The Victorian Nothe…filled with the military might

If there’s one area in Weymouth that I have loved ever since a small child, it’s the Nothe.

When we were young, we were virtually left to wander most of the day…as long as we returned home before dark, and pretty much in one piece (bar a few scrapes and scuffs) then all was fine with the world.

To me, the Nothe was exciting.
It might not be a large area, but it had a delicious air of mystery about it…the imposing Victorian fort, which at that time was firmly closed and barred to any but the bravest…

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The rock pools tucked down in Newton’s Cove was great for exploring with fishing nets, or as in our cases, hands…

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The forbidden breakwaters, with their secret, eclectic jumble of buildings.

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The new South West Coast Path walk skirts this tiny, secluded cove and beach, a great place to come when the cold winds blow into Weymouth, this side offers shelter.

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At the far end of the footpath is a seating area, and rails where the locals congregate at high tides with their assorted fishing gear.

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Now I might just be a tadsy biased here, because, somehow, 50 odd years later, I’m finding myself writing a book about this particular area of Weymouth, leading to a richness of discoveries about this area that I never knew before I started researching.

I had never realised that the Nothe peninsula was in fact a fully designated military site.
The government had purchased the land back in the mid Victorian era, when the Portland breakwaters and harbour was being formed.
The Nothe Fort was built as one part of a coastal chain of defences to protect our shores from invasion and the shipping in Portland Roads, which had become an important naval base.

But it wasn’t only the Royal Engineers building the fort who lived on this headland, there was already a barrack block up here, built at the end of the 18th century for King George’s troops.
Locally it became known as the Red Barracks, or to some, the Bloody Red Barracks.
Of course, where there were soldiers…there were pubs!
One pub built right next door to the barracks, the Military Arms, was a popular destination for those fed up of being confined to the barrack canteen. Beer money was part and parcel of their pay, so not surprisingly drunkenness was a major problem for Victorian soldiers.

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Not far down the road, next to the old Burial Ground, now the beautifully formed Peace Gardens, stands the Victorian Nothe Tavern.
Yet another convenient watering hole for the often bored soldiers, seen through the trees from the gardens.
It might seem strange nowadays, but during Victorian times many a body was laid out in the nearest pub for inquests, maybe they laid them out with the barrels…

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When the fort was being constructed the open area on the top of the peninsula was a jumble of military buildings. There was a 100 foot long brick shed, kilns for firing the bricks, RE offices, military hospital, gun shed.
All traces of these have now vanished.
At the start of the 20th century a set of married quarters built to house the families away from the barracks.
Those too have vanished, demolished in the 1960’s.

At one time, the open top became a sports-field for soldiers stationed on the Nothe where they would play cricket or football, often taking on local sides.

The area next to the fort would be filled with heavy duty canvas tents in the summer, when various volunteer groups would come for their annual visit and training…artillery men, sub marine miners.
They all gravitated towards the Nothe…great in nice weather, but not so when the winds blew and the rain lashed down.
They frequently had to chase flying tents and paperwork!

For now though its back in the towns hands, a lovely open space, with established gardens,

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and a great viewing point.

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Try it sometime…you’ll love it.

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Hot off the press, my first book Nothe Fort and Beyond is now out and available on Amazon at £9.99
Nothe fort and Beyond 261 KB
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Nothe-Fort-Beyond-Weymouth-Portland/dp/1977592686/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1512117985&sr=1-1&keywords=nothe+fort+and+beyond
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5 Comments Add yours

  1. HI! I don’t know what happened over the holidays but wordpress unfollowed you in my reader. Happy to be back reading your stories.

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