Pembrokeshire’s 20-sided Old Defensible Barracks was built around 1844 and used to house the army garrison that protected the nearby Pembroke dockyard from assault.
Sitting on the crest of a hill overlooking Milford Haven waterway, the Grade II-listed stone building is 45,000 sq ft and one of its wings has been partially converted into flats.
However, the vast majority of the structure is run-down and in need of major investment to bring it back into use. It has previously been declared the second-most endangered Victorian or Edwardian building in England and Wales, and even has a colony of wild goats living in its overgrown 16-foot dry moat.
The barracks are laid out in a defensive square structure, with projecting bastions on each corner designed to avoid blind spots during an attack, and it is thought to be the last fort of its kind built in Europe.
Bastion forts emerged at a time when cannons began to dominate battlefields, and the design was first seen in 15th century Italy.
The compound is accessed through its north gatehous,e complete with holes for muskets and winches for the former sliding drawbridge. It’s described by agents Strutt and Parker as: “a rare opportunity to develop and restore a historic building of national importance.”
Over the years, various attempts have been made to convert the historic fort. In 2019, the barracks were bought by private developer VR1844 LTD, which had plans to bring the building back into use. Its efforts were scuppered by the pandemic and they have decided to put it back on the market.
“The developer is looking at investing elsewhere,” said Strutt & Parker’s senior associate director, Joe Martin. “Before our client, many have come in to try and turn it into different uses but it requires a big investment punch — someone with deep pockets.”
According to Martin, the fort has an “austere” first impression but opens out onto an impressive Georgian-style parade grounds. He added: “It’s one of the best examples of its kind in Europe and includes original details, such as an old ammunition store disguised as a hairdressers, in case of an invasion.”
Famous residents of the barracks include Gordon of Khartoum, who was later deployed to join the fighting in Crimea, and Arthur Lowe, who played Captain Mainwaring in Dad’s Army.
During the First World War, the fort was a siege-training school for the Royal Artillerymen, and in the Second World War it was used as the Milford Haven headquarters.
According to the agent, the barracks and associated buildings are full of character and details with a layout that “presents well for renovation and conversion into residential property” — whether hotel or individual dwellings. The fort is sold on a freehold basis but one leaseholder lives in a flat in its converted east wing.
Any works are subject to discussions and permissions with the Welsh Government’s historic environment service (CADW) and the local authority.