Just a short distance from Milford-on-Sea, the start point of the fairly new, Solent Way walk, is Hurst Spit, a long shingle bank that juts out into the Solent. At it’s closest point it is only separated from the Isle of Wight by about 1300 meters. Here was built Hurst Fortress.
The fortress was started Henry VII in 1541, by that point artillery was powerful enough to defend the gap and therefore protect Southampton. it was completed in 1544 and housed some 20 guns.
By the outbreak of war with Revolutionary France in 1793, Hurst Fortress was already over 250 years old and not in the best of repair. A programme repair was started. A few years later in 1803, the threat of the Napoleon invading saw major structural change to support 24 pounder guns! All completed by 1807. The guns saw no action however and by 1809 all the new space was converted to a temporary hospital.
Work continued to improve the Fortress/Castle over the years and in 1859, a Royal Commission was established to review the coastal defence of the country, this led to further changes and expansion, mostly finished by 1873.
It is very unusual for a Tudor Castle to remain in use for such a long time, in fact Hurst was in use during both world wars and remained in military use right up until 1956 when it fell into the hands of the Ministry of Works, predecessor of English Heritage who now cares for it.
Right next door to the castle stands Hurst Point Lighthouse. The original here was “first lit” in September 1786. This current one dates from 1812, and stands 85 feet tall! If you were thinking it’s lens ought to have a UV filter on it to protect it you’d need one with a 920mm thread!! History continues here, and the lighthouse remains in action and in 2020 was up-dated to a LED light!!