Browndown Battery

 

Browndown Batteries1856

A map of Stokes Bay in 1856 showing the two earlier Browndown Batteries

In 1852 two primitive batteries were built on Browndown Point at Stokes Bay. They consisted of prepared positions for movable guns behind earth parapets. According to an armament list of 1860 Browndown Battery East had positions for 3 x 68pr of 112 cwt. and 7 x 8-inch of 65 cwt. whilst Browndown Battery West had positions for 3 x 68pr. and 8 x 8-inch. Both batteries were heavily criticised by James Fergusson who proposed a system of moats and ramparts  to defend Stokes Bay. As a result Major Jervois designed and alternative Stokes Bay Moat defence scheme with additional gun batteries known as The Stokes Bay Lines.

In 1888 the need for two heavy guns to protect the deep water anchorage off Browndown Point resulted in the demolition of Browndown Battery East and the rebuilding of the west one. It was extensively remodelled to mount two heavy 12.5-inch 38 ton Rifled Muzzle Loading guns  on the terreplein in open barbette positions. These were paid for at a cost of £6,000 under the Imperial Defence Loan. Underneath and between the two gun positions were the usual shell and cartridge stores with ammunition lifts to the gun positions.

 

Browndown Battery 1891 plan

Browndown Battery 1891 Plan: CS=Cartridge Store SS=Shell Store SA=Side Arm Store M=Expense Magazine

Browndown new battery

The new 1898 Browndown Battery for two 9.2inch Breech Loading Guns: CS=Cartridge Store SS=Shell Store AR=Ablution Room RO=Royal Ordnance Store

The rear of the battery was closed by a loopholed brick wall, the centre of which projected northwards (landwards) to form a ‘V’ shaped defensive structure known as a redan. Shortly after completion a small barrack room for two officers and servants was constructed against the gorge (rear) wall. Soldiers to man the guns were quartered in nearby Fort Gomer. The guns were still in position in 1898 when the Montgomery Committee proposed to replace them with two 9.2-inch Breech Loading guns acting as a gun group with two 6-inch guns on nearby Stokes Bay No.2 Battery. The new battery received its armament by 1904 but was declared superfluous by the Owen Committee in 1905.

Browndown Battery elevation

Browndown Battery elevation of the New 1898 Battery for 9.2 inch B.L. Guns

The Defence Committe reported that ‘The 9.2-inch B.L. gun, Marks IX or X, when a quarter worn, has a penetrative effect nearly 50 per cent greater than a new 12.5-inch M.L. gun. It can be fired three times as fast, and its projectile costs less than half that of the 12.5-inch projectile of the same class. The 6-inch B.L. Mark VII, when quarter worn, has a penetrative effect about 20 per cent greater than a new 10-inch M.L. gun. It can be fired nearly six times as fast, and it projectile costs about one-fourth that of the 10-inch projectile of the same class.. ’

The 9.2-inch BL was considered sufficient for use against Armoured ships up to a range of 6,000 yard.

12-5inch RML

A 12.5inch Rifle Muzzle Loading Gun.

12.5inch RML in action in Cork

A 12.5inch R.M.L. gun of the type mounted at Browndown Battery shown here in action in Cork.

9.2inch B.L. Mk5

A 9.2inch Breech loading Gun Mark V

A 9.2inch Breech Loading Gun Mark V

A 9.2inch Breech Loading Gun Mark V of the type mounted at Browndown Battery in 1904.

Browndown Battery Rear

Browndown Battery viewed from the rear. The lookout on top was added during the period when Browndown was used for Hovercraft trials

Browndown Battery can still be seen  within the perimeter of Browndown army training camp and until the 1990s was looked after by a volunteer workforce of army cadets. Browndown Battery has listed building status. but in not accessible by the public. You can however walk past it when the firing ranges are not in use (i.e. the red flags are not flying).

Browndown Battery in 2015

A view of the front of Browndown Battery in 2015. The enigmatic concrete structure, known by locals as ‘The Browndown Mushroom’ is a vent for the storm water overflow outlet that ejects into the Solent offshore at this point.

More reading: Solent Papers No. 8 The Stokes Bay Defences by David Moore: Available from The Friends of Stokes Bay publications

Link: Browndown Battery on Fort Gilkicker website