The comprehensive gazetteer and bibliography of the medieval castles, fortifications and palaces of England, Wales, the Islands.
The listings
Other Info
Print Page 
Next Record 
Previous Record 
Back to list 

St Helens Fort

In the civil parish of St Helens.
In the historic county of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.
Modern Authority of Isle of Wight.
1974 county of Isle of Wight.
Medieval County of Hampshire, Isle of Wight.

OS Map Grid Reference: SZ637899
Latitude 50.70604° Longitude -1.09834°

St Helens Fort has been described as a probable Artillery Fort.

There are no visible remains.


The site of St Helen's Bulwark, built by Henry VIII between 1539 and 1545 as part of his network of coastal defences to protect England from the threat of invasion. Very little is known about the fort but it was mentioned in an account of Henry VIII and Edward VI's military expenses between 1538 and 1552 and is mentioned on a Royal Survey of 1559. It was probably built before the French attack of 1545 in order to defend this safe anchorage point. In fact, St Helen's bulwark may well be the small earthen fort which was mentioned in the separate accounts of Sir John Oglander and Martin du Bellay, as being captured during the French attack on the Isle of Wight on 21st July 1545. This event and maybe even the fort itself, can be seen in the background of Cowdray's famous engraving of the French fleet's attack on Portsmouth on 19th July 1545.
The last mention of the castle was circa 1660 and a Victorian coastal battery was built on the same location in the 19th century. No remains of either fortification have survived today. (PastScape)

A fort is first mentioned at St. Helens in an account of the military expenses of Henry VIII's and Edward VI's wars 1538 -1552, entitled 'Charges of the Kinges warres and Fortifications' (c. 1553. Bodleian MS. Add. D. 43 f.11) From a Royal Survey of 1559, it is clear that there was a fort at the foot of the sloping cliffs at St. Helens, north of the Church seamark. In a detailed list of the lands belonging to the Priory of St. Helens, a fortification is used as one of the land marks: And alonge upon the shore on theste side of the priory Moore to the Bulwarke and so upon the cliffe to Sainte Hellains pointe - xx acres of pasture (Survey of the State of the Isle of Wight 20 Nov. 1559. SP 12/7/60 St Helens)
This seems to point to this bulwark being in the vicinity of Nodes Point, which had always been known as "Watch House Point" until the 19th century, because of the watch house that had been sited on top of the cliff at that point. Only later was the point renamed Nodes Point after the name of a field "Node Close". It may be significant that a Victorian battery was constructed here in the 19th century on top of the slumping cliffs at a very similar point to the Tudor fort of three hundred years before.
Both this fort and the one at Seaview were sited to cover the anchorage at St. Helens, which was to become a favoured sheltered naval station in the 17th and 18th centuries. The forts also provided defence against any landings by enemy forces in the area. Although the area between Seaview Duver and St. Helens Duver consists of slumping cliffs, these are low in places and can be described more accurately as steep slopes covered with woods.
The last mention of the fort seems to be in a letter, dated 10 May 1660, from Lord Culpeper, Governor of the Island, to Sir William Oglander, Colonel of the East Medine militia, ordering him ensure that each Company performed two days labour on the fortifications at St. Helens and Bembridge (OG/19/78 or OG/BB/520). (Martin 2006)

The fort mentioned in the french raid of 1545 is also suggested as Nettlestone Point.
PastScape locate this lost site with remarkable precision at SZ6369189098 a location on the sand dunes of The Duver. The location given here is Node's Point, as suggested by Martin.
Links to archaeological and architectural databases, mapping and other online resources

Data >
Maps >
Streetmap   NLS maps   Where's the path   Old-Maps      
Data/Maps > 
Magic   V. O. B.   Geology   LiDAR   Open Domesday  
Air Photos > 
Bing Maps   Google Maps   Getmapping   ZoomEarth      
Photos >
CastleFacts   Geograph   Flickr   Panoramio      

Sources of information, references and further reading
Most of the sites or buildings recorded in this web site are NOT open to the public and permission to visit a site must always be sought from the landowner or tenant.
It is an offence to disturb a Scheduled Monument without consent. It is a destruction of everyone's heritage to remove archaeological evidence from ANY site without proper recording and reporting.
Don't use metal detectors on historic sites without authorisation.
The information on this web page may be derived from information compiled by and/or copyright of Historic England, County Historic Environment Records and other individuals and organisations. It may also contain information licensed under the Open Government Licence. All the sources given should be consulted to identify the original copyright holder and permission obtained from them before use of the information on this site for commercial purposes.
The author and compiler of Gatehouse does not receive any income from the site and funds it himself. The information within this site is provided freely for educational purposes only.
The bibliography owes much to various bibliographies produced by John Kenyon for the Council for British Archaeology, the Castle Studies Group and others.
Suggestions for finding online and/or hard copies of bibliographical sources can be seen at this link.
Minor archaeological investigations, such as watching brief reports, and some other 'grey' literature is most likely to be held by H.E.R.s but is often poorly referenced and is unlikely to be recorded here, or elsewhere, but some suggestions can be found here.
The possible site or monument is represented on maps as a point location. This is a guide only. It should be noted that OS grid references defines an area, not a point location. In practice this means the actual center of the site or monument may often, but not always, be to the North East of the point shown. Locations derived from OS grid references and from latitude longitiude may differ by a small distance.
Further information on mapping and location can be seen at this link.
Please help to make this as useful a resource as possible by contacting Gatehouse if you see errors, can add information or have suggestions for improvements in functality and design.
Help is acknowledged.
This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:20:06

Home | Books | Links | Fortifications and Castles | Other Information | Help | Downloads | Author Information | Contact