Solent: Historic forts go on the market for combined £8m-plus

Three historic forts built in the Solent in the 1860s are being sold by entrepreneur Mike Clare who founded Dreams, the bed company.

They were built by prime minister Lord Palmerston when the country feared invasion by the French. By the time they had been completed the Gallic threat had gone and they became known as Palmerston’s Follies.

Two of the forts for sale, No Man’s Fort and Spitbank Fort, have been painstakingly redeveloped into exclusive hotels.

The third, Horse Sand Fort, is currently used to record the history of the follies and retains the 100 chambers and living quarters, original gun carriages and armour plated walls.

Each of the ‘Solent Forts’ has 15ft granite walls and they are testament to the skill of Victorian engineers and the ambition of the era.

Large stone blocks were used as foundations, transported from the quarry by train and then by barge before being set in place by divers.

No Man’s Fort has been transformed to create a four-star island hotel, with a maximum capacity of 200.

Guests can hire the entire venue exclusively for weddings, corporate events and celebrations.

It has 23 en-suite guest bedrooms, staff quarters, a restaurant, five themed bars, laser battle play area and a spa.

The fort has 99,000 sq ft over four floors and includes a lighthouse with private dining, rooftop hot tubs, sauna, fire pit, hot pool and helipad.

Spitbank Fort is even posher with nine luxury guest suites plus staff accommodation, events spaces including a restaurant, two bars and a ‘wine cave’.

Totalling some 33,000 sq ft over three floors, it has a maximum capacity of 60 and features an open central courtyard, plus roof top terrace including sauna, fire pit and hot pool.

Mike Clare acquired the properties around 10 years ago and spent several years redeveloping them.

After stepping back from the business that runs them he decided to sell in order to focus on other businesses and charity interests.

The two hotels are being sold through global real estate adviser Colliers and the freehold estimate for them combined is more than £8m.

Horse Sand Fort is being sold by auction through Clive Emson Land and Property Auctioneers with bids starting at £750,000.

Paul Barrasford, director in Colliers International’s Hotels Agency team, said: “In keeping with the unique nature of the forts and aside from buyers looking to continue the current use, we are expecting and would welcome interest from buyers looking to repurpose the properties to say, ultra-private residences, corporate retreats or exclusive use venues.

“This is an incredible opportunity to acquire two of the most remarkable properties to come to the market in recent years.

“Commissioned by Prime Minister, Lord Palmerston, during his tenure between 1859 and 1865, the forts were built as a line of defence against enemy attacks on the Solent and Portsmouth.

“They took 20 years to build but were never used in battle as intended – instead they were repurposed as temporary army barracks before being decommissioned by the Ministry of Defence in 1956.”

Rob Marchant, auctioneer at Clive Emson, said: “We sold one of these forts to Mike Clare’s company 10 years ago.

“That was Spitbank Fort which has been completely renovated. We are now offering Horse Sand Fort that has huge potential.

“We sell some incredible land and properties at our actions but these forts must be among the most historically interesting.

“They were built by the Victorians to last and they certainly have – and are a reminder of the threats the country was facing more than 150 years ago.

“There are endless possibilities for these forts and buyers do let their imaginations run wild.”