Now here's a good place to put a body - No Man's Fort in the Solent with DI Andy Horton

This month I visited an Amazing Venue, literally, thanks to the company bearing that name because they own three landmarks, or should I say seamarks, in the Solent, all of which I am very familiar with having grown up in Portsmouth but none of which I have ever visited. On the 4 November I got the chance to change that and it was indeed a case of the boat waiting for no man as it took me out on to the Solent to the Victorian Fort of No Man's all in the aid of research for DI Andy Horton number 14.

No Man's Fort, Solent

I have featured one of the Forts before in the DI Andy Horton crime novel A Killing Coast, when a body is found floating off Spitbank Fort.  This time for the new DI Andy Horton I thought about the plot-line connecting with something or someone actually on one of the four forts in the Solent and as three are owned by Amazing Venues I thought I should ask their permission if I could use one in the novel. To my delight not only did they say they have no objection but they also offered to assist me with my research by taking me (and my husband, Bob) out to No Man's Fort.

Amazing Venues own three of the four Solent Forts: Spitbank, No Man's and Horse Sands. The fourth St Helen's is privately owned and not in use.  Spitbank Fort and No Man's Fort have been transformed into totally unique hotels while Horse Sand's Fort is to remain as it was when the navy left it and is to become a museum, well worth a visit and I am sure I will be back to get more ideas for a future DI Andy Horton crime novel.

Pauline Rowson checking in at Solent Forts Office and shop Gunwharf Quays, Portsmouth renamed Oyster Quays in the DI Horton crime novels

Then it was off to the boat waiting to take us out of Portsmouth Harbour into a rain-drenched Solent but no matter it was great for atmosphere and I could just imagine Andy on board the Fort's private boat or perhaps with PCs Elkins and Ripley on the marine police unit's launch.  Not with Sergeant Cantelli though, as readers of the Horton novels know that poor Cantelli gets sea sick just looking at the sea. Perhaps though he has no choice but to go! Would I be so cruel?

A rain soaked day on the Solent heading out of Portsmouth Harbour, Sir Ben Ainslie’s America’s Cup boat, Wightlink ferry and Brittany ferry sailing out behind

We arrived at No Man's Fort in the pouring rain but were given a very warm welcome and were soon exploring the magnificent interior somewhat drastically changed since it was built in 1880 to protect Portsmouth Harbour from the marauding French for which purpose it was never used.

The Atrium, No Man's Fort, Solent Forts

The fort was originally equipped with forty nine guns and was the first fort in England, possibly Europe, to use hydraulic power to raise the ammunition from the sea bunkers (basement) to the firing positions. It was also the first to be lighted throughout by electricity.

Pauline Rowson on research in the tunnels and sea bunkers on No Man's Fort, Solent Forts

Completely renovated but retaining the tunnels and turning them into a feature with historical artifacts, No Man's Fort was opened in 2015.  It boasts a wonderful lighthouse giving spectacular views over the Solent, across to the Isle of Wight and to Portsmouth, including right into the harbour entrance.

A view from the lighthouse on No Man's Fort

Pauline Rowson on location research for DI Andy Horton crime novel on No man's Fort


Here I am making copious notes even in the rain!  Can you see Andy Horton here? I can.

No Man's Fort is three times the size of Spitbank Fort and offers twenty-two huge bedroom suites, its own lazer battle, sea golf, a hot house with firepit, a large rooftop firepit, sauna, hot tub, a cabaret bar and restaurant, as well as retaining the unique sea bunkers,  a must visit for any history fanatic and especially those keen on military history. The tunnels are extremely atmospheric. 

Pauline Rowson checking her notes and taking a break in the Ward Room

After the tour, lunch and a chance to explore this amazing fort it was time to head back to the mainland. A great day out and well worth the visit.

Solent Forts offer packages including overnight/2 day stays, day trips, lunches and venue hire.  Check out Solent Forts website for full details.

My thanks to the Solent Forts team and especially to my guide, Craig, who took us around the Fort and gave me so much useful information.  I came away with lots of inspiration for DI Andy Horton, not to mention a good place to put a body!

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