In 1852 two primitive batteries were built on Browndown Point at Stokes Bay to protect the western approaches to Portsmouth and to prevent an enemy landing on the fine shelving beach at Stokes Bay. They both consisted of prepared positions for movable guns behind earth parapets. The Western battery was completed in August 1852 and the armament mounted with the Royal Artillery immediately taking possession.
In 1856, after inspecting the British Foreign Legion encampted at Browndown, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert also visited the two batteries at Browndown. The Standard reported "The Queen and Royal Family subsequently visited the earthwork batteries lately constructed, of a half-moon shape, mounted with traversing heavy 68 and 32 pounders commanding the whole lines of approach from Hillhead and Spithead from the Kicker Point. These batteries are particularly formidable and would destroy any enemy passing up channel or attempting a landing on the north shore."
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 an alternative Stokes Bay Moat defence scheme which became known as the Stokes Bay Lines.
The first Browndown Batteries and Fort Gomer in 1853
This is Browndown Battery East as shown on the plan below and described in the text above. In the distance can be seen the West Browndown Battery.
A sketch of Browndown Fort 1856
The two earthen batteries at Browndown were referred to as Browndown Battery East and Browndown Battery West. The eastern one was demolished first whilst the western one was retained for a while until it was reconstructed as the new Browndown Battery.
Plan of the Browndown Batteries surveyed 1856
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. In 1888/89 it was extensively remodelled to mount two 12.5-inch 38 ton RMLs on the terreplein in open barbette positions. These were paid for at a cost of £4,237 under the Imperial Defence Loan.
The new Browndown Battery in 1890
Underneath and between were the usual shell and cartridge stores with lifts to the gun positions. The rear of the battery was closed by a loopholed brick wall, the centre of which projected northwards (landwards) to form a redan. Shortly after completion a small barrack room for two officers and servants was constructed against the gorge wall. Soldiers to man the guns were quartered in nearby Fort Gomer.
Plan of Browndown Battery for two 12.5-inch RML guns
The heavy R.M.L. guns were still in position in 1898 when the Montgomery Committee proposed to replace them with two 9.2-inch BL 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.
Plan of Browndown Battery after modification for two 9.2inch B.L. Guns 1900.
Browndown Battery is still within the perimeter of Browndown army training camp and until the 1990s was looked after by a volunteer workforce of army cadets.