Palmerston Forts Society

Portsdown Artillery Volunteers

The uniformed section of the Society is the Portsdown Artillery Volunteers (PAV) who dress as the 2nd Hampshire Volunteer Artillery from the 1880’s to carry out authentic Victorian gun drills at Fort Nelson.

The original Volunteer corps was initially raised following a decision taken by the War Office in 1859. The decision allowed for Light Horse (Cavalry), Artillery, Engineers, Mounted Rifles and Rifle units to be formed using men from the general public to form an Army of "amateur soldiers”. Without the use of part-time gunners, it was impossible for the War Office to have provided sufficient artillerymen to man all of the Forts built in the 1860’s following the Royal Commission’s report.

At its peak the Volunteer Artillery movement had a maximum strength of 49,062 efficient soldiers spread across many of the counties of Great Britain. The 2nd Hampshire Volunteers were the local Portsmouth unit, and they would have drawn their membership from all sorts of trades with a number coming from the Dockyard.

The Artillery Volunteers ceased to exist on the 31st March 1908 when the Territorial Force was formed, the precursor to today’s Territorial Army.

The PAV draw its membership from the PFS in a similar way to the original volunteers. Most members have no knowledge of forces life, which is an advantage as the Victorian drills are very different from those used today. Using original drill manuals the PAV is able to demonstrate Victorian gun firings to the public – probably the best way to explain why the Victorian Forts were built. The Society is fortunate to have a very high level of cooperation from the Royal Armouries at Fort Nelson, who actively support the firing of selected guns at the museum, including:

  • 16 pr. Rifled Muzzle Loader field gun
  • 32 pr Smooth Bore Breech Loader
  • 64 pr. Rifled Muzzle Loaders
  • 7-inch Armstrong Rifled Breech Loader
  • 13-inch Mortar

Fortunately for the members of the PAV they are able to fire the guns a lot more often than the original Artillery Volunteers ever did, as the Victorian government was very frugal when it came to supplying ammunition to the Volunteers.

If you are interested in joining the PAV and demonstrating this forgotten part of Britain’s history, we are always looking for new members. Uniforms and training are provided, but you must be a member of the PFS to take advantage of this very interesting and unusual hobby. 

Meetings / Events

25/05/2022 - PFS Evening Meeting - Restoration and Reuse of Victorian Fortifications and the Sustainable Conservation Trust

This evening's talk is by Deniz Beck, the founder of Deniz Beck Partners. An accredited conservation architect, she specialises in the sensitive regeneration of historic buildings and monuments, particularly those considered at risk and with complicated issues.  In 2020, she founded the Sustainable Conservation Trust, a non-profit organisation dedicated to the preservation, regeneration and use of historic structures.  Deniz will talk to us about the trust and a number of conservation and development projects which include The Hotwalls Studios, Spitbank Fort, Martello Tower P in Felixstowe and the Fraser Range. The meeting will be at Fort Nelson, with access via the Lower West Gate which opens at 7.00pm. There is car parking in this gate area and also on the approach road to the Upper West Gate. The meeting commences at 7.30pm and the gate will be closed at this time.

22/06/2022 - PFS Evening Meeting - Subject t.b.d.

27/07/2022 - PFS Evening visit to Fort Blockhouse

The evening visit to Fort Blockhouse is currently over-subscribed, but if any member wishes to go on to the reserve list then see Newsletter 165, Spring 2022, for details.

News

Fortifications Events Calendar

New fortifications events calendar available. This covers events at many Victorian Fortifications across the UK. Click on "Information" then "Fortifications Events".
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PFS Meetings at Fort Nelson 2022

The PFS  will soon be issuing details of the PFS meetings at Fort Nelson.
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Merry Christmas!

The PFS Committee would like to take this festive time to wish the members of the Society a 'Very Happy Christmas and a Prosperous 2022'.

Horse Sand Fort sold for £715,000

The BBC website has just announced the following.... 'A derelict sea fort built to deter a French invasion in the 19th Century has been sold for £715,000.
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Palmerston Forts Society Members' Survey

In February and March this year, we surveyed the PFS membership on the subject of the PFS website...
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PFS New Publication - 'The Portsmouth Artillery Volunteers 1797 - 1908'

The PFS has just launched a new publication - 'The Portsmouth Artillery Volunteers 1797-1908' .
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Latest news concerning Fort Gilkicker

On Wednesday 5th May, four members of the Palmerston Forts Society meet with two directors of the development company that has bought Fort Gilkicker and their architect.  We were invited to the meeting after approaching the developers with a request for clarification of their plans for the fort.
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English Heritage Statement on Hurst Castle

EH have issued a statement on their web site concerning the collapse of part of the castle and the work currently being carried out.
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Fort Nelson reopens on 12th April

Fort Nelson will be open from 12 April 2021.
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Fort Gilkicker - interesting news (perhaps)

Interesting news about FORT GILKICKER (perhaps)  
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PFS Official Statement regarding Hurst Castle

At this morning's PFS Committee, the catastrophe that had struck the East Wing Battery of Hurst Castle was discussed. The committee felt it appropriate that an official public statement should be made.
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Hurst Castle Front Seaward-Facing Wall Collapse

Terrible news form Hurst Castle as the front seaward-facing wall collapses due to coastal erosion. A report from the BBC news website follows....
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Exciting news about Eastney Fort East

Earlier this week, a delegation from the Palmerston Forts Society met with the new owners of the site of the former Royal Marines Museum which includes the battery. The owners plan to develop the site into Portsmouth's first five star hotel. We were invited to discuss options for the future of the battery site.
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Amazon Smile

The PFS have registered with Amazon Smile. If you use Amazon why not use Amazon Smile instead, there is no difference to you as the customer, but for every £1 you spend, those nice folk at Amazon will give the PFS a ha'penny!
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