Maunsell Forts | Attraction Guides | History Hit

Maunsell Forts

Lucy Davidson

06 May 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Maunsell Forts

The Maunsell Forts are armed towers built in the Thames and Mersey estuaries during the Second World War to help defend the United Kingdom.

After being decommissioned in the 1950s, the forts have since been used for other activities including pirate radio broadcasting.

History of Maunsell Sea Forts

The Maunsell Sea Forts are named after their designer, Guy Maunsell. Maunsell was a British civil engineer later known for his innovations in concrete and bridge design, and built the forts on land before transporting them into their positions on the water.

As part of the Thames Estuary defence network, the anti-aircraft tower-forts were built in 1942. Each Sea Fort consisted of a reinforced concrete pontoon base supported by two 18m high concrete towers, which were divided into seven floors, with four for crew quarters. The rest provided dining, operational, and generator and anti-aircraft munition storage areas.

The towers were connected above the waterline by a steel platform deck upon which other structures could be added. The design of the structures is equal to a military grade bunker, due to the edges of the stilts being solidly locked into the ground.

The Army Forts were larger, consisting of a cluster of seven stilted buildings surrounding a central command tower.

After their successful wartime career, the forts were decommissioned in the 1950s.

The Nore Army Fort was badly damaged by a storm and being struck by a ship, and was therefore dismantled in 1959-60.

In the 1960s and 70s, a combination of the Sea and Army forts were famously occupied by a number of Pirate Radio stations. Indeed, the micro independent nation Principality of SeaLand occupies the Roughs Tower.

Maunsell Forts Today

Today, both the Maunsell Sea and Army Forts are sites of interest for preservation projects and artists alike, though are now in varying states of decay, so accessing them isn’t recommended for anyone without express permission and knowledge about how to do so safely.

In 2005, artist Stephen Turner spent 36 days on the Shivering Sands Army Fort, whic hwas the same amount of time a WII serviceman would have spent at the fort. In 2008, band The Prodigy filmed a music video at Redsands.

Getting to Maunsell Forts

The closest place on land to the forts is Whitstable. Some of the forts can be seen from the coast on a clear, bright day. They can also be seen by boat up close, however, it is strongly advised to not try and access them.