The Nothe, Nothe Fort
and Portland Breakwater
Being a coastal town, Weymouth has always been exposed to the threat of invasion or attack by enemy forces from the sea. The promontory overlooking Weymouth Bay and above the harbour entrance is the Nothe. It was, since at least 1543, used as a form of defence against any possibility of invasion and there has long been a fortification of some kind there. One was built during the early years of the Civil War (1642-46) to protect Weymouth, others followed, and the Nothe Fort built in Victorian times still stands there today.
It's not just the Nothe Fort that is of interest however; there are some lovely gardens to enjoy as well as the views. Spectacular views of the bay and harbour can be had from here on one side, as well as views of Portland and Portland Harbour on the other. As the ramparts of the Fort are even higher up, the best panoramic views are from there. The Nothe is probably the best place from which to view the Portland Breakwater too.
The Portland Breakwater, built to protect Portland Harbour began being built in 1849 and further protection by the building on the Nothe was given approval in 1857. By this time, Portland had already become an important naval port, and the building of the Nothe Fort reinforced the protection afforded it. Portland Breakwater was completed and the then Prince of Wales, who later became Edward VII, came to lay the final stone in 1872. Portland being a natural protection for the English Channel from the often severe westerly weather and therefore a safe haven for ships, the breakwater provided even more protection for seafarers. The Weymouth part of the Breakwater was not built until the 1890s.
The foundations of the Nothe Fort were laid in 1860 but by 1862 the contractor had failed and so the Royal Engineers with the help of inmates of Portland Prison took it to completion for it to be opened for use in 1872.
The Fort is constructed of Portland stone, brick and granite and consists of three levels comprising magazines with tunnels, casemates and ramparts designed in a horseshoe shape. It remained in active service until 1956. Weymouth and Portland Borough Council took it over in 1961 and it has since been restored by the dedication of the Weymouth Civic Society. It is now open to the public and is a museum of coastal defence. As well as the history of coastal defence it covers the history and defence of Portland Harbour and underwater weapons and the life of a Garrison soldier over a hundred years. It also has many other interesting displays concerning Weymouth and World War 2.
For more information and history of the Nothe Fort, please visit the website ofWeymouth Civic Society
Wellington Court (barracks), Military Arms and the Nothe Tavern
With the Nothe having played an important part in defences, we also find here the former barracks known as the Red Barracks by the colour of the brick used. Built in Georgian times, the tall buildings dominate the skyline above Weymouth harbour. Fortunately, this part of Weymouth's historic past was saved from demolition and converted into flats. Today it is known as Wellington Court, but proudly displays a plaque recording its history, lest it be forgotten.
Nearby stands the former public house, the Military Arms, still retaining its name within the fabric of the building. Further along just past the Quaker burial ground is the Victorian Nothe Tavern.
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