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Somerset Historic Environment Record


Site Name: Victorian artillery battery, Brean Down
SCHEDULED MONUMENT: Multi-period site on Brean Down [No:13811]
Civil Parish: Brean
Part of:
PRN 12514Multi-period site on Brean Down, Brean
PRN 12485Second World War barracks, Brean Down Fort, Brean Down
PRN 12493Victorian latrine, Brean Down Fort, Brean Down
PRN 12497Officer's Quarters, Brean Down Fort, Brean Down
PRN 15776Building recording and watching brief (2000-2001), Brean Down battery
PRN 57138Evaluation (2000), Brean Down Fort
Grid Ref: ST 280 593 (ST 25 NE)
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Image: Image of HER 10128 - Photo by Somerset County Council (10 June 1984)
  HER 10128 - Photo by Somerset County Council (10 June 1984)

Public access:

As far as we are aware all or part of this site is on National Trust land open to the public. [Information last updated on 12 December 2002]


Expanding French military and naval strength lead to the construction in the late 1850s of a chain of four forts at Brean Down, on Flat and Steep Holm and at Lavernock Point to protect the dockyards at Cardiff, Newport, Bristol and Avonmouth. Four acres of land at the end of Brean Down were requisitioned in 1862 and building was complete by 1870. The armament arrived shortly afterwards. The fort was garrisoned by 60 men and was defended by seven 7" rifled muzzle loading cannon which were among the last of this type to be made at Woolwich Gun Foundry. There were originally three main gun positions. These were W battery containing 2 guns on 'C' pivots (rotating around a reused Georgian cannon set upright in the ground) and one on an 'A' pivot (rotating around a pin set in a stone drum below the muzzle of the gun). There were two underground magazines. This position was destroyed in 1900 when the magazine exploded after one of the garrison fired his rifle into it, apparently committing suicide. A WW2 emplacement now covers the site (PRN 12486). The NW battery contained three guns on 'A' pivots. There were two underground magazines behind the position. The southernmost gun position and half of the central position has been covered by a WW2 emplacement (PRN 12496) but the northern position is well preserved having been used as a coal store. The NE position contained one gun on a 'C' pivot in a semi-circular gun-pit. The cannon is still in position and part of the racer remains as do three iron wall rings. The underground magazine is one of the largest in the Bristol Channel forts. Behind the batteries is a barrack block (PRN 12485) and officers quarters (PRN 12497) which run across the headland with a dry moat in front. The walls are defended by 21 carbine slits. Various plans were considered to rearm the fort which was obsolete soon after construction but there is no evidence that this took place. After the explosion the fort was decommissioned and the guns sold for scrap in 1901. Between 1905 and 1939 the fort was used as a cafe but after the outbreak of the Second World War it was rearmed. See PRN 12359 for details of WW2 use of the site. {1}

Management and interpretation proposals were prepared in 1974. {2}

Scheduling revised with new national number on 17 September 1993 was previously Somerset 446. {9}

Ambitious plans by Sedgemoor District Council and English Heritage to repair and restore the fort as a visitor centre and holiday cottage failed in 1993 due to lack of funding from the National Trust. {10}

Following failure of National Lottery funded bid to restore and repair fort, emergency safety measures were undertaken. These included fencing the edge of the moat, denying access to the magazines and covering sharp projections. {12}

Following the decommissioning of the fort it was used as a café, owned by the Hillman family from at least 1907 until sold in 1936 to the 'bird sanctury people'. {14}


1 Detailed records - Barrett, JH. A History of the Maritime Forts in the Bristol Channel.  (1993)
2 Detailed records - Aston, M. A Brief Report on the History and Importance of the Fort on the End of Brean Down.  (1976) unpublished typescript. Location: HER files.
3 Detailed records - Linehan, MJ. Brean Down Project: Pilot report/rough draft.  (1974) unpublised report. Location: HER files.
4 Detailed records - Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division record card. Record ID: ST 25 NE 11 (1978) Location: HER files.
5 Aerial photographs - WAP OAP R225.5. Location: Current location unknown.
6 Mention - Knight, FA. The Sea-Board of Mendip.  (1902), 300.
7 Mention - Hogg, IV. Coast Defences of England and Wales 1856-1956.  (1974), 237.
8 Sketch plan - Aston, M Somerset County Council. Brean Down Fort. (1976) Plan based on 1903 and modern Ordnance Survey maps and fieldwork. Location: HER files.
9 Correspondence - English Heritage to Somerset County Council. (11/10/1993) Location: Unchecked but probably HER files.
10 Verbal communication - Webster, CJ [Chris]. Somerset County Council, Historic Environment Record (1994). Location: Verbal, electronic or direct entry, no source retained
11 Aerial photographs - DAP YU33-36. (1995) Location: HER digital information, prints in archive at Somerset Heritage Centre.
12 Verbal communication - Webster, CJ [Chris]. Somerset County Council, Historic Environment Record (June 1998). Location: Verbal, electronic or direct entry, no source retained
13 Detailed records - Webster, CJ. The Victorian and Second World War artillery batteries on Brean Down. Somerset Archaeology and Natural History.  145 (2001), 89-115
14 Correspondence - Martin, B [Brenda] to Somerset Historic Environment Record. (11/4/2008) Location: HER files.
15 Detailed records - Anon. Schedule of Works to be done and Materials used in the Restoration and Repair of Brean Down Fort, Brean Down, Somerset.  (1981) unpublished National Trust specification. Location: HER files
16 Photographs - Aston, MA. (31/12/1975) Location: HER files.

Record created in November 1982

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