The Historic Needles Batteries – The Old Battery and New Battery Isle of Wight
Perched high above the Needles rocks on the Isle of Wight are the historic Needles Batteries – the Old Battery and New Battery. Owned by the National Trust England, both Batteries bring to life the island’s rich and intriguing Victorian history.
Just off the southern coast of England, across the maritime port and city of Portsmouth is England’s largest island, the Isle of Wight. A Victorian favourite, the island’s world famous feature is The Needles Rocks and Lighthouse. On the clifftop above The Needles Rocks and Lighthouse are two historic Needles Batteries, simply known as the Old Battery and New Battery.
Built on the south-westernmost point of the Isle of Wight, the historic Needles Batteries are two military bases built to defend the island from enemy attacks coming from the West of the Solent. Both batteries give commanding views out over the English Channel and across to the English mainland. The batteries were built three decades apart and both played key roles during the World Wars. A visit to the historic Needles Batteries, both the Old and New makes for an interesting day out for individuals, couples and family.
1 | The Old Battery Isle of Wight | Historic Needles Batteries
The Old Battery dates from Victorian times, when Lord Palmerstone was Prime Minister in the 1860s. He ordered a series of defences to be built to protect the naval dockyards at Portsmouth against the attacks by the French under Napoleon III.
Construction of the Old Battery began in 1861 and was completed in 1863. It’s strategic position provided views of both the Solent and the English Channel, hence defending the Needles Passage entrance to the Solent. The Battery was surrounded by a dry ditch to prevent the French invaders climbing up but the invasion never happened. Nicknamed “Palmerston’s Follies”, the Old Battery was used throughout both the World Wars.
1.1 | The Old Battery Tunnel
In 1885 , a tunnel was dug towards the cliff face from the parade ground and a lift down to the beach was installed in 1887. Searchlight experiments were carried out between 1889 and 1892. If you were to visit today, you will see the observation post housing a searchlight built in 1899. It gives an insight into how a Victorian Battery worked and the life of a soldier during the Second World War.
1.2 | Things to do at the historic Needles Batteries | The Old Battery
1.2.1 | The Parade Ground
There are two guns installed in the same position as they once were, pointing out to sea.
1.2.2 | Storage
You could also explore the cartridge store, and the shell store;
1.2.3 | Observation post
See the observation post housing a searchlight built in 1899;
1.2.4 | Explore the Tunnels
Explore the tunnel leading to the observation post (iii) above – it overlooks the Needles rocks and lighthouse and gives you absolutely breathtaking views of the Solent.
1.2.5 | Tearoom
There is a tearoom on the first floor of the signal station to take a breather and to enjoy the beautiful views it affords.
1.3 | Good to know information about the historic Needles Batteries:
Address: West High Down, Alum Bay PO39 0JH
Opening times: Monday to Sunday | 10:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M.
Recommended read: The Victorian Love Affair
A little further up the headland is the Needles New Battery. It is a small site but home to some fascinating stories of secret rocket testing during the Cold War (1950s – 1970s).
2 | The New Battery Isle of Wight | Historic Needles Batteries
The New Battery was built about thirty years following the Old Battery. The initial plan for building the New Battery was to replace the Old. It was feared that the vibrations of the guns would cause the cliffs to crumble. More space was also needed to provide spaces for newer, larger guns. The New Battery was built higher up the cliff at 120 metres above sea level. Work on this military base was completed in 1895.
In 1900, two breech-loading guns were emplaced and a third in 1904. These guns were scrapped in 1954. Also, in the 1900s, an artillery store, guardhouse, canteen and a cookhouse were added but were demolished in 1950s. A battery command post was built higher up the hill between 1900 and 1902. This command post gave clear views of the Solent’s western approaches. It continued as the Battery Commander’s post until after the Second World War.
While both the Batteries were in full use during the Second World War, the Batteries were decommissioned soon afterwards. With the dawn of the Cold War, a new use was found for the New Battery in 1954 – as a secret rocket testing site. The ‘Black Knight’ , ‘Black Arrow’ and the satelite ‘Prospero’ were all tested at the New Battery before they were launched in Australia.
2.1 | Good to know information:
Address: West High Down, Alum Bay PO39 0JH
Opens: 10:30 A.M.
Entry is Free
3 | Practical information | The historic Needles Batteries IOW
3.1 | Entrance:
The historic Needles Batteries are owned and managed by National Trust England. Entry is free to Members.
|Ticket Type||Ticket Tariff|
|Adult Standard||£5.00 per ticket|
|Child Standard||£2.50 per ticket|
|Family – one adult||£7.50 per ticket|
|Family Standard||£12.50 per ticket|
Note: Prices are a guide only and may change on a daily basis. Prices correct at time of writing: July 2021
3.2 | Car Park:
The nearest car park to the historic Needles Batteries is about a mile away. It is a paid car park and cost £6.00 (2022).
3.3 | If walking…
Best views of the Needles rocks and miles and miles of spectacular clifftop views.
Takes about 20 to 25 minutes each way if you elect to walk. Some paths are steep and not recommended if you are unfit or mobility impaired.
Not recommended on a rainy day!
3.4 | Take the bus:
You could opt for the visitors bus which runs regularly and costs £3.00 single or £5.00 return.
3.5 | Weather:
The historic Needles Batteries may close in high winds or severe weather conditions. Please phone on the day of visit to check (01983) 754772.
3.6 | Contact:
West High Down, ALUM BAY, Isle Of Wight, PO39 0JH
Tel: Tel:+44 01983 754772
4 | Things to do in and around the historic Needles Batteries
4.1 | Walk the wall
Walk the stone fortifications for stunning views over The Needles Rocks and Lighthouse as well as Alum Bay. An absolute must for anyone who appreciate incredible views.
4.2 | Marconi Monument
It was from The Needles that Guglielmo Marconi, Italian inventor and electrical engineer, established the first wireless communication between France and England across the English Channel in 1899.
Located within The Needles Park is a monument dedicated to Marconi – the Marconi Monument. The monument marks the precise location where Marconi undertook his groundbreaking work that led to radio and telecommunications as we know it today.
Address: Heritage Attractions Ltd, The Needles Park, ALUM BAY, Isle of Wight, PO39 0JD
Opening times: Open 7 days a week except January and Christmas week. From 10:00 A.M. Closing time varies.
4.3 | The Needles rocks and Lighthouse
Explore one of England’s natural wonders! The Needles rocks is a row of three chalk stacks that stretches out to sea. There is a classic lighthouse at the end of it. Get an unforgettable experience by taking a boat ride for close-up views of this wondrous chalk ridge that turns heads.
Recommended read: The Unmissable Enthralling Needles Rocks and Lighthouse Isle of Wight
4 | The Needles Park
The Needles Park and Attraction centre is packed full of fun for all the family, no matter your age. No visit to the Isle of Wight is complete without a visit to the Needles Attraction. There are Jurassic Adventure Golf, open-top bus rides, boat trips, family carousel rides, Victorian games, fascinating glass blowing, sweet making and Alum Bay Sands. Create a souvenir to take back a piece of the Isle of Wight with you.
Address: The Needles Landmark Attraction
Alum Bay New Road, Alum Bay, PO39 0JD
Opening times: 10:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M. *weather dependant
5 | Places to eat in and around the historic Needles Batteries Isle of Wight
The following places to eat are located close to the historic Needles Batteries:
1 | Marconi’s Tea Rooms
A cafe, serving international cuisine. Seating outdoors available.
Address: The Needles Park Alum Bay, Totland Bay PO39 0JD England
Tel: +44 871 720 0022
2 | Warren Farm Shop & Tea Garden
From 11:00 A.M to 4:30 P.M.
Cafe serving British cuisine. Takeout services available. Plenty of Outdoor Seating. Wheelchair Accessible.
Free off-street parking.
Accepts all major Debit and Credit Cards – American Express, Mastercard, Visa,
Address: Alum Bay, New Road Alum Bay, Totland Bay, PO39 0JB England
Tel: +44 1983 753200
3 | The Waterfront Bar & Restaurant
From 12:00 noon to 10:00 P.M.
Beachside pub/restaurant serving seafood, Mediterranean and British cuisines. Vegetarian Friendly, Vegan, and Gluten Free options are welcomed. Full bar.
Best to make prior reservations.
Outdoor Seating available. Seating.
Table Service, Live Music, Waterfront
Highchairs Available, Wheelchair Accessible,
Accepts all major Credit Cards and Contactless
Address: The Beach Totland Bay, Totland Bay PO39 0BQ England
Tel: +44 1983 756969
6 | Plan ahead for the historic Needles Batteries trip
6.1 | How to get to the Isle of Wight
The Isle of Wight is ideally located for visitors wanting a short-break or weekend getaway. You can reach the Island from London in about 2 hours. The Island is also within easy reach of major airports in UK.
Ferries: There are about 200 ferry crossings a day from Portsmouth, Southampton and Lymington. They link to five major towns on the Island – Ryde, Cowes, East Cowes, Fishbourne and Yarmouth.
Trains: There are excellent rail services that connects well with ferry departures. There are timely departures from London stations to any of the ports. Plan your journey and take advantage of train and ferry combined tickets with Trainline.
Coach: Coach travel is another convenient way to get to Portsmouth or Southampton from whence you could board the ferry to the Isle of Wight. There are connecting bus services when you arrive on the island. Look up cheap coach tickets with Trainline.
Flights: Fly into London Heathrow or London Gatwick – both airports have good rail or road connections to the ports. From here, take the ferry across. There are also regional flights into Bournemouth and Southampton to reduce journey times to the Island.
7 | Places to Stay on the Isle of Wight
The Isle of Wight has a multitude of accommodations to suit every need. Be it is a stylish short-break, a longer family stay or a hiking holiday, you are sure to find one to suit.
If you are looking for self-catering accommodation, The Highlands Apartment are highly recommended.
For a complete guide to the best places to stay on the Isle of Wight, go to this link.
Finally….on the historic Needles Batteries
The Isle of Wight is a fabulous holiday destination with a myriad of things to do. Visiting the historic Needles Batteries is one that should top every visitor’s list. It takes you through history and gives a glimpse into a soldier’s life during the wars. As well as a secret rocket testing site!
Hope you have enjoyed reading and that this post is valuable towards planning your trip to the historic Needles Batteries in Isle of Wight. If so, use the links in this article and related articles to book train travel, flights and places to stay. TTS earns a commission from qualifying purchases/bookings at no cost to you. As always, your support is much appreciated.
Have a super awesome time in the fabulous Isle of Wight.
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