Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Historic Spitbank sea fort in the Solent set to reopen

Spitbank Fort
Image caption The fort was turned into a museum in the 1960s

A Victorian sea fort is due to reopen as a private venue after a two-year restoration project.

Spitbank Fort, which was built to defend the Solent and mainland from French attack, was sold for more than £1m to a property investor.

Amazing Retreats, set up in 2010 by umbrella company Clarenco, restores character properties as venues for film locations and private functions.

The company said the restoration was expected to be complete in November.

The Grade II listed island property, one mile (1.6km) off the Hampshire coast, would provide accommodation for up to 18 people and function space for 50 guests.

The developer's architects worked with English Heritage to restore the property, which is one of four Napoleonic forts guarding the Solent.

'Exceptional offer'

The building cost nearly £120,000 to construct between 1861 and 1878 and was one of Palmerston's Follies, a series of land and sea-based forts designed to repel French warships, but was never put into action.

Its walls are 15ft (4.5m) thick at basement level, with 35ft (10.6m) thick sea foundations and a 8ft (2.3m) thick concrete roof.

Its base on the seabed is 162ft in diameter with armour plating on the seaward side.

During World War II it was installed with anti-aircraft guns to defend nearby Portsmouth harbour against German attack.

It was decommissioned in the 1960s and turned into a museum.

The price paid for the fort in 2009 was not disclosed but it had been due to be sold at auction with a guide price of between £600,000 and £700,000.

Auctioneer Rob Marchant said the successful bidder had made an "exceptional offer" before the auction took place.

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