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24 September 2014

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You are in: Dorset > History > Local History > Breakwater Fort

Breakwater Fort

Breakwater Fort

Breakwater Fort

Portland's Breakwater Fort is the most imposing of the structures built to defend what was the world's largest man-made harbour. It's now in disrepair and closed to the public but BBC Spotlight's Jonathan Hudston had an exclusive tour.

It's one and a half miles from Portland Harbour out to the Breakwater fort, built when Britain's military might was at its height in the 19th century and Portland Harbour was the largest man-made harbour in the world.

Jonathan Hudston and Asst Harbourmaster Alan Baker

On the Breakwater Fort

The Breakwater was built with millions of tonnes of Portland Stone and used the backbreaking labour of thousands of prison convicts to defend the ships of the world's greatest navy.

The Breakwater fort is the largest of several forts built at the outer edge of Portland Harbour and is the most imposing with iron armor 20 inches thick - it took 25 years to build.

Thirty men would have been stationed on the fort at any one time, sheltered by the bomb proof iron roof, and armed with the 38-tonne guns which were fed with ammunition stored deep inside the fort.

The Breakwater Fort

The Breakwater Fort

The damp has now taken over, with stalagmites and stalagtites forming along the maze of cold, dark, wet corridors, but it is still possible to get a feeling of what it would have been like for the men who worked here, with little reminders still remaining - like seats and pegs in the soldiers' changing rooms.

Breakwater Fort was abandoned after World War II and is closed to the general public - you need special permission from the port authority to visit. Only the National Mullet Angling Society come here for their annual fishing championships.

The fort is an integral part of the breakwater which is essential for the functioning of both the commercial port and the National Sailing Academy which is hosting the Olympic sailing events in 2012.  But could such a remarkable building be a potential tourist attraction? 

Inside the Breakwater Fort

Inside the Breakwater Fort

It's estimated that it would take £10 million to repair the fort for commercial use - and it's not a priority for the current owners.

Rupert Best  from the Portland Port said: "It's not something we're putting our resources into because we have other parts of the port which we want to develop, but we're certainly open to suggestions and if anyone wants to come and talk to us about it with a good idea, we're certainly very receptive."

In the meantime it seems that only the mullet fishermen and the seabirds will enjoy the amazing coastal views and remarkable history of the Breakwater fort.

last updated: 05/03/2008 at 14:08
created: 06/10/2005

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