouth harbour, and sought to lure the English ships into the Spithead, where they could be easily attacked and destroyed.

The French response was to invade the Island. They would burn buildings and crops and slaughter the inhabitants in front of Henry, hoping to provoke him into ordering a fatal mistake. The Island's population was approximately 9,000, and the over-confident French felt that the Island would be easily captured. However, used to frequent raids and invasions since the Hundred Years War, the Islanders were prepared for the worst and all the men underwent regular, compulsory military training and some women even fought as archers. It was known that should anyone flee the Island, all their property would be seized.

Richard Worsley was the Captain of the Island and commanded a force of almost 6,000 Island, Hampshire and Wiltshire militia. Although poorly armed they had the advantage in knowing the land as well as a fanatical desire to protect their home. While 250 men continued to work on completing the incomplete castle at Sandown, Worsley positioned half his men below the summits of Brading Down on the Island's east and Boniface Down on the Island's south.

On 19 July the English fleet left Portsmouth harbour to attack the enemy, resulting in the loss of the Mary Rose. Meanwhile D'Annebault launched three attacks on the Island, at St Helens, Bonchurch, and Sandown. Pietro Strozzi, an experienced Italian mercenary, led the attack on St Helens, quickly capturing the small fort there and killing the defenders. This fort's cannon had been bombarding the French fleet. The remaining English forces in the area were forced to retreat while the French killed, raped, pillaged and burnt the villages of Bembridge, Seaview, St Helens and Nettlestone. The waters of St Helens were also used to replenish French supplies.

Le Seigneur de Tais, Colonel General of the Infantry of France led a larger force to land at Bonchurch. Dunnose Point offered a safe anchorage and there were good fresh water sources at nearby Shanklin Chine for the thirsty army and fleet. The French landing was unopposed and the French advanced inland, up the steep thickly-wooded slopes of the Undercliff. Meanwhile the defenders had adopted a strong defensive position. Although they drove back the first French attack, de Tais rallied his men and attacked again. After a vicious fight, the outnumbered English line broke and the militia fled the battle. The English commander, Captain Robert Fischer9, was too overweight to run and is reported to have cried out offering £100 for anyone who could bring him a horse. Sir John Oglander, Deputy-Lieutenant of the Isle of Wight from 1596, wrote in his memoirs that 'none could be had even for a kingdom'. Captain Fischer is believed to have died, although his body was never recovered. He may have found a degree of immortality in his last words from the 1545 Battle of Bonchurch – they are believed to have inspired William Shakespeare's 1591 account of the Battle of Bosworth in his play Richard III, where Richard's last words are 'A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!'.

The third French attack was aimed at the incomplete Sandown Castle and was led by Captains Marsay and Pierrebon. The French planned to capture the castle and then move swiftly across the flat coutryside and divide and isolate the English forces, allowing them to attack and destroy the defenders at will. Worsley, recognising the danger, advanced his forces rapidly to the beach before the French had the chance to assemble. Soon thousands of men were fighting them on the beaches, and on the cliffs around the incomplete building-site of the castle while a hail of arrows fell on the French. Both Marsay and Pierrebon were wounded and returned to their ships. Left leaderless, the French retreated back to their boats and the safety of the sea.

While this attack had taken place, a group of reckless Frenchmen desperate to escape the confinement of their ship disobeyed orders and landed at Whitecliff Bay, a small bay to the north of Sandown Bay over Culver Cliff. After the attack at Sandown, Worsley moved his forces up the slope of Culver Down to meet this new, disorganised threat. The French retreated back to the ruins of Bembridge, where they held off the English at a defensive earthwork constructed at Centurion's Copse. The Islanders withdrew back to the west bank of the eastern Yar and cut the only bridge to Bembridge at Yarbridge, as the French occupied the whole of the tidal island of Bembridge.

The French remained in Bembridge several days, but the battle was a stalemate. The Island had received additional forces and the French had been forced to retreat from Bonchurch. D'Annebault seriously considered the occupation of the Island and planned to construct two forts on the Bembridge isle. He wrote:

'having it [the Isle of Wight] under our control, we could then dominate Portsmouth... and so put the enemy to extraordinary expense in maintaining a standing army and navy to contain us.'

The Isle of Wight could, at the least, be traded back for Boulogne. The idea was abandoned when it was realised that the French had no engineers or supplies available necessary to build these fortifications, with a force of 6,000 men needed to hold the Island and build the necessary defences. Sir John Oglander wrote 'This was the last assault our Island had.'

The French invasion had failed. Even the sight of much of the Island ablaze did not enrage Henry enough to attack the superior French force, and the French fleet withdrew on 28 July. The frustrated French armada left the Isle of Wight, and for no apparent reason sailed to attack Shoreham in Sussex, where it was later defeated. Peace was made with France in 1546.

The lasting legacy from the battle, the Mary Rose, was raised from the Solent seabed in 1982 and is on display at Portsmouth Dockyard, alongside HMS Victory and HMS Warrior. The famous Cowdray print showing the sinking of the Mary Rose also shows the fires and battle on the Isle of Wight, as well as Sandown Castle.

Doctor Who

Sandown Castle was mentioned in the Doctor Who And The Sea-Devils classic novelisation by Malcolm Hulke. The television episode was filmed in Portsmouth and on the Isle of Wight, including at Redcliff in Sandown Bay. This seems to have influenced the writing of the novelisation, where Sandown Castle appears in Chapter 2 'Visitors For The Master'.

'The Doctor stopped... 'It means,' said the Doctor patiently, that this is a bit of shoreline that is receding before the waves... Did you know that Henry VIII used to stand on the ramparts of Sandown Castle and, as he wrote, "Look out across the fields to the sea beyond"?'
'No,' said Jo apologetically, 'I hadn't heard that. I suppose you knew Henry VIII personally when you travelled back through Time?'
'As a matter of fact,' said the Doctor, 'no. I've never met him. But the significance of all that is that not only have those fields disappeared beneath the sea, but Sandown Castle has as well.'

Sir John Oglander

Sir John Oglander, Sheriff of Hampshire, Deputy-Governor of Portsmouth, and Deputy-Lieutenant of the Isle of Wight 1596-1648, fiercely campaigned throughout the 1620s for Sandown Castle and the defences of the Isle of Wight as a whole, to be strengthened. In his memoirs he wrote in 1627:

'The sea have infinitely eaten upon our Island, witness Sandam Castle. ...On our complaint unto him [King Charles I] he promised we should have Sandham Castle repaired (which I showed afar of unto him, together with ye consequences thereof), a fort at St. Helens [and] munitions for our country.'

Despite this promise, nothing happened, and so as Sir John Oglander wrote two years later:

'In January, 1629, the gentlemen of our Island concluded to go to London, to petition his Majesty for moneys to have our castles and forts some amended, others where most need required, new erected... We delivered our petition to his Majesty which was well approved of in all things savinge in our needless fears of ye French ...our castles and forts wear either all demoliched or else so unserviceable as not able to defend us, but rather to invite an enemy; and of what consequence the loss of that Island may be to ye whole kingdome... We showed them our desires to have 2 block-houses built at Sandham, 2 at St Helens... they approved it, and demanded the estimate of ye charge, which wee told them would come to... for blockhouses at Sandham £1,000, with a running trench to go between them; £1,000 for 2 like blockhouses to be erected at St. Helens.
My Lord Treasurer told me that on his honour we should have monies very shortly... and a good Engineer to be sent down according to our desire... and that we should have some ships to attend about our Island until we were fortified.

Second Sandown Castle

Unusually approval to rebuild Sandown Castle was not only given, but also actually carried out. In 1631 the old castle was demolished and in 1632 work on constructing a new castle began further inland. The castle was built as a four-point star shaped castle rather than the two block-houses requested by Sir John Oglander, designed by the Chief Engineer of Royal Fortifications Thomas Rudd. This castle, also known as Sandown Fort, was finished in 1636 and was armed with 30 guns as well as weapons for 300 men. Sandown Castle was now the official residence of the Governor of the Island, such as Sir Robert Holmes.

The castle was in essence a square, with an angle-bastion at each corner giving it its star profile. In the central square yard were the brick barracks, storehouse and captain's house buildings on three of the four sides, with the open side facing the gatehouse. On top of the bastions facing the sea were gun platforms. The castle was surrounded by a wet moat that was filled from a feeder ditch and could only approached by a lane that is now the road known as 'Fort Street', leading to a drawbridge. The castle was built of stone, with ramparts on top of the walls and re-enforced by turf bricks to absorb shot. The castle was described in the 19th Century as:

'A regular square flanked by four bastions, and encompassed by a wet ditch... On crossing the shallow moats of the fort by the narrow wooden bridge and entering the gateway you enter upon the small square, or parade of the fort, thirty-five paces square, three sides of the square formed by the officers' and the men's quarters and the fourth by the entry gateway. The central building opposite the gateway is the original keep of the fort, now used for officers' quarters. The buildings on each side are of a more modern erection.'

John Hassell's 1790 publication Tour of the Isle of Wight, describes the castle with the words:

'Our next destination was to Sandown fort. This fort commands the bay from which it takes its name. It is a low square building, flanked by four bastions, and encompassed by a ditch. The lowness of it secures it against any attacks by sea, as the shots from the ships pass over it. ...There are several master-gunners, with a small garrison in it; so that this part of the coast is defended by it, during a war, from the attacks of an enemy.'

During the Civil War, the castle's garrison declared for Parliament but played no role in the conflict. Throughout the 18th Century the castle was the main defence of the Eastern Wight. It is known to have been armed with twenty 9-pounder smooth bores in 1725. However by 1779, the year that the castle was threatened by a major international invasion threat, the Board of Ordnance survey revealed that the castle needed urgent repairs. The main fault was that its magazine was vulnerable to enemy fire and was not bombproof.

The 1779 French-Spanish Alliance Invasion Threat

In 1779, during the time of the American War of Independence, France again planned to take advantage of the fact that Britain's Royal Navy was dispersed between America and the West Indies by mounting a full-scale invasion of Britain with the aid of Spain. 40,000 French troops and their 400 transport ships assembled at Le Havre and St Malo. The plan was that, in May, the French fleet under the Comte d'Orvilliers would rendezvous with the Spanish fleet under Don Luis de Cordoba, sail into the English Channel, destroy the British Home Fleet, escort the transports across the Channel, capture the Isle of Wight to secure as a base of operations from which to attack and destroy Portsmouth, and then march on to London. Spain hoped at the very least to be able to trade the captured Isle of Wight for Gibraltar, the peninsula off the coast of Spain captured by Britain in 1704.

Although the plan had been set for May, d'Orvilliers was unable to sail until June, as his ships were under-manned and under-provisioned. The French did not have enough men for such a fleet, so in order to increase the number of officers many men were promoted regardless of suitability, and many of the seamen had been found in prisons. It was later said that there were ships in which none of the crew or officers knew even how to take a bearing.

An American fleet commanded by John Paul Jones had agreed to try to divert the Royal Navy to help the plan succeed. The British Home fleet was in a state of chaos, with politics rather than able commanders in control. In command of the Home Fleet was Sir Charles Hardy, the elderly, sick Governor of Greenwich Hospital. However, despite being small and poorly led, the British fleet contained the mightiest ships of the day. As well as the 100-gun vessels HMS Royal George, HMS Britannia, HMS Victory10 and the 90-gun HMS Prince George, the fleet had exceptionally well-trained crews. With 30 ships of the line and eight frigates, Sir Charles Hardy left harbour on 16 June.

D'Orvilliers sailed to Corunna to rendezvous with the Spanish fleet. The Spanish officers, however, had not been informed of the top-secret plan, and took six weeks to organise and rendezvous. The Spanish also refused to follow French orders, and tried to dissuade the French from invading the Isle of Wight, insisting that the fleet should attack Gibraltar instead. The fleet finally set sail, completely outnumbering the British Home Fleet.

In August 1779 the Armada finally entered the English Channel. The three-month delay had meant that the crews of the French fleet, which had set sail in June, had consumed most of their food and water. Smallpox and scurvy were rife throughout the fleet, and even d'Orvillier's son died. So many French sailors were sick that there were often too few men to adequately sail the ships, let alone man the guns in the event of a battle.

The Armada reached Plymouth only to be blown back into the Atlantic. The French then abandoned their plan of capturing the Isle of Wight, settling on taking Plymouth and occupying Cornwall. The French Armada again reached Plymouth, only to be blown back into the Atlantic once more. Hardy decided to play for time, allowing disease and lack of food to take their toll on the enemy. Hardy avoided engaging the enemy, though monitoring its position and then decided to draw the enemy fleet away from its base at Brest by returning to the Spithead. This tactic was successful, and on 3 September d'Orvilliers abandoned the attempt to invade the Isle of Wight, returning to Brest with over 8,000 of his men sick. The cost of the expedition helped to push France into bankruptcy; its attempts to recover the cost through taxes led to the French Revolution.

Had the French and Spanish fleet ever made it to the Isle of Wight, they planned to land at Sandown Bay just as the French had done in 1545. There they expected to encounter a garrison of 150 pensioners; however the real complement was one captain, 12 men and four gunners, with all the guns recorded in 1783 as being 'old and worn out'. It was unlikely that the castle would have been able to stand up to 40,000 men.

An American Attack?

Local legend has it that in the late 1770s or early 1780s a force of American privateers landed at Sandown, attacked the castle but were repulsed and fled out to sea. Although it is well known that American privateers, in particular John Paul Jones, did attack English ports and settlements at this time, there is no evidence to support the claim that John Paul Jones or one of his compatriots attacked Sandown other than John Hassell's 1790 publication Tour of the Isle of Wight. In this, John Hassell wrote.

'During the last war several privateers entered the [Sandown] bay and tried to destroy [Sandown Castle] but were not able to succeed in the attempt; beating down a few chimneys was the height of their achievements. It was repaired not many years later.'

There are other vague references to an inconsequential attack causing little, but no real damage, but nothing mentioned in the primary source for historians at this time, Sir Richard Worsley's11 1781 The History Of The Isle Of Wight. From this it is believed that any raid must have taken place after 1781, however this would be after the period that American privateers were active. Many historians have speculated that the raiders were more likely to have been French. In either case, the raid had no lasting implications and caused little damage.

The Napoleonic Wars

During the Napoleonic Wars the threat of invasion surfaced once again. It was believed that France was poised and capable of landing 10,000 troops with horses and equipment at Sandown Bay within 24 hours. In addition to Sandown Castle new defences were needed. Four temporary earth redoubts holding between two and six 18-pounder smooth bore cannon and troops were constructed in Sandown Bay: one at Yaverland, one near the site of what is now Sandown Library, one near the site of Sandown Pier and possibly one at Shanklin Chine. In addition, a battery armed with two 9-pounder cannon was constructed north of Sandown Bay on the other side of Culver Cliff to defend the small beach at Whitecliff Bay. To garrison the men needed to man these forts in 1798 a barracks was constructed at Sandown Heath, (now the Heights Leisure Centre). At this stage the barracks was a set of wooden huts made with weatherboard or sod walls and roofed with thatch or deal. This was clearly unsuitable for long term use, and a permanent brick barracks was proposed in 1806 although not constructed until 1811-15. This had a two-storey central barrack block, wing buildings for field guns and horses, plus a one-storey range used as offices and a hospital. Most of these buildings have since been demolished to make way for the Council offices and the leisure centre.

After 1805 and the Battle of Trafalgar, the threat of invasion passed. The temporary earthworks soon fell into disrepair and Sandown was left protected by a barracks and Sandown Castle.

The Victorian Invasion Panic

Even before the 1859 Royal Commission on the Defences of the United Kingdom it was realised that Sandown Castle was old and no longer able to withstand a serious assault by a well-armed invading enemy. The commissioners wrote in their 1860 report that 'Sandown Bay affords the best and indeed the only good landing-place for an enemy on the whole of that part of the Island between the Needles and Spithead to the southward'.

Their proposal was to construct a whole new fort built out of granite, to be known as Sandown (Granite) Fort, supported by a further six batteries protecting the most vulnerable parts of Sandown Bay. These would be, from north to south:

  • Redcliff Battery
  • Yaverland Battery
  • One battery each side of Sandown Granite Fort
  • Sandown Barrack Battery, built on the cliff adjacent to the barracks
  • A battery at Landguard, Shanklin

In order to save money, the batteries either side of Sandown (Granite) Fort and the proposed battery at Landguard were removed from further plans and not constructed.

In the event of the enemy landing at Bembridge or Whitecliff Bay and attacking the batteries from the rear (similar to what had happened in 1545), a supporting land fort was built on the top of Bembridge Down. This acted as a keep in the same way that Golden Hill Fort was the keep for the West Wight's batteries.

The second Sandown Castle, now replaced by the Sandown Bay Victorian Defences, was sadly demolished in 1901, with its site now the Sandham Grounds park. The two seaward bastions are now under the coast road embankments, with the rear two beneath the tennis courts and the site of the bowling green.

The Second World War

In addition to the batteries still in use during the Second World War, further defensive measures were made. Sandown and Shanklin Piers were sectioned to prevent their use as landing stages for enemy vessels filled with troops. The beaches were closed to the public and covered with barbed wire. Anti landing craft scaffolding, concrete blocks nick-named 'dragon's teeth', and iron rails were erected on the beaches as well as land mines on the beaches. Defensive trenches were dug and concrete pill boxes were constructed at strategic points.

Surplus old naval 6-pounder guns were mounted for beach defence too. One of these was in a coastal cottage near the library – almost the same spot that the Napoleonic earth fort had been located – and there were additional guns at Yaverland, Bembridge Point and, in 1941, one in Shanklin. Also in 1941, a Royal Marine Mobile Naval Base Defence Organisation 4-inch breech-loading gun was temporarily emplaced near the Coast Guard station at Foreland, Bembridge. This was primarily a coastal defence training centre. There was also a searchlight battery here, manned by 391 Battery, 48 Searchlight Regiment, Royal Artillery, equipped with Lewis guns and rifles. Fortunately during the Second World War the feared invasion never came, and the Battle of Britain was fought in the air rather than at sea. The age of the coastal defence fort had ended.

1A dry-dock is a dock from which the water can be drained in order to fix the hull of a ship.2Confusingly, the village of St Helens is called 'St Helens' [sic] and has no apostrophe, however St Helen's Church, St Helen's Bulwark, St Helen's Fort and St Helen's Roads all have apostrophes.3'Roads' is a naval term for an area, usually outside a harbour, that is safe for ships to lie at anchor and is sheltered from the weather.4Not to be confused with the western river Yar between Freshwater and Yarmouth.5Also known as Sandham Bay in mediaeval times.6Not to be confused with Sandown Castle in Deal, Kent.7He left the Catholic church because of the Pope's refusal to grant him a divorce from his first wife, Catherine of Aragon.8In 1542 the Scots had invaded England, but were defeated at Solway Moss. This, later named the 'War of the Rough Wooing' (1543-50) by Sir Walter Scott, saw Scotland attacked in turn and Edinburgh raided in 1544. The war ended as part of the Treaty of Boulogne.9Also known as Captain Fyssher.10Later to find fame with Nelson at the battle of Trafalgar, 1805, and preserved in Portsmouth.11Sir Richard Worsley was a direct descendant of Richard Worsley, Captain of the Island, who defeated the French in 1545. The Worsleys were one of the principle old Island families.

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