Chapel Bay Fort History

1817 Proposed two-tier gun battery built into coastal slope, to have been armed with 12 guns, protected to the rear by demi-bastions and a defensible barracks, estimated to cost £8,863.
1858 “REPORT TO PARLIAMENT ON THE SEA DEFENCES OF MILFORD HAVEN AND PEMBROKE DOCK” produced by War Office Committee, proposing the creation of further defences, including a new work at Chapel Bay for “10 guns in an open battery … in a straight line, on rear pivots, defensible barrack in rear for about 150 men.”
1859 20th August – Royal Commission appointed to “Consider the defences of the United Kingdom”. Commission endorses a new work at Chapel Bay for 10 guns.
1860 Report published – “THE DEFENCES OF THE UNITED KINGDOM” by The Royal Commissioners of the Defences of the United Kingdom. This document recommends the construction of a new work at Chapel Bay (NOT finally approved).

19th June – Site for battery purchased from J. Mirehouse Esq. (TNA WO 78 2620)

1862 Approval to build battery of 6 guns. (TNA WO 195 30)

Colonel Jervois’ report on progress in defence construction is published, the proposed plan to mount six guns in an “earthen battery” is still to be started.

Lt. Gen. Sir William Jervois c. 1880


The 10″ 18 ton gun R.M.L. is introduced in British (Naval) service.

1869 Colonel Jervois produces a design to mount 6 R.M.L. guns utilizing Moncrieff Disappearing Gun Carriages, in a battery with barracks for 3 officers and 60 men in the rear forming a “keep”. The whole work was to be enclosed by a ditch and wall, flanked by caponiers. Approval was not given to mount the guns on Moncrieff Disappearing Carriages (TNA WO 196 30). Approval was given for a rectangular plan battery with earthen ramparts, enclosed by a 16 ft deep ditch, armed with six 9″ R.M.Ls. (TNA WO 106 Pt.2)
1886 Six 9 pdr. field guns located near to Chapel Bay, representing 40 pdr. guns during the so-called “Milford Haven Experiments” (History of Submarine Mining in the British Army, by Lt. Col. W. Baker-Brown R.E.)
1890 War Office approval given to commence construction work 1st January. Battery to be armed with three 10″ 18 ton Mk.III R.M.L. guns mounted on 7 ft. parapet “C” (central) pivot carriages. Completed 31st October 1891. Contractor: W. Hill of Gosport.

30th May – Area to the east of the battery purchased from R.W.B. Mirehouse Esq. for the siting of a battery of three 12 pdr. Q.F. guns.

R.W.B. Mirehouse Esq.

1894 2nd April – War Office approval for construction of a 6 pdr. Q.F. battery, completed 17th March 1896. Contractor: Messrs Heathevly Bros., Coventry. Ordnance: Q.F. Nordenfelt 6 pdr. Mk.II on mounting 6 pdr. Q.F. (fitted with new gripping arrangement) (TNA WO 78 2620 Pt.20)
1898 War Office approval to build a new three gun 12 pdr. Q.F. battery to the east of the moat. Commenced May 1898; Completed March 1890. (TNA WO 78 4919)
1900 May – War Office approval to reconstruct and re-arm Chapel Bay Fort. Work commences in June 1900 and was completed in August 1901. New armament consists of three 6″ Mk.VII B.L. guns. (TNA WO 78 4919)
1902 Armament – three 6″ B.L. Mk.VII guns, three 12 pdr. Q.F. guns and four Maxim machine guns.

Three Gun Floor Shelters completed to provide accommodation for the duty gun crews.

1914-18 Chapel Bay served as the “Examination Battery” for the Haven with guns and lights manned 24 hrs a day (hence the need for the Gun Floor Shelters above).
1932 Army leaves Chapel Bay Fort.
1935 Site sold/re-acquired by the Mirehouse family and the Angle Estate.
1959 Chapel Bay Fort scheduled as an Ancient Monument by the Ministry of Public Building and Works.
1960s The Fort had various agricultural uses, including fodder storage, mushroom farming and veal rearing. Gradual deterioration into dereliction begins.

Deterioration continues, accelerated by the severe maritime environment, unchecked tree growth, architectural theft, vandalism and fly-tipping.
During this time a radio navigation mast was erected in the surviving 10″ gun position with generators installed in the former Oil & Paint Store.

c. 1972 First suggestions to restore the Fort made by Lt. Col. L.N.A. Davies.

Royal Electrical & Mechanical Engineers Light Aid Detachment attached to the 17th/21st Lancers recover the last surviving 10″ 18 ton gun from the base of the cliff below the Fort.


George Geear organises the first of many volunteer weekends to start clearing the Fort of 30 years of overgrowth to enable assessment of the state of the structure.

Volunteers clearing the 10 inch 18 ton gun position


Chapel Bay Fort and Museum set up as a charity.
Niall Phillips Architects appointed by Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority to carry out a study and prepare a report “Chapel Bay Fort: Options for its Future”.

1998 Planning application to erect custodian’s dwelling on the site of the former Officer’s Mess to provide permanent presence to prevent further vandalism and enable future restoration of the site – refused.
Demolished porch to Master Gunner's Quarters

Demolished porch to Master Gunner’s Quarters

Porch to Master Gunner's Quarters after restoration

After restoration

Vandalism to Fort continues despite volunteers efforts to secure the site, seeing the Soldier’s Latrines smashed, breaking cast iron frames and slate panels, demolition of the porch to the Master Gunner’s Quarters, breaking of various chimney pots and the burning of the last remaining original doors to the Infantry Casemates.

October – planning appeal for Custodian’s Dwelling successful.

2001 Skeleton carriage under construction

Custodian’s Dwelling completed.

Skeleton carriage fabricated for 10″ 18 ton R.M.L. gun and installed in the surviving gun position.


February – 4.5″ B.L. gun delivered by Army.

2003 10 inch 18 ton gun being craned onto skeleton carriage.

February – 10″ 18 ton R.M.L. Gun mounted on new Skeleton Carriage with the help of Texaco and an 80 ton crane!

2004 Digging out the moat

39 Regiment Royal Engineers clear the blocked moat and install a new bridge under the Military Aid to the Civil Community scheme.

Digging out the moat


Battery Control Station: 1978

After restoration

Battery Control Station restored with funding from Heritage Lottery Fund: Awards for All.

2006-07 Restoration of the Master Gunner’s Quarters, part funded by CADW.

BBC Coast Programme featuring Chapel Bay Fort, first broadcast.

2008 “Pride in Pembrokeshire” grant enables the installation of new oak windows in five of the Casemates.
2010 New oak windows installed in the final three Casemates under funding from CADW and PCC.

A vertical searchlight beam was exposed at the Fort on 4th June as part of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Beacons, necessitating an Admiralty Notice to Mariners.

At the end of the year funding was approved by the Defence of the Realm Project (part of ERDF: Heritage Tourism Project) and the Community Facilities & Activities Programme to enable the major restoration of the Fort ready for its opening to the public as a museum.

Searchlight shining vertically on 4th June 2012

2013-14 Major restoration of the Fort is undertaken. Everything from the total restoration of the surface buildings including new roofing and the tarmacing of the Terreplein to the flooring and limewashing of the Casemates.

Easter – Fort opens to visitors for the first time.
October – work begins on upgrading the access road, car park and bridge, work to reduce water ingress to the Casemates, install railings to the 6″ gun emplacements and install lighting to the Main Magazines. These works were funded by the Coastal Communities Fund.


(1) Chapel Bay is referred to as a Battery in most material, but in the “Table of Reference” July 1914 is correctly referred to as a Fort.
(2) B.L. = Breech-Loading gun with propelling charge in a bag.
      Q.F. = Quick Firing, being a breech-loading gun with the propelling charge in a brass case.
      R.M.L. = Rifled Muzzle Loader

© G.D. Geear & R.J.C. Thomas