Built in the 1930s, Bouldnor Battery was the last fortification to be built on the Isle of Wight, and the only one to have been built in the West Wight outside the Freshwater peninsula since Yarmouth Castle.
History Of Bouldnor
Bouldnor is located 2 miles east of Yarmouth on the north coast of the West Wight. Once known as Bolenoura, the was inhabited both in prehistoric and mediaeval times as evidenced by axes, antler tools and pottery found there. Despite this, the area has remained largely unsettled.
There was an attempt in Victorian times to take advantage of Bouldnor's relatively close position to the Mainland by constructing a pier. It was hoped that a pier would introduce cruise passengers and prosperity to the area. In 1873 an Act of Parliament was requested by the Bouldnor, Yarmouth and Freshwater Railway Pier Company and in 1880 Bouldnor Pier Company again requested permission to construct a pier. The foundations of a pier were indeed begun and are visible when the tide is right, and there were ambitious plans to build a railway station, hotel and even a small town. However, the area's unstable blue slipper clay soil and wooded terrain helped prevent any urbanisation of the area, and all attempts to do so were abandoned and quietly forgotten.
Bouldnor Battery and the Second World War
Although Bouldnor and Hamstead was the site of an invasion beacon in 1324 and in 1638, an actual fortification was not built on the site until the mid 20th Century. Built between 1937 and 1938, Bouldnor Battery was part of an Examination Anchorage for the west Solent. In War time, unidentified vessels at sea were to report to Examination Anchorages for identification and, if necessary, destruction. The battery consisted of two 6-inch Mark VII breech-loading guns, basic huts to provide accommodation and shelter, underground shell stores and magazines complete with electric lifts for the ammunition to be raised to the gun emplacements, and a battery observation post. The battery also had searchlight positions nearby and an indicator loop laid across the channel for submarine detection. This consisted of a submerged cable on the seabed, which would detect a submarine's magnetic current as the submarine passed over it.
In 1940 an anti-submarine boom and controlled minefield were laid across the Solent under Royal Navy supervision and rough concrete air defences constructed over the guns.
As the battery was built on the site of the Island's blue slipper clay, by 1942 the searchlight emplacements began to slide into the sea, and by December 1942 the battery had ceased to operate, although in 1944 it became the location of a 40mm Bofors anti-aircraft gun. By October 1945 the anti-aircraft gun was removeed and the battery was placed in care and maintenance. In 1947 the guns and searchlights were removed.
In September 1951 two 6-inch Mark VII guns from Cliff End Battery were installed in the battery and new searchlights emplacements constructed. Although the electric ammunition lifts had been removed, hand-powered ones were constructed and gun practices took place regularly until November 1955. In January 1957 all equipment was removed and the guns and other metal, such as the mountings, were scrapped. The emplacements, battery observation post, engine room and oil store survived and the site came into the possession of the Forestry Commission
Forestry Commission: Bouldnor Copse
Bouldnor Forest is a mixed woodland on a landslip. It is located in the Island's Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and is on the Hamstead Heritage Coast. Bouldnor Battery is a Scheduled Ancient Monument as its geological site is a Site of Special Scientific Importance. Bouldnor Cliff is the principal site in Britain for Oligocene fossils, including mammals, fauna, turtles, crocodiles, snakes, birds and fossil insects, and as the copse enjoys one of the Island's highest red squirrel population it is classed as a Site Important for Nature Conservation.
Attempts by the Germans to bomb the battery during the Second World War have created three seasonal ponds caused by bomb craters. The Isle of Wight Coastal Path goes near, but not to, Bouldnor Battery – this is at present the only footpath right of way in the copse. The battery itself is all-but completely hidden behind the trees of the copse, although there are plans to cut down the trees between the battery and the coast to preserve the battery in its coastal context and to provide safe access to the battery complete with information boards about what is there. However, at present access to the battery by the public is discouraged.