Owned by the National Trust, the Needles Old Battery was built by Palmerston in 1862 following the threat of a French invasion. Two original gun barrels are displayed in the parade ground and a tunnel accessed by a spiral staircase leads to a searchlight emplacement perched above the Needles Rocks.
From the Parade Ground you get a really fabulous view of Alum Bay and the mainland beyond, along with yachts and boats sailing by. On Round the Island Race day (30 May 2020) the café here opens at 6:30am for a hearty breakfast watching 1,500 or more yachts turning around the Needles lighthouse.
The Battery was part of a chain of defences to protect the naval dockyards of Portsmouth, especially from invasion by Napoleon III. As this did not occur, the Needles Old Battery became known as one of 'Palmerston's Follies'.
Last used in action in WWII, the Old Battery is a red brick fortification built into the chalk cliff, surrounded on the landward side by a dry ditch to prevent invaders climbing up from the beach.
In 1945 both Old and New Batteries were closed and then decommissioned and the Needles Headland and both Batteries were bought by the National Trust in 1975. The Old Battery was restored and then officially opened to visitors in 1982 by HRH Prince Charles.
Kids always have questions and there's plenty to ask here - What was life like for soldiers based at the Battery? And how many ships you can spot? See if you can find the Major and his gunners who are hidden around the Battery.