FOR years the future of Spitbank Fort has been uncertain, but it has now been announced it will be opening in November as an exclusive retreat.
Mike Clare, founder of bed retailer Dreams, bought the fortress in November 2009 for £1m.
His company Amazing Retreats spent two years and a further £2.5m turning the crumbling fort into a five star nine-bedroom conference centre and event venue.
And the first job on the agenda was to fix the fort’s historic, but leaky, roof.
The Grade II listed island fort, a mile into the Solent, will have nine bedrooms for up to 18 people and function space for 50 guests.
The function room will double as a conference hall, and the developer is hoping the venue will be hired by businesses for conferences or corporate balls.
There is also hope that the fort could be used to host events such as a sail-in concert, where boat owners moor alongside the fort for musical performances.
PLC Architects of Portsmouth worked with English Heritage to restore the property, which is one of four forts guarding the Solent, the others being Horse Sand, St Helen’s and No Man’s Land.
Spitbank was one of the forts built under the instruction of Lord Palmerston between 1861 and 1878 to deal with the perceived threat of invasion by the French. It cost almost £120,000.
The defences, which also include Fort Widley and Fort Cumberland and others on land, were not tested as the invasion did not materialise. Spitbank’s walls are 15ft thick at basement level, with 35ft thick sea foundations and a 8ft thick concrete roof. During the Second World War anti-aircraft guns were installed.
Greg Ward, sales and operations director for Amazing Retreats, said: ‘The fort is a fantastic addition to the Amazing Retreats portfolio.
‘It will be an exclusive luxury retreat, completed to a very high standard whilst delivering exemplary service to our guests who are looking for an incredible experience with a difference, be it for a leisurely break, family occasion, meeting or corporate event.’
The previous owners, a trio of investors led by Neale Brickwood, had been trying to turn it into a casino, clubbing venue, and hotel at the time it was sold to Mr Clare’s company, Clarenco, which is Amazing Retreat’s parent company.