The advent of armored warships changed the balance of power between coast defenses and their naval attackers. Efficient steam engines allowed warships to position themselves more effectively against land-based targets. In addition, new ship-borne ordnance could quickly pulverize masonry forts designed before the 1860s.
Coast defense theorists reacted with innovation and nation states with significant coastal installations to protect spent millions to improve their defenses. Mine fields, land-based torpedoes, dispersed cement casemates, disappearing gun platforms, and gigantic ordnance all were used to improve land-based defenses.
This web page provides links to information on the many remaining coastal defense installations around the world which survive from the Pre-Dreadnought period. Due to their immense construction, many more coastal defense works have survived than have the warships which they were designed to defend against. Of interest to the historian, architect and the artillery enthusiast, these defense works are "the other half of the equation" in the amazing expansion of technology during the Pre-Dreadnought Era of naval history.
The following information is presented in alphabetical order of modern country name where the coastal defense works are located.
Fort Lytton in Brisbane, Queensland is used by historical re-enactors and they actually fire some of its remaining Victorian ordnance. The Fort Lytton National Park web site has a good picture of one of the fort's muzzle loading rifled cannon being fired. In addition, here is some visitor's information.
Also see some abstracts from a 1995 conference on Military Archealogy in Australasia & the Pacific about Coastal Defence Guns.
No discussion of Canada's maritime defense would be complete without a mention of the defenses of Halifax. Much of the defense network around Halifax are now National Historic Sites. See in particular the Victorian-era harbor defense works of Fort McNab.
An 8-inch Armstong gun on a disappearing mount defending Auckland, New Zealand.
Another of "Palmerston's Follies", Spitbank Fort is the only UK sea fort now open to the public - it's a restaurant, pub and party venue now. See also the Palmerston Forts Society's article on the Spitbank Fort.
The Fortress Study Group studies fortifications in general.
In my own backyard, is the "The Triangle of Death" designed to defend the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. Fort Worden is a state park and now also a conference center. There is an excellent history of Fort Worden web page as well as information on the Coast Artillery Museum located there. Fort Flagler and Fort Casey which compose the other two points of the "Triangle" are also now state parks. There are some excellent pictures of Fort Casey's guns from a visiting New Zealander and the Coast Defence Study Group's main page also has a great photo of the 10-inch guns of Fort Casey.
Costal Fortifications on the Gulf of Mexico. See especially the Endicott period information for Fort Morgan and Fort Pickens. Fort Pickens has one of the only Endicott era guns remaining in place on a disappearing mount.
See also the American Coast Defense Forts web site which covers US coastal fortresses from all periods.
If you know of other Pre-Dreadnought Era coastal defense installations which have web sites describing them, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Return to the Pre-Dreadnought Preservation main page.