Nothe Fort, tramway and searchlight battery at The Nothe
- Heritage Category:
- Scheduled Monument
- List Entry Number:
- Date first listed:
- Date of most recent amendment:
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This copy shows the entry on 11-May-2021 at 11:24:25.
The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
- Dorset (Unitary Authority)
- National Park:
- National Grid Reference:
- SY 68508 78740, SY 68667 78726, SY 68701 78792
Reasons for Designation
The Royal Commission fortifications are a group of related sites established
in response to the 1859 Royal Commission report on the defence of the United
Kingdom. This had been set up following an invasion scare caused by the
strengthening of the French Navy.
These fortifications represented the largest maritime defence programme since
the initiative of Henry VIII in 1539-40. The programme built upon the
defensive works already begun at Plymouth and elsewhere and recommended the
improvement of existing fortifications as well as the construction of new
There were eventually some 70 forts and batteries in England which were due
wholly or in part to the Royal Commission. These constitute a well defined
group with common design characteristics, armament and defensive provisions.
Whether reused or not during the 20th century, they are the most visible core
of Britain's coastal defence systems and are known colloquially as
`Palmerston's follies'. All examples are considered of national importance.
Nothe Fort, the tramway and searchlight battery at The Nothe all survive well. The fort has undergone an extensive programme of restoration since 1980 and is one of the best preserved of all examples built between 1860-70. Nothe Fort represents an integrated component of the fortifications of Portland Harbour, the development of which is fully documented in the library of the Royal Engineers and the Public Record Office, and this material is one of the most complete and detailed archives for any comparable system to survive in England. The long use and development of Nothe Fort until 1953 is reflected in the survival of wider associations, including the Victorian tramway and various 20th century features such as anti-aircraft and searchlight batteries and various observation posts. Nothe Fort is now on public display and contains various exhibitions which explain the purpose and use of the fort and the role played by the various fortications of the area along with their wider historical significance. The surrounding area which includes the tramway and searchlight battery are also accessible to the public and form an integral part of the monument.
The monument, which falls into three separate areas of protection, includes
Nothe Fort, a contemporary stone-built tramway and a 20th century searchlight
battery; all situated at The Nothe, a coastal headland which divides Weymouth
Bay and Portland Harbour on the Dorset coast.
Nothe Fort, which is a Listed Building Grade II*, was built to guard the
northern side of Portland Harbour. It is built of Portland Stone with massive
external walls forming a horse-shoe in plan (known as a demi-lune). The
eastern side, which is semi-circular, provides a good view across Portland
Harbour. This area was fitted with ten guns each installed within a brick
vaulted casemate. The western side, which is straight edged, is flanked by a
massive rampart to defend the fort from the landward end. The main entrance is
on the north western side and includes a low archway with a stone revetment
and gunpost above. The entrance is approached by a narrow round-headed tunnel
which leads to the ditch which could be crossed by means of a drawbridge.
The interior of the fort includes a range of single storey structures at
ground level which abut the ramparts and are arranged around the semi-circular
courtyard. A series of magazines and offices are situated below ground level.
Construction of the fort began in 1860 and the sea defences and foundations
were completed by 1862. Construction of the fort itself was mainly by
26 Company of the Royal Engineers: Captain P Smith supervised the work, under
the direction of Colonel J Hirse. Plans for the fort are known to have changed
three times during the period 1860-62 reflecting the nature of technological
change during this period. The fort was completed late in 1869, but by 1890 it
had lost its strategic importance because of a combination of technological
developments and the presence of other defences around Portland Harbour.
During the 1890s, Nothe Fort was converted into use as an infantry barracks,
and it was used intermittently throughout the first half of the 20th century.
The fort was manned from 1914-16 and from 1929-56 (mainly when the threats to
Portland Harbour from Germany were considered greatest). During the period
1939-45 a number of additions were made to the fort. These include an anti-
aircraft emplacement installed in 1939, with a Bofors gun mounted on the north
west parapet and an observation post on the south western corner of the
parapet. The underground magazines and casemates on the southern side of the
fort were converted into a central store for anti-aircraft ammunition. After
World War II, a new searchlight post was constructed on the northern side in
1946, in 1947 new searchlights were employed and in 1953 new radar equipment
To the north east of the fort, on the foreshore, and in the second area of
protection, a searchlight battery was constructed during World War II.
To the north west of the fort, and in the third area of protection, lies an
inclined tramway, known as `The Fusee Steps'. This structure, which is Listed
Grade II, dates from the 1860s, and is built of Portland stone. It includes a
flight of steps bordered by low walling with iron rails running along the
upper edges. The structure enabled the hauling of trolleys with double flange
wheels in order to transport products from the quayside to Nothe Fort.
All benches, the new service pipe on the northern external wall and all
service cables (the electrical wiring and switches) are excluded from the
scheduling, although the underlying ground and/or the walls and ceilings to
which they are attached are included.
MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.
- Legacy System number:
- Legacy System:
Books and journals
Architecton, , Nothe Fort: A Feasibility Study for Weymouth Civic Society, (1998)
Description, English Heritage (Listing Branch), Listed Buildings, (2000)
Description, National Monuments Record,
Mention, Listing Details,
Musty A E S, Scheduling documentation, 1978, Mention
Title: Source Date: 1975 Author: Publisher: Surveyor: Mapped depiction
Title: Ordnance Survey Source Date: 1975 Author: Publisher: Surveyor: Mapped depiction
This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
End of official listing