VISIBLE to the east of the Island, the Nab Tower was planned for anti-submarine protection in The Solent in the First World War.

It was sunk over the Nab rocks to replace a lightship after the war, and it marks the deep-water eastern entry into The Solent.

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During the First World War, the British Admiralty designed eight towers codenamed M-N, which were to be built and positioned in the Straits of Dover to protect allied merchant shipping from German U-boats.

Isle of Wight County Press:

The Nab Tower prior to its 2013 refurbishment.  Note the steel cladding and distinctive red light on top. Photo: Wikipedia/Stuart Buchan.

Designed by civilian Guy Maunsell, the towers were to be linked together with steel nets and armed with two four-inch guns with the idea of closing the English Channel to enemy ships.

However, by the end of the war only one tower had been completed.

In 1920, the completed Nab tower was towed by two paddle-wheel tugs to the Nab rock.

Buoyancy was provided by the honeycomb construction of the concrete base, which created 18 watertight compartments.

When these were flooded, the structure sank and settled to rest at an angle of three degrees from vertical towards the northeast — a characteristic tilt which is obvious to this day.

The Nab Tower was manned as a lighthouse, but also functioned as a Royal Navy signal station; and during the Second World War it was equipped with a pair of Bofors guns to provide some defence to The Solent approach — and actually shot down several aircraft.

The Royal Navy withdrew its personnel from the tower some time after the war, but the tower remained under Ministry of Defence ownership until 1984, when Trinity House acquired the freehold.

The Nab Tower still functions as a lighthouse, but since 1983 it has been unmanned.

Isle of Wight County Press:

Part of the County Press front page story from when the Dole America hit the Nab Tower in November 1999.

In November 1999, the merchant freighter Dole America hit The Nab. The ship was badly damaged and only avoided sinking by being run aground.

The Dole America was carrying a cargo of bananas and pineapples and was on its way from Portsmouth to Antwerp when it hit the Nab Tower and sustained a 26-metre gash below its waterline.

It was steered to a point three miles south of Hayling Island and was retrieved by a company from The Netherlands, who took it away for repairs.

The base of the Nab Tower suffered superficial and internal damage, which was was repaired in 2001.

In 2013, Trinity House commissioned BAM Nuttall to undertake a major refurbishment programme due to extensive corrosion of the upper levels, which meant it was unsafe to land helicopters on the helipad.

Isle of Wight County Press:

A recent picture of the Nab Tower in The Solent.  Note the solar panels and white light, which were added in 2013.  Picture by Andy Amor.

The height of the tower was reduced from 27 metres to 17, all external steel and cladding were removed and the existing concrete sub-structure was coated in a new layer of concrete.

On completion, new beacons were fitted, along with a fixed main LED light and identical standby light with a 12 nautical mile range and a new fog signal. All are solar powered.

  • Did you know...the Nab Tower was featured as the main setting of the 1951 Hammer thriller, The Dark Light.

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