Welcome to my new blog Nothe Fort and Beyond.
Yes…women really can, and do, write military history, though from many responses and comment’s I’ve received over the years of writing this…you might think otherwise!
Why Nothe Fort and Beyond? Well…I suppose because it’s the title of my recently published book, one that tells the stories of those who lived the military life in Weymouth.
(A sequel is soon-ish to follow)
My book(s) takes you on a journey up through the timeline of the Nothe, which is a long thin peninsula that sits on the south side of Weymouth harbour.
Most visitors don’t even realise it’s there, all they see is a solid bank of trees, little do they realise what beautiful, quiet gardens hide away there, or what a fascinating tale this history rich ridge hides. You can trace its records right back to the time of Henry VIII with his great Royal Navy, when Sandsfoot and Portland castles were built to watch over Portland Roads with its fleet of mighty wooden fighting vessels.
Later the Nothe peninsula became a bustling military site, when Victorian soldiers arrived mid 19th century and began building Palmerston’s coastal defences.
First sod batteries…which, rather frustratingly, slid away seaward as fast as they could.
Finally the fort designer’s plans arrived at the rather more sturdy and thankfully static fort that still stands today.
But it wasn’t only the fort that soldiers occupied. Along the Barrack Road stood the imposing Bloody Red Barracks. Many a ghost lurks within its walls.
Over the road stood an entire military block from Royal Engineer’s offices, Territorial training rooms to gun rooms, parade grounds and classrooms, even tennis courts and a sports ground. That’s all now gone bar a couple of somewhat battered War Department markers left languishing perilously at the roadside.
The Nothe Fort itself is now a military museum and well worth a visit. The views from its ramparts are to die for…which happened quite literally in the Victorian era! No wonder the Nothe Fort is said to be one of the best places to seek out those ghostly apparitions.
…and Beyond refers to many varied aspects of my book. The Nothe’s story encompasses so much more than a mere solitary fort. It wasn’t built in isolation, but was part and parcel of Palmerston’s grand coastal defence scheme. A scheme that started with the building of the breakwaters in Portland Roads, with its two forts that stand guard at the ends.
To complete such a gargantuan task it needed massive amounts of manpower. That started with the construction of a prison on Portland, necessary to house those convicts whose sentences of hard labour would be put to good use.
For years these men toiled, alongside private contractors and Royal Engineers on constructing the breakwaters, the Nothe Fort and the the mighty Verne Citadel, sitting atop the great Isle of Portland with its outlying batteries. This is where my real passion lies…with its human stories. Life for the Victorian prisoner was harsh…very harsh.
But then so too for the rugged Portland quarrymen, accidents and deaths were part and parcel of their lives.
Meanwhile in the barracks soldiers struggled to make ends meet, poorly paid, ill thought of, their lives constantly on the move. As for their wives and families, its no wonder so many of them turned to drink.
Convicts and prison guards fared little better…
Weymouth folk were used to sharing their town with soldiers and sailors, had been for centuries, but it could certainly make for an interesting life.
Happy or sad, good and bad…I reveal many of their fascinating stories.
My first book is now available in the Nothe Fort and Weymouth Museum bookshops.
Or on Amazon at £10