Old Needles Battery was originally proposed in 1855 but was built between 1861 and 1863 as one of the Royal Commission (Palmerston) Forts. Originally called Needles Fort but when a new battery was built to the rear it became Old Needles Battery.
Initially armament was six 7-inch RBL guns that were later replaced by six 9-inch RML guns moved from Hurst Castle in 1898. The battery quickly became redundant when replaced by the New Needles Battery built between 1893 and 1895 with new Breech Loading guns.
In 1885 a Submarine Mining Observation Cell was built on the cliff top, later used for a Defence Electric Light. A Test Room for the Submarine Mining Station was built into the counterscarp of the moat to the south side of the main entrance.
In 1887 five position were built at the base of the cliff below the Battery, access being though a 60 metre deep lift shaft. Four QF guns were mounted in these casemates to counter motor torpedo boats. One position was used for an electric light emplacement. These casemates appear to have been used mainly for testing purposes.
In 1903 the six 9-inch RML guns were removed and dropped over the cliff. These guns were later recovered and two of them mounted on replica carriages in their original positions.
In 1908 a Fire Command Post for all the Needles Batteries was constructed in the Old Needles Battery. This controlled not only the Old Battery but the three 9.2-inch guns of the New Needles Battery above.