Page 2 - Bristol Defences
P. 2

Victorian Forts                                             Portsmouth                       17

                                           Fort Cumberland

          Commenced            1785                                 Armament
          Completed            1810
          Cost                  £ 110,229  - 11s - 6½d              1820 - 64 gun emplacements on ramparts
          Map Reference        SZ 683992                            2 x 7-inch RBL
          Position             Eastney point on Portsea Island      12 x 8-inch SB
                               -Langstone Harbour                   21 x 32 pounders
          Type                 Casemated (star) bastioned fort      5 x 24 pounders
          Ditch                Dry                                  1890
                                                                    4 x 6-inch B.L.
          Guns                 81                                   6 x 64 pounders R.M.L.
          Barrack Accom. 714 (1860) 526 (1882)                      1897
          Present use          English Heritage                     2 x 9-inch H.A. guns added
                               Updated in 1858, 1890s.
          History              Royal Marines Depot                  Caponiers
                               R.M. withdrew 1970s
          Disposal                                                  Counterscarp
          Condition            Casemates generally sound            galleries
          Access               None yet
                                                                    Haxo casemates
          Sources              Portsmouth Papers “Fort Cumberland” P.
                               McGrath                              Moncrieff Pits

          History and Description

           Fort Cumberland, designed to defend Portsea Island’s Eastern flank, was the last self-contained fully
           bastioned fortress constructed in England. It was the brainchild of the 3rd. Duke of Richmond, who,
           as Master general of the Ordnance, conceived it during an extensive Southern tour in 1782. He most
           likely envisaged a showpiece structure incorporating new techniques advocated by the Frenchman
           Montalembert. These were not, however, immediately acceptable to English Engineers trained more
           traditionally in the Vauban school. So a compromise was reached utilising casemates revived by
           Montalembert and Vauban’s bastions. The twenty-five year project involved thousands of
           transport-destined convicts representing a security nightmare but a cheap and semi-skilled labour
           force. The site, including a south-western facing ravelin and outworks, covers some twenty four
           acres. It contained 41 barrack casemates with four magazines for a powder capacity of 2200 barrels.
           Between 1882 and 1890 major revisions were undertaken to the south and left bastions, including the
           intervening curtain, and the centre bastion to provide a clear field of fire for the 6-inch BL guns. The
           Royal Marine Artillery’s permanent association with the fort began in 1817 and during the Great War
           became the base for its Howitzer and anti-aircraft Brigade. During the last war it played host to ‘X’
           organisation or the Mobile Naval Base Defence Organisation specialising in a variety of activities
           including landing craft work. The Royal Marines used the fort subsequently until the 1970s. Ancient
           Monument status was bestowed upon it in 1959. Currently it is owned by English Heritage, housing
           the Central Archaeology Service. Their intention is to conserve it and open parts of it to the public.

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