artillery, artillery pieces, Ben Ainslie, Fortifications, forts, guns, London Summer Olympics 2012, Military History, Museums, Nothe Fort, Nothe Fort Weymouth, Olympic Gold Medal winner, Olympic sailing, sailing, Sir Ben Ainslie, Souvenirs, Victorian., Victoriana, Weymouth
I witnessed a small, but significant, moment in the history of the Nothe Fort back in 2012, as Weymouth and Portland prepared to be the venue of the London 2012 Summer Olympic and Paralympic sailing. That was the year Sir Ben Ainslie won his Gold medal in the Finn Class sailing, his fifth Gold at five consecutive Olympic Games [not that I was in Weymouth or Portland for the actual sailing, I was only there for the final preparations].
The Fort operates on three levels; the ramparts on top, the gun deck/parade ground below and the magazine beneath that. You enter the Fort at the gun deck/parade ground level, through the barbican; the main defensive feature on the landward side of the fortification.
The gun deck is comprised of 26 casements, which once open plan and housed the “massive Victorian muzzle loaded guns“. Casement 22 contains a reconstruction of the Victorian gun deck, where an impressive collection of very proud looking mannequins manned artillery pieces that look so colossal you would think they were immovable. There were no partitions between the casements back then, so it was possible to move along the gun deck without having to go out onto the parade ground. The casements also contain the reception and shop, the canteen and some interesting displays about the building of the fort and films about the various guns that have been positioned there throughout its history.
On the ramparts above you can see one of the 6 inch guns that made the Victorian muzzle loaded guns on the gun deck below obsolete by 1905 [there were three guns originally, but now there is only one, but you can still see the emplacements were they once stood].
In the magazine below the gun deck you will find a series of underground tunnels and rooms. One surprising feature of the fort is that a third of the magazine was converted into a nuclear fallout shelter for civilian use during the Cold War.
The Nothe Fort is a fascinating place were Britain has faced external threats both real and imagined; arguably the fortifications finest hour was during World War Two when it served as an anti-aircraft position protecting Portland and Weymouth harbours, a conflicted its Victorian architects could never have imagined. The Victorians were right about one thing however, the Nothe Peninsula offers great views of Weymouth and Portland, so it is worth the trek up there even if you are not interested in history, especially on a sunny day, like that day back in 2012.