Notes: The fort is well signposted and several pay and display car parks are in the immediate vicinity.
WHAT IS THERE TO SEE?
The well preserved remains of a nineteenth century coastal defence fort. An informative museum and several reconstructions add much to this venue and the battlements offer superb views over Portland harbour.
1. By the time the fort was commissioned, in 1872, it had cost nearly £120,000. Significant upgrades followed in the 1890s and late 1930s.
2. In July 1940 Nothe Fort opened fire on two unidentified, unlit ships attempted to slip into Portland Harbour. These turned out to be refugees fleeing the newly occupied Channel Islands; thankfully the ships then identified themselves and the fort held fire before any damage was done.
In the mid-nineteenth century the construction by the Royal Navy of the Portland Breakwater massively increased the size of the harbour and required an entirely new line of defences; Nothe Fort was one of these structures providing coastal defence from 1872 through to 1956.
HISTORY OF NOTHE FORT
Built on the recommendations of an 1860 Royal Commission report, Nothe fort was part of a series of defences to protect the Portland Roads. The construction of the breakwater in the mid-nineteenth century meant the Tudor era fortifications at Portland Castle and Sandsfoot Castle were badly positioned and unsuitable for upgrade. Furthermore the increasing importance of Portland as a main base for the Royal Navy's Atlantic and Channel Fleets mandated extensive defences. Together these factors prompted three wholly new fortifications; Nothe Fort was partnered with the Breakwater Fort and Verne Citadel and augmented by East Wear and High Angle Batteries.
Originally contracted out to a civilian organisation, the work on Nothe Fort ground to a halt when the contractor ran into financial difficulties. The project was taken back into State control in 1862 and the military, 26 Company Royal Engineers, were assigned to finish the task. It took ten years but by 1872 the fort was fully operational and equipped with an extensive arsenal of weaponry. Nevertheless the fast pace of military technology meant significant upgrades were made to the fort in the 1890s to enable heavier, breach loading weaponry to be installed.
As the threat of World War hung over Britain in the late-1930s, further upgrades were made to Nothe Fort enabling it to be used during WWII as an ammunition depot for the South West area. When war broke out it was equipped with anti-aircraft guns fitted in and adjacent to the fort. Post-war it retained its role until 1956 when the British Army's coastal defence arm was stood down. Thereafter it was used as storage facility by the Royal Navy and was sold in the 1961 to the local council who, in the 1980s, used the fort's underground tunnel system to house a District Command Centre to be used in the event of a nuclear attack.