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Report - - St Catherines Fort, Tenby -- 23/2/08 | Military Sites |

Report - St Catherines Fort, Tenby -- 23/2/08

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OK peeps.

This fort has been winking at me for quite some time and it was about time it was done. Met up with Dangerousdave and Polygon at Carmarthen station and off to Tenby we went with the intention of cracking this one.


This fort was ordered as part of the Royal Commission on the defence of the UK and was constructed on the small rocky island just off the shore at Tenby. It was designed to prevent a landing at Tenby, which could have served as a bridgehead, thereby securing the nearby Milford Haven from a possible overland attack from that direction. It formed the major work of a proposed defensive line running along the coast to Trewent consisting of batteries at Tenby, Caldy Island, Lydstep, Freshwater East and Freshwater West. The fort on St. Catherine’s Island at Tenby was the only one to be constructed. The building, a simple rectangular work, was begun June 1867 and the fort was complete by 1867 with the exception of the guns and shields. These did not arrive until the mid 1880s. The cost including shields was £40,000.

The fort consists of a series of gun casemates facing north to cover the harbour of Tenby and the beach towards Saundersfoot and to the south to flank the south beach towards penally and Manorbier. Each face held three 7-inch RML guns firing through iron shields. Two small caponiers or rifle galleries protect the west face and entrance of the fort which is approached over a drawbridge. A spiral stair in each connects the upper and lower galleries. At the east end of the basement level are a powder magazine (cartridge store) and two main shell stores.

Another spiral stair leads up to a mezzanine level on which are situated two more flanking galleries and stairs up to the roof. The roof was fitted with three gun platforms for 9-inch RMLs facing south east, one of which could achieve 360 degrees of traverse. The fort was garrisoned from 1873 to 1910 and then from 1914 to 1918 and 1939 to 1945. Different detachments served in the fort including the Royal Marines, 4th. Defence battery R.A., elements of the Belgian Army, The Home Guard, LAA(R.A.) and an R.A.F. ASR detachment. The fort was released by the Military after WW2 In 1959 it was advertised for sale for £10,000 having been converted into a private residence called Gun Fort House. It was then used as a small zoo for a period of time until being abandoned once more. Various plans have been proposd for the fort, none of which have come to fruition.

We got there quite early and wondered how the hell to get in there without being spotted. We thought of the ballsy entry through the front door but decided against it as there were a few obstacles.

First of all was the warning which really scared us so we did a recce.


There were two parts of the rock and the entrance was on the smaller part and then there was a bridge with a barrier in the middle so we decided to go straight up the rock face. An excellent climb and then a brief pause to see if we had attracted the attentions of the local bill and then to the front door.



The fort is on a rock but still has a small moat around it and now it was how to get in.


Once we managed to get our way through the debris filled room and through the door there was a wonderful passageway with spiral staircases at each end with various compartments in between.





Getting to the upper level we found a veritable wonderland of a fantastic building.











On the roof we had an excellent view of Tenby and it would have been wonderful to do some night photography but we didn’t have the time.





The rooflights gave us an excellent opportunity for photography into the floor that we had just left.





Polygon, me and Dangerousdave.

An excellent explore and on leaving we found that the bridge looked easier from the ground than it did from above so the return was the same way and down the cliff. An excellent day out and the fort has been cracked. A must visit for all. The thing I found most amazing was the complete lack of bird shit. It's on the coast and very little bird shit was to be seen.
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Wow - that would make a fantastic house.......Peter.

Someone has already done that judging by the wooden floors. There are wooden floor tiles all over the old rails for the guns and there are partition walls in there to cover the rings that held the guns (obviously before angle grinders were invented :D).

I've also seen some very stupid things in my time in the forces but I doubt even they would have put that fancy fire place on the other side of the wall from the powder room. LOL

In one of the casements someone has tried to "fancy it up" and if you look at the photo here you can see that there's been something placed over the ring that supported the guns.


You can also see the wooden floors here more clearly and at the top of the photo you can see the ring that's been covered by the "fancy" cieling rose/thingy.


In this photo you can see some of the flooring still there by the window and it would seem it's to cover the rails that the big guns ran on.


I think that some of the fireplaces are definately NOT military design and have a 1920s look and feel to them.

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Something I forgot to mention.

There were some chains on the bridge going to the front door so I'm wondering if it used to be a drawbridge or something.