On the Monday following this year’s very enjoyable Armati-by-the-Sea weekend, a few die hards took up the offer of an extra day on the south coast and visited Fort Nelson. Highly recommended if you like heritage sites, fortifications and big guns. It’s a formula that works for me, anyway.
Fort Nelson is one of the Palmerston Follies that ring Portsmouth to save us from an invasion by the dreaded French. Inevitably the invasion didn’t come (we fight the French in France, of course*).
It fell into ruin, but the Royal Armouries have restored it and housed some artillery assets there. I thought you might like a look. As well as the history of the fort, there’s a history of gunnery selection, and a fair few 20th Century examples.
A quick look at the history of artillery …
Fort Nelson is a 19th century star fort with a sloping grass glacis, murderous killing grounds and traps around the bastions, many of which have been restored …
Visiting on a winter’s day, the parapet was off-limits as it had just been regrassed in preparation for the busy summer. A disappointment but an excuse to visit the fort again, on another day, now I know what’s there. It meant plenty of time to explore underground and I have to admit, underground, you got a real sense of what these places were like.
Well worth a visit as a restored 19th century fortress. Well worth a visit, too, as a collection of historic artillery pieces.
Some of the World War II artillery exhibits
(Soviet 45mm anti-tank gun … model 1942 – the one with the longer barrel)
Yes – OK, I’m doing Soviet artillery at the moment, so I’m interested in where all the little wheels and sights are positioned …
I’m also looking at making a searchlight, and had a good look round this set:
I should add that there were plenty of staff on hand and that I asked a number of quite technical questions. As you might expect, they were more than happy to help, had all the answers and more – so get full marks for supporting the exhibits with well informed curators only too happy to talk to other enthusiasts with an interest in artillery pieces ….
Well … that’s what I looked at when I visited Fort Nelson.
I can highly recommend it. Amongst many other local attractions, there is a naval gunnery museum in Portsmouth, and just along the road from Fort Nelson, there is the Saxon Shore fort and Medieval castle at Portchester.
*or Canada, the Caribbean, North Africa, Spain, Portugal, Palestine, India, the Low Countries … anywhere but here, really …