Saturday, 4 February 2012

Brean Down Fort (1870 - 1945)

One of my favourite battlefield walks is just a short drive from my home in Somerset, England. Brean Down is a spectacular rocky outcrop that juts out into the Severn Estuary. On a clear day and after a steep climb, it is possible to see the Black Mountains in Wales, the North Devon coast, the Somerset Levels and the urban sprawl of Weston Super Mare. It is a beautiful place - devoid of cars and abundant in wildlife. It also has a fascinating military history. In particular Brean Down Fort at the tip of the peninsular.

Brean Down Fort with 1941 hardstanding in the foreground
The Fort was built in the 1860s - part of a grand scheme of defences devised to see off the threat of a French invasion. Such fortifications have since become known as Palmerston's Follies on account of the fact that they became obsolete within just a few years of being built as a result of large scale improvements in naval gunnery. Brean Down Fort was home to three 7 inch rifled muzzle loading guns. Working with similiar batteries on the Welsh coast and on the islands of Steep & Flat Holm the fort served to protect the city of Bristol from raiders navigating up the Severn Estuary. The fort was destroyed in 1900 by a rogue artilleryman who discharged his weapon down the ventilation shaft leading to No. 3 magazine. The site was rendered unusable and remained out of use until WW2.