The history of Bembridge Fort

Sitting atop Bembridge Down is a large Victorian fortress with a commanding view of the Channel, so you'd be forgiven for thinking that Bembridge Fort had seen considerable combat in the past. But until the 20th century a shot had never been fired in anger.

That's because the formidable building is what's known as a Palmerston Folly. Originally built as part of a chain of defences to protect against the threat of invasion, no invasion came and the forts and batteries were used for other purposes.

" ….a citadel has been commenced on the topmost crest of Bembridge Down…."
- The Hampshire Telegraph, 1862

20th century defence

It did, however, prove useful during the First World War, and again during the Second World War when it was occupied by all three armed forces. However, after the war this was not to continue and the fort was abandoned. Sadly, the result was that it became heavily vandalised.

National Trust involvement

Thankfully, we were able to purchase the fort and lease it to a manufacturing company. Today, only part of the fort is under lease, which means that our volunteers have been able to begin the task of clearing out many years of accumulated rubbish. Although this task is ongoing, we have cleared enough to allow us to run guided tours, which means you can experience the history of this fascinating building for yourselves.

Our timeline, below, gives a brief outline of the history of the fort.

We will be offering pre-booked tours of the fort in the near future, in the meantime you can view the fort from the perimeter. 

Pre-booked guided tours

The volunteer led tours at Bembridge fort are due to restart on 12 April and run every Tuesday through the spring, summer and autumn at 2pm.

Booking is essential and can be done via the Bembridge Fort email address:

They are free for National Trust members, or £5 for adults and £2.50 for children aged 10 upwards (not suitable for children under 10).



Building begins on Bembridge Fort

The Yarborough Monument that occupied the site is moved and construction commences on the fort. It is intended to be a final retreat in the event of invasion of the Isle of Wight.


The fort is completed

At a cost of £48,925, the fort is finished.


A variety of regiments and brigades occupy Bembridge Fort, 1871-1880

Between 1871 and 1880, the fort is used by several different regiments and brigades including the 103rd Regiment and the 7th Brigade Royal Artillery.