Heritage Eastbourne

History of the Redoubt Fortress

One of only three surviving Napoleonic Redoubts in the UK, the Redoubt Fortress retains many of its original features and is recognised by Historic England as being of national importance!

Built to defend England during the Napoleonic Wars over 200 years ago, the Redoubt Fortress was in use by the military right up to the First and Second World Wars.

This unique defence system along the south coast also includes two Martello Towers at the Wish Tower and Langney Point.

About the Building

The Casemates

The Redoubt has 24 rooms which are known as Casemates, and these housed up to 200 men, although in an emergency up to 350 could be accommodated. The companies of men who lived at the Redoubt were known as the garrison.

Barracks

The walls of some casemates still have their black iron shelf frames. Under each shelf frame there would have been a bed, and when the beds were folded away during the day, soldiers hung their kit on these frames.

There may have been some women living at the Redoubt, as officially the Army allowed six officers in a company to live with their wives on site. They would share the same barracks or sleeping quarters as the rest of the men, with only a blanket hung across the room from privacy.

Moat & Caponiers

As the Redoubt was built onto shingle beach, the moat was never intended to hold water as it would just drain away. Even though it was a massive obstacle the dry moat still needed defending if an attacker managed to climb down into it to assault the walls.

For protection, five caponiers were built in the moat. If the enemy descended into the moat, the soldiers could fire on them at close range from inside the caponiers. One of the caponiers is still accessible to visitors from the fortress in casemate 3.

Gun Platform

Above the casemates is the 'terre plein' or gun platform. This has eleven embrasures, or gun emplacements but only ten guns were ever mounted at the Redoubt. Next to the embrasures are small magazines, or storage compartments, which would hold the shot and gunpowder for each cannon.

The gun platform provides fantastic views of English Channel and coastline from Hastings to Beachy Head.

The Glacis

The Redoubt is surrounded by an earth slope called a 'Glacis' which is designed to protect the walls of the fortress from enemy gun fire. It was made from the earth and shingle dug out when the dry moat was created.

Enemy fire would either become embedded in the earth or bounce off. Only the parapet of the gun platform was vulnerable from enemy fire.

Drop Bridge

Unlike today, the fortress was designed with only one way in across the drop bridge. As the name suggests half of this bridge could be dropped to prevent enemy attackers from crossing the moat and invading the building.

Visitors can cross the rebuilt bridge from the Royal Parade entrance to the fortress.

Rainwater Tanks

The building has four water tanks built underneath the Fortress, each collecting up to 3,000 gallons of water. A series of drainpipes from the gun platform collected rainwater which ran into the tanks.

However during periods of higher tides, tanks were often flooded with sea water and would become contaminated.  One of the water tanks can still be seen today in the fortress.

French Engineering

The Redoubt was one of the last fortresses to be built according to the rules laid down by Vauban, the great French military engineer to King Louis XIV (1638-1715).

As a result many of the terms used in the building are French.