It is considered that while examining coastal fortifications, it would be worthwhile to give a limited consideration to what targets they were actually intended to engage. Between 1840 and 1914 there was a revolution in naval warfare and the capability of warships. The naval warships of 1840 were little changed from those of the Napoleonic Wars, with broadside smooth bore gun batteries, sails for propulsion and wooden hulls. HMS Victory from 1737 was armed with 100 guns made up from 42-pdrs, 24-pdrs, 12-pdrs and 6-pdrs.
Three essential components of warship design were to be revolutionized between 1840 and 1914. These were:
- Propulsion, transition from sail, to steam and then steam turbine.
- Protection, from wood to steel plate to fully armoured.
- Guns. from smoothbore, to Rifle Muzzle Loader to Breach Loading Rifled guns. The wide spread introduction of explosive shells from the 1850s also made rigging very vulnerable to catching fire.
The Royal Navy, as the senior service, also had priority in terms of finance. Nearly all of the guns used in coastal defence batteries were first developed for use in warships.