Nothe FortNothe Fort is built on a promontory which separates Portland Harbour and Weymouth Harbour. In 1860, a Royal Commission appointed by the Secretary of War reported that new fortifications were needed at Nothe, the Inner Pier of the Portland breakwater, Disdale Point and Verne Hill. Advances in technology had produced iron warships and England's fortifications needed updating to face the new enemy.
The original contractor began work on an open emplacement battery armed with five 64 pounder guns. Funds fell short and the works passed into the hands of the No. 26 Company of Royal Engineers. As the works went on, the plans changed. It was now decided that the plans for open earth batteries be abandoned. The casemated battery would now be designed for 10 heavy guns with two lighter guns overlooking Weymouth Harbour.
The final construction of Nothe Fort would later be declared as one of the greatest military fortifications built by the Victorians. Taking the shape of a “D”, the ground level of the Fort consists of 26 large casemates or vaulted rooms. Every second one of these is constructed with a gunport to accommodate large cannons. Above lie observation posts and space for more guns while below are a network tunnels and magazines. On the straight line of Nothe Fort a buiding protudes from the south side, the Caponier. This was constructed to protect against attempted assaults over the main gate or from the escarpment wall.
Nothe Fort was first garrisoned by the No. 2 Battery Royal Artillery. One of their first tasks was to bring four 9-inch guns, six 10-inch guns and a 64-pounder rifled muzzled loader (RML) inside the Nothe Fort walls. However, new and improved warship technology led to seven of these being replaced with 12.5 RML's in the 1890's. By 1912, these were already obsolete. New breech loaders (BL's) could pierce armour and fire at a range of ten miles. Three BL's were now installed on the ramparts to take over the job that a mere 20 years previously had required 12 RML's.
Although Nothe Fort was manned for a couple of years during WWI there was no action here and until WWII the guns were only fired during exercises and training programmes. At the outset of WWII more change ensued as Nothe Fort was to become a central anti-aircraft ammunition depot. On the south side, some casemates and magazines were converted for storage, a road replaced the wooden drawbridge into the fort, a loading platform was built and an electric hoist installed. By September 1939, Nothe Fort was armed with an anti-aircraft defence and a Vickers pom-pom which lay on a new platform on the ramparts of the fort's north west corner. It would soon be replaced by a a 40mm Bofors while four 3.7-inch guns were postioned on the glacis (now the carpark). Throughout WWII Nothe Fort served as a support to Breakwater Fort which was the main examination battery guarding vessels' entrance to Portland and Weymouth.
By the end of WWII, coastal defences had largely lost their value. By 1956, the guns were removed and in 1961, Nothe Fort was purchased by the Weymouth and Melcombe Council. As they debated what to do with it, all and sundry moved in and partied. In their wake, the walls had been decorated with an enlightening range of graffiti, wooden fittings burnt as firewood and steel fittings removed. Restoration began in 1979 and was conducted by volunteers of the Weymouth Civic Society. A year later, Nothe Fort received 9,000 visitors and now annually welcomes over 50,000. As well as views of the Dorset coastline, Weymouth Harbour and Portland Harbour, Nothe Fort now also offers over 30 display rooms. These detail the history of the fort and the Nothe Peninsula, the guns and soldiers who lived here and the daily of the locals at Weymouth in WWII. These displays are brought to life with sounds and even smells. On your visit, you'll also see the Nothe Gardens and a large collection of ship, tank and aircraft models and a collection of photographs.
Address: Nothe Fort, Barrack Road
Postcode: DT4 8UF
Town/city or near: Weymouth
Open daily from May to September from 10.30am to 5.30pm. Also open for two weeks during the Dorset half-term, occassional Sundays and Bank Holidays. Groups of 10 or more visitors are also welcomed out of season. Please phone Nothe Fort for more details.