Page 4 - Demo
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Old Needles Battery
Cost                  £
Map Reference
Barrack Accom.
Present use
September 1861 
June 1863      
SZ 296848  
Isle of Wight / West / Needles
Coast battery     
Dry -  land side only     
1 officer  2 NCOs  21 men   
National Trust managed property.   
First AA gun tested 1913  
Moth-balled 1945. N. T. 1975 
Good. Under restoration    
Open to the public - Summer
Solent Papers No.2, 
Precis of correspondence prior to 1898
A  battery was proposed for this site in 1855, to mount six 68prs to cover Alum Bay to the north.  The Needles battery,
later referred to as Old Needles Battery to distinguish it from the new battery built nearby, was constructed as part of the
Royal Commission defences of the Needles Passage. It is a barbette battery built on the projecting point of the chalk ridge
above the Needles Rocks, at an elevation of 254 feet above sea level. It commanded the narrow channel between the
Needles Rocks and the Shingles, the edge of that shoal being a little more than 2,000 yards distant so that passing ships
would be subjected to plunging fire upon their decks. The height of the battery protected it from potential counter-fire. It
was designed for six guns, first being armed with 7-inch R.B.L. guns which were replaced with 9-inch R.M.L. guns,
surplus from Hurst Castle, by 1898. The gorge of the fort is closed with a ditch cut through the chalk of the narrow ridge
on which it stands. Access to the fort was over a rolling bridge.The other sides are protected by the precipitous chalk cliffs
which surround it. It had accommodation for 1 officer, 2 NCOs and 21 men as well as the usual magazines, laboratory and
stores. Water was supplied from rain-water tanks.  The battery was only to be garrisoned in time of need, the men living
in a barrack on the parade, now demolished. In peacetime a Master Gunner lived there to maintain it, whilst the garrison
gunners lived in Golden Hill Fort.  
In 1869-73 the gun emplacements were remodelled for two 9-inch and four 7-inch RMLs but in 1893 six 9-inch RMLs
were installed. These were in place until 1903 when they were removed by throwing them over the cliff. All have now
been recovered, two still in the fort on replica carriages. The other are scattered on the mainland. The battery was
considered obsolete and a new one was built 1893-95 on the crest of the headland to replace it with three modern BL
guns. In 1885 a tunnel was dug from the parade towards the Needles and a Submarine Mining Cell added. By 1887 a lift
shaft was dug from the ditch to sea level and five emplacements built into the north cliff face for QF guns to counter
torpedo boats. Experiments were carried out with searchlights 1890-92.  In 1908 a Fire Command Post for all of the
Needles defences was added. In 1913 Britain’s first AA gun, a 1pr. Pom Pom, was tested on the parade. The battery was
reactivated in WWII with a sentry beam fitted into the cliff emplacement and a Radar  installed in 1944. Armament then
consisted of a 3-inch AA and a 40mm Bofors. The battery was moth-balled in 1945 and was bought by the National Trust
in 1975 who  opened it to the public in 1982. 
History and Description
Victorian Forts
  6 x 7-inch R.B.L.
Authorised 2 x 9-inch 4 x 7-inch R.M.L.
 Revised 6 x 9-inch R.M.L.
Proposed 3 x 10-inch R.M.L.
 2 x 6pr Q.F. tested
 Mounted 6 x 9-inch R.M.L. 
          Proposed  3 x 10-inch R.M.L.
  6 x 9-inch R.M.L. 
                   (to remain for practice)
Mounted 1901
 3-inch AA
 40mm Bofors

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