Page 6 - Bristol Defences
P. 6

Victorian Forts                                             Bristol Channel                  3

                                  Brean Down Fort (Battery)

          Commenced            1864 21 December                     Armament
          Completed            1871 July
          Cost                  £ 12,622                            1882     7 x 7-inch RML
          Map Reference        ST 280593                             3 on ‘C’ racers 4 on ‘A’ racers
          Position             Brean Down Point Somerset, near      1901     disarmed
                               Weston-Super-Mare                    WWII  2 x 6-inch BL ex-naval
          Type                 Coast defence
          Ditch                Dry (gorge only)
          Guns                 7
          Barrack Accom. 51
          Present use          National Trust open site

          History              magazine explosion 1900. Re-used
          Condition            Derelict
          Access               Free and open access

          Sources              A History of Maritime Forts in the Bristol
                               Channel 1866-1900 : Barrett

          History and Description

           Brean Down Fort (Battery) is situated 60 feet above sea level on  the headland 9 miles NW of Weston-Super-Mare. It was
           designed to give covering fire across the Severn Estuary towards Steep Holm Island. It consists of an enclosed work with
           a loopholed wall, barrack block and dry moat across the gorge. The fort is approached by a military road along the length
           of the promontory. Access is by a bridge across the 12 ft. deep ditch ditch and a gap through the barrack. The barrack is
           of dressed limestone and is a single storey in two sections either side of the gate. It has flat roofs. A small parade area in
           the centre of the fort separates the barrack from the sea facing gun positions and magazines. It was armed with 7-inch
           RMLs, four on A pivots and three on C pivots, all on Dwarf traversing platforms.
           In August 1885 the fort was used to test a ‘Carriage, Garrison, Iron Sliding and Platform Iron with projectile lift, 5ft.
           Muzzle loading 7-inch 7-tons 6ft. Parapet experimental allowing loading and elevating under cover’.

           For most of its working life the fort was used for training. It was manned by members of the District Establishment, the
           Officers’ Quarters being occupied by a Master Gunner and his family. The 1st. Gloucestershire Volunteers practised on
           the RMLs on Brean Down between 1874 and 1891.
           The fort was the scene of a explosion on 4 July 1900 when Gunner Haines took his own life as he “fired a carbine loaded
           with ball cartridge down the shaft of the ventilator whilst in a state of temporary insanity.” The magazine held 3 tons of
           powder at the time. This blew up destroying two of the gun positions, part of the gorge wall and a portion of the barracks.
           The fort was re-armed in WWII with two 6-inch B.L. guns. Rockets and other experimental weapons were tested at the
           fort. In front of the fort can be found a section of rail used by the Admiralty’s Directorate of Miscellaneous Weapons
           Development from HMS Birnbeck during WWII. Weapons developed here include the Expendable Noisemaker and the
           slip-launched anti-submarine missile AMUCK. On the hillside overlooking the site is the combined command and
           observation post for the war time battery. Two searchlight positions are still extant one to the west of the fort and one in
           front. Access to the battery is either along the former road or over the top of the down to join it, either way it is a good
           In 2000 the National Trust began to consolidate the structure by clearing and stabilizing the barrack and officers’ blocks,
           adding interpretation boards.

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