Upton Fort, a coastal artillery battery and two searchlight emplacements


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:


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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

West Dorset (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SY 74036 81492, SY 74137 81573, SY 74290 81437, SY 74338 81391

Reasons for Designation

The term battery refers to any place where artillery is positioned to allow guns to cover a particular area such as a line of communication or the approaches to a defended location. Although often contained within artillery forts designed to withstand sieges, typically including resident garrisons, many batteries were lightly defended and only manned at fighting strength in times of emergency. Batteries not contained within forts or castles were either open, with some approaches left undefended, or enclosed, often with a loopholed wall, ditch and/or fence designed to repel small scale attacks. Battery design evolved over time with developments in artillery. Those of the 16th and 17th centuries were normally simple raised earthwork platforms faced with turf, facines (bundles of sticks), or wicker baskets filled with earth and known as gabions. More permanent batteries, normally those on the coast, were faced in stone. The guns and gunners were typically protected by a raised parapet with guns firing through embrasures, or breaks in the wall, or over the parapet. Gun positions protected by casemates (roofed gun chambers) were generally restricted to batteries within artillery forts and castles. The gun carriages were supported on timber or stone platforms known as barbettes, often ramped to limit gun recoil. In the 18th century, traversing guns using carriages mounted on pivots were increasingly employed. By the late 19th century, barbette positions became the usual practice and, as the century progressed, guns were mounted in increasingly sophisticated emplacements, normally built in concrete with integrated magazines. All batteries where enough survives to interpret the original form and function will be considered of national importance. Other examples, of early date or where rare components are preserved, may be considered nationally important even where overall survival is comparatively poor.

Upton Fort played a key strategic role in the defence of Portland Harbour from the early 1900s through to 1943. It has strong group value with other fortifications, dating from both the 19th and 20th centuries, which were built to defend the naval harbour at Portland, such as the Nothe Fort, East Weare Battery, the Inner Pierhead Fort, and the Verne Citadel. This coastal artillery battery has been identified as one of only ten examples of its type which have survived largely intact (from a recorded total of 202 built in the 20th century) in England. Upton Fort retains all of the elements of a battery, including gun emplacements, magazines, searchlight structures, and ground defences located within defensive earthworks. All survive in a good state of preservation. In addition, the site retains a group of support buildings that are rare survivals and which are listed at Grade II. Furthermore, the monument is well-documented, with original records available at the Public Record Office providing details of the armament and manning of the battery. Upton Fort stands, therefore, as a well-researched and visible reminder of the measures taken to protect England against the threat of invasion in the first half of the 20th century.


The monument includes the standing and earthwork remains of the early C20 century coastal artillery battery known as Upton Fort, together with the standing remains of two World War II Coastal Artillery Search Lights and an associated machine gun post. The monument falls within four separate areas of protection. By the mid-19th century Portland had become an important naval port, its harbour the base for the Royal Navy and home, at various times, to the Channel and Home Fleets. The main elements of the Portland defence works were built between 1848 and 1872 and included the Verne Citadel and batteries, the Breakwater Fort, the Inner Pier Head Fort and the Nothe Fort. In the early 20th century, additional batteries were added to the west and east. Upton was strategically placed above Weymouth Bay to protect the eastern approaches to Portland Harbour; a similar battery at Blacknor on the west side of Portland covered the western approaches. The battery at Upton was constructed between June 1901 and September 1903; two 6in breech-loading guns were installed in February 1903, followed by two 9.2in guns between July and September that year. After World War I the guns were removed and the battery was left in charge of a caretaker. The site was updated and re-armed in 1940-41 to operate as an emergency battery; two Coastal Artillery Search Lights were also added. During World War II the battery was manned by the 522nd (Dorset) Coastal Regiment, and the men were accommodated in Nissen huts at the northern end of the site. Upton Fort was the first of the Portland defences to enter care and maintenance following the reorganisation of defences in November 1943, and was finally taken out of service in 1956. Upton Fort comprises a number of different structures dispersed throughout the circa 2.35 hectare site. The whole site is surrounded by a bank of concrete where it flanks the entrance in the north west part of the site, and earth elsewhere. There was also a ditch which was strengthened with steel fencing, lengths of which survive. Two 6in breech-loading guns were installed in February 1903; followed by a pair of 9.2in guns to the east, later that year. The four gun emplacements are located towards the southern end of the site, on the south side of a sunken road which runs west-east. The 6in emplacements are built of concrete; the western one is now largely occupied by No.3 Upton Fort, but the ground beneath this building is included within the scheduling; the eastern emplacement survives largely as built. It is set on a low concrete platform with a concrete apron on the south side, facing the sea. There is a central well for the gun mounting, accessed to the east and west by a short passage and to the rear (north) are four cartridge recesses. Sited between the two 6in emplacements is a subterranean gun magazine. Its concrete front wall faces north onto the blast space surround and has a single doorway and six iron-barred windows. At either end of the blast space, flanking the magazine, are the former Lamp Room and the RA Store. Internally the magazine comprises a symmetrical arrangement of brick-lined chambers with barrel-vaulted roofs. To the east, are the two 9.2in gun emplacements and a magazine. The emplacements are of identical construction and of two phases. The western emplacement was known as No.1 Gun and its companion to the east as No.2 Gun. The gun positions have protective semi-circular brick walls on the north side with outer blast walls, and roofs of steel and concrete. These flat-roofed superstructures are World War II additions, and are rare survivals. The internal face of the protective wall has a walkway with shell and cartridges stores below; there are further ammunition stores in the side of the gun pit platform and on each side of the rear of the splay. Each emplacement is fronted by a sloping apron of reinforced concrete which is covered in bitumen. The 9.2in gun magazine is similar to the 6in gun magazine in both design and plan. The battery was equipped with its own Light Anti-aircraft and ground defences. The main anti-aircraft installation was a 40mm Bofors gun sited just to the south west of the 6in gun emplacements. The concrete base for the gun and the remains of a protective blockwork wall with locker recesses survives. Surviving elements of the ground defences include the concrete pedestal for a spigot mortar post on the western edge of the battery, and the earthwork remains of at least three further machine gun positions at strategic points around the perimeter of the site. Two Coast Artillery Search Lights (CASL) sited to the south west and south east of the gun positions were added during World War II. The searchlight buildings survive and are built of brick with bombproof flat concrete roofs. They have open fronts, facing onto Weymouth Bay, and side entrances. They are unusual in having a rectangular plan rather than the arc- or polygonal-fronted forms which, where employed, provided a broader arc of operation. To the north west of the eastern searchlight building is a sunken machine gun post, built of brick with a concrete roof supported on brick piers. Support buildings for the battery which lie within the area of the monument include the Battery Command Post - a circular structure protected by an earthen mound - on the slope behind the emplacements and a small observation post immediately south of the western 6in gun emplacement. There are two semi-sunken buildings (now Nos.4-5 Upton Fort) sited between the gun emplacements which date from the earliest phase of the battery. These were used as a shelter and PAD (Passive Air Defence) centre during World War II; they are now dwellings and are not included in the scheduling. There is a further group of ancillary buildings (including Nos. 1-2 Upton Fort): the former caretaker's quarters, former artillery store, and smith's and fitter's shops in the south western part of the site which are protected by glacis earthworks. These buildings are listed at Grade II and are not included in the scheduling. All modern fencing, and the properties known as Nos.1-5 Upton Fort, Brant Cottage, and Little Brant are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath these features is 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
Bellamy, P, Upton Fort, Osmington, Dorset - Assessment, (2004)
Dobinson, C, Twentieth Century Fortifications Coast Artillery, 1900-1956, (2000), 176-81
Saunders, A , Channel Defences, (1997), 53-55
Anderton, M, World War Two Coastal Batteries, Twentieth Century Military Recording Project, MPP, (2000)


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

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