Venue Name: Solent Forts
Location: In The Solent, off Portsmouth, Hampshire
Please tell us a little about Solent Forts’ history
When Louis Napoleon, the nephew of Bonaparte, seized power in 1848 and declared himself Emperor Napoleon III there was widespread fear in Britain of a resumption of hostilities with France and a possible invasion. In 1860, after much debate and deliberation, the government of Lord Palmerston proposed the construction of a ring of Forts in the Solent to protect Britain’s premier naval dockyard.
Spitbank Fort was completed in June 1878. The two outer Forts, Horse Sand Fort and No Man’s Fort, although started earlier, were completed in the spring of 1880. Horse Sands Fort and No Man’s Fort are identical, being 200 ft. in diameter and fully armour plated, while Spitbank Fort was only 150 ft. diameter and had iron plating on the seaward side only.
The stones, beautifully cut and weighing several tonnes apiece, had to be positioned on the seabed by divers who worked without the benefit of today’s technology. Each includes an artesian well to provide the garrison with fresh water – these are over 400ft deep! The cost was extortionate: excluding armaments, Spitbank Fort cost £167,300 (£8.6m in today’s money), Horse Sand Fort cost £424,694 (£31m in today’s money) and No Man’s Land Fort £462,500 (£34m in today’s money). By the time they were completed the invasion threat had receded and the Forts were dubbed “Palmerston’s Follies”.
They were heavily armed, none the less, with the guns being regularly upgraded as technology advanced. By the start of the First World War Spitbank was equipped with roof mounted guns that could prevent light forces from penetrating the Spithead area and the entrance to Portsmouth Harbour. Between the wars, all Forts in the Solent were left largely neglected until 1940 when the fall of France meant an invasion by German forces became a real threat. Spitbank Fort, along with Horse Sand and No Man’s Fort, suffered considerable damage as a result of German bombing. They were not able to support heavy anti-aircraft guns for general air defence but were brought to war-readiness for the seizure of French warships anchored off Portsmouth in 1940, after the fall of France. This was the only time that their armament was trained on the targets for which they had been originally built. The seizure was completed with little opposition and actual firing from the guns on the Forts was not necessary.
The Forts were de-activated at the end of the war and decommissioned in 1956, but only sold by the Ministry of Defence in 1982. Since then Spitbank Fort has been privately owned and has gone through many guises before finally coming to rest in the creatively sympathetic hands of AmaZing Venues. We have lovingly transformed Spitbank Fort and No Man’s Fort into unique, luxury wedding venues like no other, and will shortly complete the restoration of Horse Sand Fort.
What type of venue is Solent Forts?
Our three amazing historic sea forts have been, or are in the process of being, transformed into the ultimate private island experience. Perfect for Private Parties, Fort Breaks, Weddings and Lunch Experiences, our venues offer something unique.
Is Solent Forts licensed for wedding ceremonies?
Three rooms on Spitbank Fort are licensed for civil weddings – you can say “I do” in the Officer’s Mess, the Victory Bar or the Crow’s Nest.
No Man’s Fort offers a variety of different spaces for your ceremony and reception, from the huge central Atrium to the Dining Quarters and the Rooftop Deck to the Cabaret Club, each with their own unique characteristics.