Report - - The Needles Sea Level Fort, The Isle of Wight - June 2019 | Underground Sites | 28DaysLater.co.uk

Report - The Needles Sea Level Fort, The Isle of Wight - June 2019

Bertie Bollockbrains

There is no pain
Regular User
During a family trip back in April we visited The Needles Old Battery, which is a National Trust Property open to the public most days. Whilst there you see things like this...

In the exhibition room I discovered this cut-away model.

Which informed me of sea-level tunnels that are not open to the public. A plan was immediately hatched!

Looking around I discovered that a lift shaft led to those sea-level tunnels

It was easy to find the top of the lift shaft but capped and not accessible

But really I needed to come back in the summer and on the lowest possible spring tide and walk to those sea-level tunnels. Research told me that this was possible and a report dated May 2016 is on this very website by member @b3n


A battery was proposed for this site in 1855, to mount six guns to cover Alum bay to the north. The Needles Battery, later referred to as the Old Needles Battery, to distinguish it from a newer battery built nearby, was constructed as part of the Royal Commission defences of the Needles Passage. It is built on the projecting point of the chalk ridge above the Needles Rocks at an elevation of 254feet above sea level. The height of the battery protected it from potential counter-fire. It was designed for six guns, initially with 7-inch R.B.L. guns which were replaced with 9-inch R.M.L. guns by 1898.

The gorge of the fort is closed with a ditch cut through the chalk of the narrow ridge. Access to the fort was over a rolling bridge. The other sides are protected by chalk cliffs. It had accomodation for 1 officer, 2 NCOs and 21 men. The battery was only to be garrisoned in times of need.

In 1885 a tunnel was cut from the parade ground towards the Needles and is accessible today to the public within the National Trust property. By 1887 a lift shaft was dug to the sea level and five emplacements were built into the north cliff face for guns to counter torpedo boats.

The battery was soon considered obsolete and a new battery was built nearby 1893-5. The six 9-inch guns were in place until 1903 when they were removed by throwing them off the cliff. All have since been recovered.

The battery was reactivated during World War Two with a sentry beam fitted into the cliff emplacement at the end of the tunnel dug from the parade ground. Radar was installed in 1944. Armament consisted of a 3-inch anti-aircraft gun and a 40mm Bofors.

The battery was mothballed in 1945 and bought by the National Trust in 1975.


Catching the spring low-tide meant I had to begin my walk to the tunnels at 3.30 in the morning. Access involves walking for about a kilometre over slippery tidal rocks and made more complicated by the fact that I didnt want to use a torch in the dark as this could had initiated a coastguard call-out (it has happened here). Retreat to higher ground, if needed, would be difficult. The sun was just rising as I reached the tunnels.

Firstly I wanted to catch up on sleep and soon found a sleeping space in a WW2 searchlight emplacement. The plan was to spend 12 hours in the tunnels and return on the late-afternoon low tide.

After my sleep, time to explore. Starting at the entrance...

And a closer look at the WW2 searchlight position

Historical graffiti, I think that says 1916

The tunnels were infested with silverfish bugs (Lepisma saccharina)

More historical graffiti

The tunnel leading to the lift shaft


Bertie Bollockbrains

There is no pain
Regular User
Very difficult to photograph up the shaft, but here's my best attempt

Old lift machinery

A 3D face carving

A side passage led to a well

Finally, late in the afternoon after 12 hours stuck in the tunnels, time to leave and a look at the tunnel entrance and emplacements from outside

And the walk back to Alum Bay, made more difficult by the same boat appearing every 15 minutes full of tourists gawping in my direction. I really didn't want to be seen, as somebody would probably had called the coastguard.

Finally the Needles viewed from Alum Bay. The sea-level fort is almost at the end of headland.

Thanks for reading and if you're visiting please check the tide tables.


28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
Awesome stuff. I remember being told about this when we visited the Needles battery on holdai as a kid, wanted to see it ever since


Reckless & irresponsible
28DL Full Member
Awesome! I've always wanted to go there after I visited the top battery but haven't ever been back


28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
Great report, on my bucket list to do when I get back to the Island permanently, only here weekends at the moment. I also want to explore St Helens Fort in Bembridge Harbour, again you need the tide.


Rum Swigger
Regular User
Nice one Bertie,always wanted to see this,would be nuts camping there in a storm .............wonder how often the lifeboats get called out for this one


28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
Used to visit the Isle of Wight every summer as a kid, and always went over to the battery. Knew about these since like the first time but could never persuade my dad to walk out there with me! There's something magical about a fort on the top with a lift shaft all the way through the cliff.