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History Castles and Fortifications

Horse Sand Fort (Solent)

REF NR: 27

1. "PALMERSTON'S FOLLIES" – Horse Sands Fort
In 1860 the Royal commission concluded that in order to protect the home fleet in Portsmouth due to the new vessels and armaments that were being developed throughout the western reaches of Europe, that there was a need to fortify the approaches and make sure it was impossible for any attacking navy to come anywhere close to their goal. The idea that a ring of ships could do this was now not viable due to the speed and fire power of the newer warships being developed. The proposed ring of forts however could be built with formidable firepower and considerable defences, so much so that it would be suicide for even the most advanced vessel of its time to try and attack.

The original size of the forts was to be a vast 300ft in diameter.  After much deliberation it was decided that only four forts Horse Sands, Spitbank, No Man's Land and St. Helens would be built at a reduced size of 240ft in diameter.

Building Costs

•    Horse Sands Fort - £424,694. Based on this cost it is estimated by using the retail price index as a conversion calculator the relative cost in today market would be £31,200,000.00 , making it a very expensive fort!

This was one of the outer forts and the identical sister fort to that of No Mans Land  it was begun in 1861 and was positioned towards Easter approaches of Portsmouth harbour at Spithead. With a diameter of 200ft being fully armour plated it was to be manned by 5 officers and 72 soldiers and was fully self contained fortress with its own water supply.
By the time it was completed the threat of invasion by the French had completely subsided and over the coming years was modified from time to time with various armaments.

  • 1886 – Mounted
  • Lower – 10 * 12.5-inch RML, 1 * 12-incg BL
  • Upper  – 12 * 12.5-inch RML
  • 1893 – Mounted
  • Lower – 7 * 12.5-inch RML., 5 * 12-inch B.L.
  • Upper  – 8 * 10-inch R.M.L. 5 * 12-inch B.L
  • 1898 – Mounted
  • Lower – 7 * 12.5-inch R.M.L. 5 * 12-inch B.L.12 * 6pdr QF
  • Upper – 8 * 10-inch RML, 5 * 12-inch B.L., 12 * 6pdr QF
  • 1912 – Mounted
  • 3 * 6-inch BL guns , 9 * 12-inch BL ( 12-inch were removed in 1918)
  • 943 – 1945 Mounted
  • Roof 2 * 6-inch BL, 3-inch AA (removed 1941)

Modern Day

During both the First and Second World Wars the fort had gun turrets and searchlights fitted. It was only totally decommissioned and handed over to The Portsmouth Naval Base Heritage in 1993, however if was further decided to put in on the market in 2002.

Sources: PDF's are reproduced with kind permission of the Palmerstonforts Society