Palmerston Forts

Fort Albert, one of the Palmerston Forts, located on the Isle of Wight

The Palmerston Forts are a group of forts and associated structures, around the coast of Britain.

The forts were built during the Victorian period on the recommendations of the 1860 Royal Commission on the Defence of the United Kingdom, following concerns about the strength of the French Navy,[1] and strenuous debate in Parliament about whether the cost could be justified.[2] The name comes from their association with Lord Palmerston, who was Prime Minister at the time and promoted the idea.

The works were also known as Palmerston's Follies, partly because the first ones, around Portsmouth, had their main armament facing inland to protect Portsmouth from a land-based attack, which gave the impression that they faced the wrong way to defend from a French attack. Also because they were considered of questionable military value and one dictionary definition of "folly" is "a costly ornamental building with no practical value". They were criticized because by the time they were completed, any threat had passed, largely due to the Franco-Prussian war of 1870,[3] and because the technology of the guns had become out-of-date. They were the most costly and extensive system of fixed defences undertaken in Britain in peacetime.[4]

Some sixty years previously, there had been a similar period of defence works construction, when a couple of hundred circular towers were built for the same purpose (mainly along the Sussex, Kent and Suffolk coast to protect London) called Martello Towers, but these had become outdated.

The new defences were built to defend a number of key areas of the British, Irish and Channel Island coastline, in particular areas around military bases, including:

A complete list is available online.[5]

See also


  1. Brown, D. (2006). "Palmerston and Anglo--French Relations, 1846--1865". Diplomacy & Statecraft. 17 (4): 675–692. doi:10.1080/09592290600942918.
  2. King-hall, S. (January 1, 1951). "A Defence Debate Ninety Years Ago". Parliamentary Affairs. V (2): 297–304. Retrieved 2008-06-08.
  3. Hicks, Peter. "'Palmerston's Follies': a reply to the French 'threat'". Retrieved 2008-06-08.
  4. "Fort Nelson History". Royal Armouries. Retrieved 2008-06-08.
  5. "Victorian Forts and Artillery: List of Royal Commission Forts". Retrieved 2013-10-17.
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