The 1860s Royal Commission resulted in a massive fort-building program and the Isle of Wight was no exception to this. On the east side of the island, Fort Bembridge was constructed to act as a keep to the four coastal batteries in Sandown Bay. It was also designed to act as a final retreat had the Isle of Wight been invaded.
The fort is hexagonal in design and surrounded by a dry ditch. The original design showed single caponiers but during the actual construction, these were replaced with double ones. Originally the fort was armed with six 7-inch RBLs which were replaced in 1893 by six 64pdr RMLs and two 4 inch BLs. The RMLs were removed in 1900 and the BLs were removed three years later.
Between 1880 and 1900, Fort Bembridge was used as an experimental test facility for anti-torpedo and anti-submarine devices. The remainder of the fort became barrack accommodation and a store.
During the Second World War Fort Bembridge was used as a co-ordinating point for the batteries at Nodes Point and Culver Down. This was due to the BOP (Battery Observation Post) and PF (Position Finding) cell. In addition, two Allen Williams Turrets had been constructed on the top of the fort.
The MOD relinquished use of the fort on 1948, and it fell into a state of serious disrepair and was heavily vandalised until the local council purchased it in 1965. Two years later it was sold to the National Trust who continue to have management of the site. An agricultural company have used some of the fort and another previous commercial use has left its mark on the fort, covering a great deal of the original features. However, a group of volunteers, working closely with the National Trust are attempting to rectify this and to restore some of the features back to their original state.
Location: Isle of Wight
Date Of Visit: 07/06/09