Standing at the head of a busy estuary Spurn Point has played an important role in
the defence of Britain. During the Napoleonic Wars a battery with barracks was established
there about 1805. At the beginning of World War I, when the military authorities
were considering how to defend the Yorkshire coast and the River Humber, Spurn seemed
an ideal place to put land-based defences, despite the obvious problems of constructing
heavy buildings and armaments on sand. Accordingly in 1915 Spurn Fort, (which incorporated
Green Battery) was established on the Point.
A little further up the peninsula near the lighthouse the Port War Signal Station
was built. From here all vessels using the area were monitored; they used pennants,
lights and sound to indicate that they were friendly vessels. At the mouth of the
estuary two forts, Bull Sands Fort and Haile Sands Fort, were erected on sand banks.
At the northern end of the peninsula at Kilnsea, Godwin Battery, another fort, was
During the construction of these forts, a military railway was built to link Spurn
and Kilnsea. As a means of giving early warning of the approach of Zeppelins, the
Kilnsea Sound Mirror was erected in fields a little to the north of Godwin Battery.
At this time the Army took over responsibility for maintaining the sea defences from
the Board of Trade.
After the war the forts were placed under a system of care and maintenance, and Godwin
Battery was retained as a local military base, and also used by the Territorial Army
for annual camps. In 1933/34 most of the soldiers left Spurn itself, and civilians
were employed to care for the camp and maintain the sea defences. When World War
II was declared, the military came back in force, and in the early years of the war
Spurn played an important role in home defence. When the focus of the war moved to
the Continent, Spurn and Kilnsea forts continued to play an important role in the
defence of the East Coast from the air. After the war a military presence remained,
and in the 1950s during the Cold War, more anti-aircraft artillery was placed in
the Warren area. The accommodation on the Point was also used by the R.A.F. until
they transferred to a new base at Patrington Haven.
By the late 1950s most of the military had withdrawn and the forts were put up for
sale. In 1959 Spurn was sold to the Yorkshire Naturalists’ Trust for the creation
of a nature reserve and in 1960 Godwin Battery was sold and turned into a caravan
site (Sandy Beaches). Some military buildings, gun emplacements, and concrete pill
boxes still remain, though many were demolished in the 1970s because they were thought
to be dangerous. On the beach in front of Sandy Beaches Caravan Site lie two huge
gun emplacements, and more military buildings will soon topple over to join them.
On the Point itself it is still possible to see searchlight emplacements, the remains
of an engine room, two gun emplacements, and other relics which give an indication
of what Spurn must have looked like when it was bristling with armaments and soldiers.
In the estuary the two forts, Bull Sands Fort and Haile Sands Fort, still stand grey
and forbidding, like sentinels at the mouth of the Humber.