Fort Albert

Fort Albert (map reference SZ330890) is a tower fort nestling under the cliffs west of Fort Victoria on the Isle of Wight, England. It was also known as Cliff End Fort, named after the Northern extremity of Colwell Bay (Cliff's End).


Fort Albert was built on an artificial island to defend the western approach to Portsmouth. It was intended to house 29 guns in four tiers, being among the last gun-towers constructed in England. It was one of the Royal Commission forts built in the 19th Century as part of Lord Palmerston's defences against the possibility of a French attack from Napoleon III. Designed to defend the Needles Passage, it was completed in 1856, after 4 years of construction, but like the American Third System forts it resembles in miniature, it would have suffered badly from rifled gunfire, so the Royal Commission enhanced it with batteries on the cliffs above. Even so, with the introduction of armoured ships, the fort became obsolete by 1858. In 1886 it was chosen as one of the UK locations for the Brennan torpedo which had a range sufficient to close the strait. This too became obsolete, and was dismantled in 1906. After this, only small guns were mounted on the fort. The fort was altered during World War II, when it was used as an anti-shipping observation tower. It was closed to military use in 1957.

The Fort Today

The fort is in private ownership of harbour developments and has been converted into private flats. There is no public access, not even to the cliff tops which overlook it. It is most easily viewed from the sea, or from Hurst Castle. The battery above is part of a chalet estate at Brambles Chine, another location to view the fort which is passed through by runners on The Needles annual Half Marathon.


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