Fort Victoria Country Park

A Brief History

This part of the Isle of Wight’s coastline has been an important defensive area since the time of Henry VIII. Fort Victoria was completed in 1855, built on the site of several earlier fortifications.

Fort Victoria was built in response to the threat of a French invasion. It was designed to work with Fort Albert, just along the coast and Hurst Castle, to prevent enemy ships from entering the Solent and so gain access to Portsmouth and Southampton.

The present building with its series of arched gun casemates, is all that is left of a once impressive triangular fort complex containing sixty guns and protected by an external moat. To the rear were large barracks blocks, the outlines of which are marked out on the car park.

Sconce Point (the site of the Fort) has the longest record of military defence on the Isle of Wight stretching back to Elizabethan fortification. The Fort was at the forefront of Victorian military technology throughout the latter part of the 19th Century.

Fort Victoria was the first of the nine West Wight forts to be commissioned by Lord Palmerston between 1855 and 1870 (first as Foreign Secretary and latterly as Prime Minister) as defences against a Napoleonic invasion that never materialised.

Fort Victoria was continuously occupied for military purposes from its construction in 1855 to 1962 when the last military
personnel vacated the buildings. The Fort’s original sea-facing casemates still remain in place.

Sconce Point was the scene of a substantial marine collision between the American mail liner St. Paul and the cruising vessel H.M.S. Gladiator in 1908. In the resulting wreck 27 crew members were killed but many more were rescued by Royal Engineers stationed at the Fort. The Gladiator was then the subject of a major operation to salvage the wreck, which was eventually re-floated and towed away for scrap.

The Fort has had several notable functions in the 20th century including its use as a submarine mining depot, a station for boats supporting for the D-Day landings and most recently its role as a National Service training station.

The rear barracks blocks were demolished in 1969 to provide material for sea defence work and the I.W. Council purchased what remained of the fort soon afterwards.

The fort was designated a local authority Country Park in 1971, intended to provide a place for quiet recreation. It has been managed as a public park ever since.