The story of Golden Hill Fort

Golden Hill Fort was constructed at a cost of £38,000 between 1862 and 1871, although in reality it was ever evolving and being altered. It was part of the ‘Palmerston’ chain of defences built in response to a perceived French invasion threat. In the Western Solent they were designed to protect the Needles Passage and in the East to protect the eastern entrance to the Solent and Portsmouth harbour. Golden Hill Fort was built as a defensible barracks for the soldiers stationed at the batteries at Warden Point, Cliff End and Fort Victoria on the coast and to guard the access to the Freshwater peninsula if the Island was invaded.

Drone image of Golden Hill Fort

Drone shot of Golden Hill Fort – Courtesy of Mike Collins



It was surrounded by a dry ditch and earth bank, the hexagonal two-storey structure accommodated eight officers and 128 other ranks of the Royal Artillery and a 14-bed hospital, a much larger fort had been planned. Guns on roof to cover the line of the Western Yar. Reserves could counter raidings on the coast.


Drone shot of fort – present day. Image credit – Mike Collins


The surrounding area cleared to allow “uninterrupted and free field of fire for some distance”.To start with it was occupied by two companies of coast gunners.

Royal Munsters Fusilleers badge lost by one of the soldiers training at the fort and found by Vectis Diggers Metal Detectors Club

1888    The Fort becomes the Western District School of Gunnery for regular and volunteer artillerymen. New buildings outside the fort include a drill hall, School of Instruction, storerooms and barrack blocks to the north east.

1897    A new hospital is constructed in three buildings to the north of the drill hall and new married quarters nearby.

1903 The guns were removed.

1914    The Fort continues as a training facility and as an infantry training depot for the Duke of Cornwall’s Light infantry. Over 30,000 troops trained here between 1915 and 1918. Infantry battalions and gunners continue to occupy the site after the First World War.

WW1 Washhouse where soldiers would have showered, which still survives within the Country Park

1939    The Fort serves as a British and  Canadian infantry training depot during the Second World War.

1946    It now houses the Royal Army Service Corp’s Junior Non-Commissioned

Officers Training School and billets National Service trainees attending the RASC’s Water Transport Training Unit headquartered at Fort Victoria.

1962    The army relinquishes the site.


Volunteers clear the bases of two of the 2nd World War huts

“the places where the toilets were fixed still show within the northern building”

These steps lead down to what we believe was one of the 2nd World War Mess Halls where the soldiers ate their meals.



The story of our excavations