Solent Defences

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An article about Solent Defences. More information and an introduction to follow.

For two thousand years, castles and forts have protected both sides of the Solent - the Isle of Wight and Hampshire. Since the iron age, earth and stone defences have been built for the protection of this part of Britain, and by the turn of the 20th Century the area of the Solent was one of the strongest defended parts of the world, with several forts built to defend the Isle of Wight and the Royal Navy's headquarters at Portsmouth.

Hill Forts

The earliest indications of forts in the Hampshire area are traces of pre-Roman Iron Age hill forts. These are found throughout Hampshire, although the best known are Beacon Hill and Danebury hill fort. Many of these were later adapted into earthwork castles. Sadly there are no written records from the hill forts by their original occupants.

The only major Iron Age hill fort on the Island is Chillerton Down Hill Fort. Castle Hill Brighstone is an unfinished defended earthwork enclosure, although whether for human habitation or animals is unclear.

Ditches and Dykes

Roman Period

There were defended Roman settlements in Hampshire at Southampton, Silchester and Winchester as well as the Saxon Shore fort of Portchester.1

Mediæval Defences:

During Mediæval times, defence was restricted mainly to castles as well as some defences for vulnerable abbeys. In Hampshire only Winchester and Southampton had town and city walls defending the population as a whole. The Isle of Wight had one castle at Carisbrooke, whereas Hampshire had several Royal castles, castles owned by the Bishop of Winchester as well as castles owned by lesser nobles also.

Isle of Wight

Hampshire Castles:

Hampshire Earthworks Castles:

By Bluebottle but if more information is forthcoming, individual articles can be written about them.

Device Castles

When King Henry VIII left the Catholic church in 1538, traditional enemies Francis I, King of France and the Emperor Charles V of Spain signed a peace treaty and were encouraged by Pope Paul III to invade England. In response Henry VIII began a national building programme of castles to defend England from invasion. The area around the Isle of Wight and the Solent were of special concern to Henry2. Portsmouth held Britain's first drydock and the Royal Navy base, the Isle of Wight could be used to land a large invading army in preparation for a sustained invasion of the mainland and Southampton was England's third largest port and a rich prize in itself. Southampton's mediæval castle and walls were now outdated and an inadequate defence against ships armed with cannon, and so to defend Southampton from an attacking fleet, coastal castles armed with cannon were ordered to be constructed.

Henry VIII's coastal castles, known as Henrician or Device castles, were the first attempt at constructing a national coastal defence. Most castles were been built in as round, circular structures to help deflect any cannonballs fired at them, for Yarmouth and Sandown Castles on the Isle of Wight a newer, more advanced design was implemented, incorporating arrowhead bastions.

Hampshire Device Castles:

Device Castles On The Isle of Wight: - Bluebottle

  • Yarmouth - Bluebottle - English Heritage
  • Cowes Castle - Bluebottle
  • East Cowes - No Longer Exists
  • Sandown - No Longer Exists, Replaced By Sandown Granite Fort
  • St Helen's Bulwark - No Longer Exists
  • Sharpenode Blockhouse & Carey's Sconce - Replaced by Fort Victoria
  • Worsley's Tower - No Longer Exists

Batteries & Forts: - Bluebottle

West Wight & West Solent Channel:

Sandown Bay:

East Solent Channel:

Sea Forts: - Bluebottle

Portsmouth Forts:

Gosport (1850s):

  • Fort Fareham – After other Gosport forts.
  • Brown Down Battery – 1782-95
  • Fort Gomer -
  • Fort Grange –
  • Fort Rowner –
  • Fort Brockhurst - English Heritage – 1858-62
  • Fort Elson – 1850s
  • Gilkicker Fort – 1782-95
  • Fort Monckton – 1782-95
  • Fort Blockhouse - 1710
  • Fort Charles – 1678-9
  • Fort James – 1678-9
  • Gosport Lines - 1748
  • Stokes Bay Lines
  • Gosport Tower – Wooden – 1426 (Other end of chain from Round Tower)

Portsdown Hill – 1860s:

  • Fort Wallington
  • Fort Nelson Royal Armouries – 1861-70
  • Fort Southwick
  • Fort Widley
  • Fort Purbrook
  • Farlington Redoubt

Portsea Island & Portsmouth:

  • Portsea Lines
  • Hilsea Lines – 1746-7, remodelled mid 19th Century
  • Portsmouth Lines
  • Point Battery - 1670
  • Round Tower – 1416-22
  • Square Tower – 1494
  • Ten Gun Battery - 1568
  • Lumps Fort – End 18th Century
  • Eastney Batteries – End 18th Century
  • Fort Cumberland – English Heritage - 1745-6, rebuilt 1789-94 & 1820
  • Southsea Castle Batteries
The Beaulieu Dairy Castle GlossaryGreat CastlesGreat Castles of EnglandYorkshire's CastlesA Brief History of Winchester
1'Chester' is an Old English word for a fortified Roman settlement. Other towns and cities in the UK, including Manchester, Chichester and Chester as well as forts along Hadrian's Wall, including Rudchester, Chesters and Great Chesters, all have origins in being fortified Roman settlements.2This can be shown in the way that Henry VIII himself designed Southsea Castle, near Portsmouth.

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