The strategic significance of Landguard Fort lies in its location - controlling the entrance to Harwich harbour (at the mouth of the Rivers Orwell and Stour), the only deep water harbour on the east coast between the Humber and the Thames. It's historical importance can be traced throughout the Kings and Queens of England, from Henry VIII and Elizabeth I to Charles I and Queen Elizabeth II.
From 1543 to 1945, Landguard Fort was part of the UK's military strategy to protect the eastern coast of England against a possible enemy invasion. The Fort has been progressively developed over the centuries to adapt to new styles of warfare, both from land and sea. The stages of development also reflect the level of perceived threat at any given time. Most of the Fort that exists today is based on the pentagonal one originally built in the 1740's, with major modifications made to sections of the Fort in the 1870's and improvements which continued into the 20th century.
The architecture features fine examples of British engineering skills:
- The construction of bulwarks and hexagonal earthworks during the Tudor period.
- The development of a pentagonal Fort with five bastions.
- The defensible passages of the Ã¢Ã¢'¬ÃÅKeep' during the 18th and 19th centuries.
In 1878, a submarine mining establishment was constructed by excavating a test room within the thick walls of the Fort, building an observation room and adding a main building on the east side of the Fort, known as the Ravelin Block (now the Felixstowe Museum).
The most exciting 20th C. addition was the arrival of two quick firing guns installed on the west side of the Fort in 1901. These were called Ã¢Ã¢'¬ÃÅDarell's Battery' after Nathaniel Darell who was Captain of the Fort in 1667. Along with its 200 strong Lord High Admiral's Regiment (later the Royal Marines) he successful repelled Admiral de Ruyter's numerically superior Dutch fleet in July - the last opposed seaborne invasion of England.
During the First and Second World Wars the Fort was largely manned to provide sea defences against German attack and utilised as part of Harwich's anti-aircraft defence.
After the loss of its guns in 1956, the Fort remained useful to the Army into the 1960's. In 1997/8 it was structurally consolidated by English Heritage, into whose care it had been placed, and is now maintained and opened to the public on their behalf by the Landguard Fort Trust
Things to Do
- Pick up a free audio guide to bring the history of the Fort alive.
- Discover an explosive story of gunpowder and mines in the magazines.
- Book yourself on a guided tour of the outer batteries.
- Celebrate the 17th C. hero of the Fort on Darell's Day.
- Seek out the casemate of the 'Big Gunner'.
- Go plotting in the Seaward Defence HQ.
- Climb up to the Harwich Bastion for superb views over the port.
- Play a game of hide and seek in the maze of rooms and passageways.
- Send a shiver down your spine on a ghost tour (if you dare!).
- Join in one of the special events and children's activities at the Fort.
See Website, Children under 5 years free, Wheelchair users free
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