In response to French invasion scare in 1858, gun batteries were quickly built all along the South Coast. With its panoramic views of the Bristol Channel, Brean Down, was the ideal location.
Armed with seven huge guns and readied in 1877, the fort never saw action. Though at 5am on the morning of 6 July 1900, a massive explosion rocked the headland as a gunner called Haines, fired his rifle down a ventilator shaft into number 3 magazine which contained 3 tons of gunpowder. Half the battery was destroyed, but amazingly no other soldiers were killed.
Soon afterwards the military left the fort and it was later turned into a cafe from 1913 to 1936 for holiday makers and walkers alike.
The outbreak of Second World War, pressed the fort back into active service, with two new navel guns and two searchlights positions added. Again the fort saw no action, though it was used as by the admiralty as an outpost for the 'Department of Miscellaneous Weapons Development', which tested such high tech and secret devices as acoustic emitters to confuse torpedoes and seaborne bouncing bombs. The only remaining evidence for these tests is an intriguing short section of launching rails pointing towards Steep Holm.