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.
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, they 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 the 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.