Arms and armour
An underground tunnel in the Old Battery leads to the searchlight emplacement. This prominent position at the edge of the headland provided the ideal placement for the searchlight.
Soldiers based here were Gunners from the Royal Artillery. It took nine men six minutes to fire a gun just the once. During peacetime, the Old Battery was looked after by a lone Master Gunner who lived here with his family.
Sir William Armstrong
In 1873, the original guns at the Battery were replaced with six Armstrong 9-inch rifled muzzle-loading guns. Two of these guns are displayed today in their original positions on the Parade Ground. They were designed by Sir William Armstrong, who was a leading 19th-century industrialist.
The fate of the guns
In 1903 the guns were no longer useful and thought worthless, so were pushed over the cliffs into Scratchell's Bay below.
The guns stayed in the bay until it was decided to rescue them and return them to their rightful place.
Between 1983 and 1985 two guns were hauled up from the seas below and installed back on the Parade Ground.
Fort or battery?
Many of Palmerston’s Follies are forts, like nearby Bembridge Fort and St Helen’s Fort. A fort usually commands a group of two or more batteries and has a permanent garrison of troops. There are no permanent troops at this battery but it still formed part of the nation’s coastal defences.
Building a new site
The Needles New Battery is a small site further up the headland from the Old Battery. Completed between 1893–95, the New Battery was built after the Old Battery site deteriorated from coastal erosion. New technology introduced at the time also needed more space than was available at the Old Battery.