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Portsdown Hill Forts Video

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Associated Web Link: www.victorianforts.co.uk
Associated Web Link: www.royalarmouries.org

Transcript Of Narration
We now move on to looking at Portsmouth s forts located on Portsdown Hill which are often known as Palmerton s follies. These are Fort Nelson, Fort Southwick, Fort Widley and Port Purbrook. Fort Nelson is now the museum of artillery run by the Royal Armouries, Fort Southwick was used for Admiralty research until 2003. Fort Widley hosts stables and community rooms and is owned by Portsmouth City Council and lastly Fort Purbrook is open occasionally for fairs.

Fort Nelson houses the Royal Armouries collection of artillery. The 19 acre site of Fort Nelson is full of exhibits. There is the story of artillery told in exhibits with an audio guide. You can go down under the Fort in its tunnels and explore, this is a cool place to be on a hot day. There are often re-enactments and firing of the guns. Exhibits include a French field gun captured at the Battle of Waterloo (1815) plus a collection of 19th and 20th century field guns, mortars and ornate bronze guns. Firing days and other special events are held regularly throughout the summer months at weekends.

Before Fort Nelson was built, Portsmouth's defences relied upon smoothbore guns positioned close to the shore. To protect Portsmouth from the stronger guns it was necessary to redesign all its fortifications. In the 1850s the Government decided to update the forts on the Isle of Wight, the mainland and the Solent, they also built four sea forts across the eastern approach. It was feared the French might try to come and attack over land so a line of forts were built along Portsdown hill one of which was Fort Nelson.

Fort Nelson was built between 1862 and 1871, the guns of the fort faced in land not towards the sea. The guns were manned by a garrison of 200 volunteers and the forts were never attacked. High walls and towers were easy to knock down by siege guns and so Fort Nelson was built low with earth slopes facing the attacker, the slopes hiding guns and musketry positions.

In 1902 the garrison was stood down and the armaments removed although it did still continue as a military depot. It was used as a transit camp for soldiers going to France between 1914 and 1918. Although the Fort never saw action against the French it did against the Germans. On the night of 9th January 1941 the Fort was commended for supplying a further 1,220 rounds of ammunition to the guns despite being under heavy fire. As it was being used as an ammunition base its own anti-aircraft guns were placed outside its walls. The Fort continued to serve as a naval depot until the 1950s. It was then restored before being leased to the Royal Armouries in 1988 and opened to the public.

For more information about Palmerston s Forts have a look at www.palmerstonforts.org.uk or for more information about Fort Nelson have a look at www.royalarmouries.org