The Needles Batteries

The Needles Batteries are two military batteries built above the Needles stacks to guard the West end of the Solent. The field of fire was from approximately West South West clockwise to Northeast and they were designed to defend against enemy ships.

The Needles Batteries
The Needles, Isle of Wight, England
The Needles Battery
The view over the old battery
The Needles Batteries is located in Isle of Wight
The Needles Batteries
The Needles Batteries
Coordinates50°39′44″N 1°35′02″W / 50.66213°N 1.58399°WCoordinates: 50°39′44″N 1°35′02″W / 50.66213°N 1.58399°W
Site information
OwnerNational Trust
Open to
the public
Site history
Built1861–63 (old)
1895 (new)
In use1863 onwards
MaterialsBrick and flint
Battles/warsWorld War 1 and World War 2
EventsAnti-aircraft gun trials
Blue Streak tests
Listed Building – Grade II
Official nameOld Needles Battery
Designated28 March 1994
Reference no.1220402
Listed Building – Grade II
Official nameNew Needles Battery
Designated28 March 1994
Reference no.1209415
Official nameNew Battery and High Down Test Site, The Needles
Designated31 July 2015
Reference no.1422839

Old Battery

The Needles Old Battery 1
The Old Battery near The Needles at the western end of the Isle of Wight. Photo taken from the viewpoint near the New Battery.

The Old Battery was constructed between 1861 and 1863. It was equipped with six 7-inch Armstrong rifled breechloading guns. These were replaced by four 7-inch and two 9-inch rifled muzzle loaders in 1872, and six 9-inch rifled muzzle loaders in 1893. The 9 inch guns took a team of 9 men to load and fire. These guns fired projectiles weighing 256 pounds (116 kg).[1] The 9-inch guns remained in place until 1903 when they were discarded by throwing them over the side of the cliff. These were later recovered and two are now on display at the Old Battery.[2]

A deep ditch with a retractable bridge was dug into the chalk to protect the facility from ground attack from the island side. In 1885 a tunnel was dug towards the cliff face from the parade grounds. An elevator down to the beach was completed in 1887. Early searchlight experiments were conducted at the site[3] between 1889 and 1892.[2] The present observation post housing a searchlight was built in 1899.[4]

Just to the east of the Old Battery, at Hatherwood Point are the remains of Hatherwood Battery, built to defend the area alongside the Needles Battery.

The Old Battery is a Grade II Listed Building.[5]

The Tunnel

A tunnel leads to a searchlight emplacement with good views towards the Needles lighthouse.

New Battery

Unfortunately, there were subsidence problems and concerns that the concussion from firing the guns was causing the cliffs to crumble. This was solved by building the New Battery higher up the cliff, at a height of 120 metres above sea level. The New Battery was completed in 1895.

Three 9.2-inch Mk IX breech-loading guns were installed at the New Battery : two in 1900 and a third in 1903. A crew of 11 was required to fire one of these guns. Each shell weighed 380 pounds (172 kg).[6] The New Battery guns remained in place until 1954, when they were scrapped.[6]

The Old and New Batteries were manned during the World Wars. German U boats sank two ships off The Needles during World War I.[7] This facility was also the site of early trials of anti-aircraft guns.[2]

In World War II, anti-aircraft guns defended the Isle of Wight against air attacks but repeated German air attacks necessitated improvements in the fortifications at the site. The guns at the Batteries also fired on German torpedo boats attempting night landings. Troops trained for the D-Day landing on the neighbouring cliffs. After the war, the Ministry of Defence deactivated the batteries.[7]

In the 1950s, the battery was used for testing the Blue Streak missile,[8] as well as the Black Knight and Black Arrow satellite launch vehicles.[9]

Like the Old Battery, the New Battery has also been listed at Grade II.[10] The surviving parts of the rocket testing facilities are a Scheduled monument.[9]

National Trust opening

When the site came into the possession of the National Trust, it was decided to restore the Old Battery so that it could be opened to the general public. The National Trust Youth Group comprising local schoolchildren and teachers assisted in getting the site ready for its official opening in 1982.

The site is still managed by the National Trust and is open daily from mid March to the end of October. It gives visitors an insight into how a Victorian battery would work and giving a glimpse into the life of a soldier based at the Battery during the Second World War. Along with a series of exhibition rooms and the tunnel there are a number of visitor facilities including a tearoom.

The New Battery was opened to the public in 2004 and has a display on the history of the British rocket development between the 1950s and 1970s.[11]



Gun emplacement at the Old Needles Battery


The tunnel, leading to the searchlight.


Searchlight at the end of the "Searchlight Tunnel, Old Needles Battery


  1. ^ Source: National Trust plaques on the site
  2. ^ a b c History of the Old Battery,The Needles Battery website
  3. ^ Location of the searchlight is grid reference SZ295848
  4. ^ Needles Old Battery, WightCAM - photographically illustrated walks on the Isle of Wight website
  5. ^ Historic England. "Old Needles Battery (1220402)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 4 April 2015.
  6. ^ a b History of the New Battery,The Needles Battery website
  7. ^ a b The Batteries at war,The Needles Battery website
  8. ^
  9. ^ a b Historic England. "New Battery and High Down Test Site, The Needles (1422839)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 18 November 2018.
  10. ^ Historic England. "New Needles Battery (1209415)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 4 April 2015.
  11. ^ "Into the Space Age at the Needles New Battery". National Trust. Retrieved 18 November 2018.


  • Cantwell, Anthony (1986). The Needles Defences. Isle of Wight: Solent Papers. ISBN 1870113012.
  • Anthony Cantwell, "The Needles Battery", Fort, 1985 (Fortress Study Group), (13), pp69–89

External links

Blue Streak (missile)

The de Havilland Propellers Blue Streak was a British medium-range ballistic missile (MRBM), and later the first stage of the Europa satellite launch vehicle. Blue Streak was cancelled without entering full production.The project was intended to maintain an independent British nuclear deterrent, replacing the V bomber fleet which would become obsolete by 1965. The operational requirement for the missile was issued in 1955 and the design was complete by 1957. During development it became clear that the missile system was too expensive and too vulnerable to a pre-emptive strike. The missile project was cancelled in 1960, with US-led Skybolt the preferred replacement.

Partly to avoid political embarrassment from the cancellation, the UK Government proposed that the rocket be used as the first stage of a civilian satellite launcher called Black Prince. As the cost was thought to be too great for the UK alone international collaboration was sought. This led to the formation of the European Launcher Development Organisation (ELDO), with Blue Streak used as the first stage of a carrier rocket named Europa.

Europa was tested at Woomera Test Range, Australia, and later at Kourou in French Guiana. Following launch failures, the ELDO project was cancelled in 1972 and development of Blue Streak was halted.

Fortress Study Group

The Fortress Study Group is a charity registered in the UK with an international membership. It has the of advancing the study of post-medieval artillery fortifications throughout the World.


Gunville is a small settlement on the Isle of Wight, off the south coast of England. It largely comprises housing, although there are also a small number of shops, a couple of charity shops, some retail warehouses, a snooker hall, Methodist Church and a fishing lake. The settlement seems to date from some time after 1800, although the vast majority of the buildings currently standing in Gunville date from after 1900.

The village lies south of Forest Road (A3054), joining to the larger settlement of Carisbrooke. It is approximately 1.25 miles (2.01 km) west of Newport and chiefly lies along a 1 mile (1.6 km) stretch, either side of Gunville Road (B3323). It encompasses Alvington Manor View, The Bramleys, Gunville Crescent, Spring Walk, Pineview Drive, Taylor Road, Gunville West, Chapel Close, Broadwood Lane, Park Close, Forest Hills, Arthur Moody Drive, Ash Lane, Ash Close and The Hollows.

In the past, the centre of the Island was made up of a number of small and distinct villages, such as Newport, Carisbrooke, Gunville, Clatterford, Shide, New Village, Barton's Village, Bellecroft, Pan, Hunny-Hill and Fairlee. As time went on, Newport and Carisbrooke have largely engulfed and absorbed all of these villages except for Gunville, although even for Gunville there have had to be concerted efforts to keep the name alive, with many people preferring to refer to it as a part of Carisbrooke. In 2009, the Council actually replaced the Gunville signs with those of Carisbrooke, taking it off the map completely. However, after complaints from local residents, the Gunville signs were returned.In fact, the Newport conurbation has become so large, that there is no visible break whatsoever between, Newport, Carisbrooke and Gunville, with the only separation being the old historical boundaries. There has been some argument as to where the dividing line between Carisbrooke and Gunville actually lies. In 2009, a new sign was erected showing that Gunville started at the point where Priory Road becomes Gunville Road, at the junction with School Lane. This was the view held in a Newport Parish Council meeting of 2009. But, most people accept that in the past, the starting point of Gunville was the old railway bridge which allowed trains to run under the road, half a mile further to the North. However, this railway bridge and its track have long been demolished, after the railway itself closed in 1953, leaving nothing to visually separate the two villages (See below). But the Gunville sign has now been moved further north to the junction of Alvington Manor View and Gunville Road, virtually the spot where the old bridge used to be.

HMS Galatea (1794)

HMS Galatea was a fifth-rate 32-gun sailing frigate of the British Royal Navy that George Parsons built at Bursledon and launched in 1794. Before she was broken up in 1809 she captured numerous prizes and participated in a number of actions, first in the Channel and off Ireland (1794–1803), and then in the Caribbean (1802–1809), including one that earned her crew the Naval General Service Medal.

HMS Pomone (1805)

HMS Pomone was a 38-gun Leda-class fifth rate of the Royal Navy launched in 1805. She saw action during the Napoleonic Wars, primarily in the Mediterranean while under the command of Captain Robert Barrie. She was wrecked off The Needles, part of the Isle of Wight, in 1811.

Headon Warren and West High Down SSSI

Headon Warren and West High Down is a 276.3 hectare Site of special scientific interest (SSSI) located at the westernmost end of the Isle of Wight. The SSSI encompasses Headon Warren, a heather clad down to the north, the chalk downs of West High Down and Tennyson Down to the south, and the Needles, The Needles Batteries and Alum Bay to the west.The site was notified in 1951 by the Nature Conservancy Council (NCC), for both its biological and geological features, and that designation is now maintained by Natural England as successor body to the NCC. Most of the land within the SSSI is owned and managed by the National Trust.

High Down, Isle of Wight

High Down is a chalk down making up the western extent of the ridge that crosses the Isle of Wight, England, and overlooking The Needles rock stacks. It includes Tennyson Down.

The Needles Batteries and the Rocket Launching site are located on the Down It is here where the Black Knight and Black Arrow rockets were tested before being shipped to Woomera in Australia. The entire site is now owned by the National Trust, although it is bordered by The Needles - Landmark Attraction at Alum Bay, which is owned by an independent company. The Rocket Testing site is free to enter, although the Old Battery requires a small fee.

History of the Isle of Wight

The Isle of Wight is rich in historical and archaeological sites, from prehistoric fossil beds with dinosaur remains, to dwellings and artefacts dating back to the Bronze Age, Iron Age, and Roman periods.

Isle of Wight

The Isle of Wight (; also referred to informally as The Island or abbreviated to IoW) is a county and the largest and second-most populous island in England. It is in the English Channel, between 2 and 5 miles off the coast of Hampshire, separated by the Solent. The island has resorts that have been holiday destinations since Victorian times, and is known for its mild climate, coastal scenery, and verdant landscape of fields, downland and chines. The island is designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.

The island has been home to the poets Swinburne and Tennyson and to Queen Victoria, who built her much-loved summer residence and final home Osborne House at East Cowes. It has a maritime and industrial tradition including boat-building, sail-making, the manufacture of flying boats, the hovercraft, and Britain's space rockets. The island hosts annual music festivals including the Isle of Wight Festival, which in 1970 was the largest rock music event ever held. It has well-conserved wildlife and some of the richest cliffs and quarries for dinosaur fossils in Europe.

The isle was owned by a Norman family until 1293 and was earlier a kingdom in its own right. In common with the Crown dependencies, the British Crown was then represented on the island by the Governor of the Isle of Wight until 1995. The island has played an important part in the defence of the ports of Southampton and Portsmouth, and been near the front-line of conflicts through the ages, including the Spanish Armada and the Battle of Britain. Rural for most of its history, its Victorian fashionability and the growing affordability of holidays led to significant urban development during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Historically part of Hampshire, the island became a separate administrative county in 1890. It continued to share the Lord Lieutenant of Hampshire until 1974, when it was made its own ceremonial county. Apart from a shared police force, there is now no administrative link with Hampshire, although a combined local authority with Portsmouth and Southampton was considered, this is now unlikely to proceed.The quickest public transport link to the mainland is the hovercraft from Ryde to Southsea; three vehicle ferry and two catamaran services cross the Solent to Southampton, Lymington and Portsmouth.

John Dundas (RAF officer)

John Charles Dundas, (19 August 1915 – 28 November 1940) was a Royal Air Force fighter pilot and flying ace of the Second World War credited with 12 victories.

Born in West Yorkshire as the son of an aristocrat, Dundas was an able student and academic. After graduating from Christ Church, Oxford, he became a journalist and joined a newspaper in his home county. After two years, Dundas tired of life as a reporter and joined the Royal Auxiliary Air Force (RAuxAF) in July 1938, being commissioned as pilot officer in No. 609 (West Riding) Squadron and trained as a pilot at his own expense.

In May 1940 his squadron took part in the Battle of France, during which Dundas claimed his first two victories. Dundas remained with his squadron throughout the Battle of Britain, claiming nine German aircraft shot down. On 9 October he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) for 10 victories. At the time of his last battle Dundas had been credited with 12 aircraft destroyed, two shared destroyed, four probably destroyed and five damaged. During a battle over the English Channel on 28 November 1940, Dundas is believed to have engaged and shot down Helmut Wick, the highest scoring ace of the Luftwaffe at that time. Moments later Dundas was also shot down into the sea. Both pilots vanished and remain missing in action.

List of English inventions and discoveries

English inventions and discoveries are objects, processes or techniques invented, innovated or discovered, partially or entirely, in England by a person from England (that is, someone born in England – including to non-English parents – or born abroad with at least one English parent and who had the majority of their education or career in England). Often, things discovered for the first time are also called inventions and in many cases, there is no clear line between the two.

The following is a list of inventions, innovations or discoveries known or generally recognised to be English.

List of National Trust properties in England

This is a list of National Trust properties in England, including any stately home, historic house, castle, abbey, museum or other property in the care of the National Trust in England.

List of tourist attractions in the Isle of Wight

The following is a list of tourist attractions on the Isle of Wight.

Palmerston Forts, Isle of Wight

The Palmerston Forts are a group of forts and associated structures built during the Victorian period on the recommendations of the 1860 Royal Commission on the Defence of the United Kingdom. The name comes from their association with Lord Palmerston, who was Prime Minister at the time and promoted the idea.

The structures were built as a response to a perceived threat of a French invasion. The works were also known as Palmerston's Follies as, by the time they were completed the threat (if it had ever existed) had passed, largely due to the Franco-Prussian war of 1870 and technological advancements leading to the guns becoming out-of-date.As well as new structures, extensive modifications were made to existing defences.

The defences on the Isle of Wight were built to protect the approaches to the Solent, Southampton and Portsmouth. They consist of three separate groups, those at the western end of the island, those at the eastern end, and four built in the Solent.

The information in the tables is taken from documents for each site, from the Victorian Forts website.

Ryde School with Upper Chine

Ryde School with Upper Chine (or, informally, Ryde School) is a co-educational ISC independent day and boarding school in the seaside town of Ryde, on the Isle of Wight. Among the school's former pupils are the author Philip Norman and the former world-record holder as the youngest cross-Atlantic yachtsman, Seb Clover.

SS Irex

Irex was a sailing vessel wrecked at Scratchell's Bay on the Isle of Wight by The Needles on 25 January 1890, while on her maiden voyage.

St. Jude storm

The St. Jude storm, also known as Cyclone Christian, and other names, was a severe Hurricane-force 12 European windstorm that hit Northwestern Europe on 27 and 28 October 2013 causing at least 17 deaths. The highest windspeed was in Denmark, where a gust of 120.8 mph (194.4 km/h) was recorded in the south of the country on the afternoon of 28 October, the strongest wind recorded in the country's history.

Tennyson Trail

The Tennyson Trail is a 14-mile walk from Carisbrooke to The Needles on the Isle of Wight. The route goes through Bowcombe Down, Brighstone Forest, Mottistone Down, Brook Down, Afton Down, Freshwater Bay, Tennyson Down, and West High Down to Alum Bay. The name of the trail comes from poet Alfred Lord Tennyson, a former resident of the Isle of Wight.

There are several points of interest along the walk, including The Tennyson Monument on Tennyson Down, Farringford House and The Needles Batteries which overlook The Needles.Much of the trail, being a public byway, was formerly open to all traffic, including motor vehicles. By the early 2000s, off-road vehicles had become an increasing problem, and were damaging tracks, archaeological sites and wildlife habitats. In response, in 2006, the Isle of Wight council banned all motor vehicles from the entire length of the trail.

Western side
Eastern side

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