Newhaven Fort History
Britain was last successfully invaded in 1066 and since then our coasts have been guarded by a succession of forts and castles placed at strategic locations. Seaford Bay and the port of Newhaven were always tempting landing places for an invader and the defensive history of the area dates back to the Bronze age when a large enclosed fort was built on the cliff top. When the Romans arrived, they too built a fort on the site and, since that time fortifications have remained, culminating in the building of the Newhaven Fort structure seen today.
There were several 'scare' periods when it was believed that the south coast was in danger of assault. In 1588 the Spanish Armada - badly shaken after eight days of almost continuous attack from the English fleet out of Plymouth, but still impressive in size - sailed through the English Channel within sight, but not gun range, of a newly installed gun battery at Newhaven. One report suggests we actually had a lucky escape however, as it's reported that the guns at Newhaven were “unmounted and of little worth”, so it was just as well the Spanish fleet kept their distance!
All too often it was only the imminence of war that led to any interest being shown in coastal defences. In fact, reports have often shown that during peacetime the defences became inadequate or neglected. Gun platforms were left to rot as the gunners, who were often unpaid for months, had to take to fishing or market gardening to eke out a living.
The current Newhaven Fort structure was built around the 1860's and is the largest work of defence ever constructed in Sussex. It has stood firm as a vital element in Britain’s coastal defence through two World Wars. Following its abandonment as a military fortification, Newhaven Fort suffered years of incredible neglect and dereliction but has now been restored to provide an award-winning visitor attraction.
| The Man who built the Fort
| Newhaven Fort during WW1
| Newhaven Fort during WW2
| Invasion Scare
| Operation Sea Lion
| The Dieppe Raid
| The Years of Neglect