Defence, Mystery, And Experimental Weapons – Brean Down Fort, Somerset, UK

Brean Down is a natural pier, protruding out between Weston-Super-Mare and Burnham-On-Sea in Somerset. At its very end lies what remains of Brean Down Fort, an eerie ruin.

The Down appears to have had settlements on it from the early to middle bronze age. Some Roman artifacts have also been recovered there. Brean Down Fort was built in 1871, one of the Palmerston Forts constructed across the coast designed to protect England from attack by the French. The fort was used until 1900 when its active service was halted, not by external, but internal attack.

At 5 a.m. on 6 July 1900, the No. 3 magazine which held three tons of gunpowder exploded. A soldier, Gunner Haines, fired a ball cartridge down a ventilator shaft. The wall separating the fort from the moat on the southwest corner was demolished with wreckage was thrown up to 183 metres. No one knew why the gunner had blown up the fort, although some think it could have been an attempt to commit suicide. Whatever the reason, Gunner Haines was the only one killed in the explosion.

After this the fort was no longer used by the army, passing through a few hands until World War Two, when it became a site for testing experimental weapons. Some of the weapons trialled were the famous “Bouncing bomb”, and the acoustic emitter. 

Although it wasn’t the clearest day initially, the sky cleared as we walked and we had a lovely time visiting the Down. The trees shown give you an idea of how windy it could get!

We were the first to arrive, and so had the place to ourselves for a while, which gave it a more mysterious air. I could well imagine a historical novel set during the Napoleonic wars, or WWII set here. Or something now, a mystery, a horror, or something psychological perhaps.

What do you think? Have you ever visited this place? Please share in the comments.

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