Unexplored Hampshire: Fort Purbrook


Now home to an activity centre, Fort Purbrook was built to defend Portsmouth from a rear attack. This Grade II listed building was completed in 1870 and forms part of the line of forts on Portsdown Hill alongside Fort Widley, Southwick and Nelson.


Fort Purbrook was built to defend Portsmouth, the home of the British Navy in the 1800s. Whilst the Fort was never used defensively it was built on the crest of Portsdown Hill to overlook the city and harbour. Due to the Fort facing inland it might seem that is has been built the wrong way. However it was designed to protect the port and harbour from a land attack from the north.

During WWI Purbrook was armed with an 18 pounder heavy anti-aircraft gun. It was later used as a siege artillery barracks. In 1925 the army withdrew, but returned in 1939 during WWII. Purbrook was the Headquarters of the Home Guard and also an ambulance depot. In 1947 the Navy used the site for radar and until 1968 an army navigational school.


In 1983 the Portsmouth Youth Activities Committee, a charity led by Peter Ashley renovated the Fort. Since then the charity has been renamed as Peter Ashley Activity Centres Trust and is open for children and adults to take part in a wide range of sports, including judo, horse riding, bush craft, bouldering, archery and air rifle shooting.

Throughout the year Fort Purbrook opens its doors for special tours. You can either attend a ghost hunting tour to connect with any spirits that linger at the Fort or a historical tour to learn about the long military history of Purbrook and Portsmouth.

Fort Purbrook has been lovingly looked after during its time as an activity centre and there are plenty of historical artefacts still to see. The stencilled signs dotted about are in good condition. The barracks and tunnels were wonderful to see. The ramparts provide great views over the hill and Portsmouth with some canon still left behind.

Last Updated on 29 October 2023 by Leonie

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