Battle of the brambles set to start at Littlehampton’s historic fort

DM151178856a.jpg Littlehampton Fort Restoration Project and Littlehampton Golf Club have reached agreement over the Napoleonic fort. L to R Bill Dalson, Tony Bence and Andy Orpin. Photo by Derek Martin SUS-150929-161430008
DM151178856a.jpg Littlehampton Fort Restoration Project and Littlehampton Golf Club have reached agreement over the Napoleonic fort. L to R Bill Dalson, Tony Bence and Andy Orpin. Photo by Derek Martin SUS-150929-161430008

A fort built to defend Littlehampton from the threat of invasion is finally set to be restored after a breakthrough deal between the site’s owners and a volunteer army.

French forces never arrived to put the coastal fort in jeopardy, but the military monument to the past was instead overwhelmed by brambles, ivy and wind-blown sand after it was abandoned.

Now a two-year conservation scheme is to go ahead to clear away the tangle of vegetation from the structure, built in 1854 but these days visible only as a mound bordering the sand dunes at the western entrance of the River Arun.

For Andy Orpin, chairman and project manager of the Littlehampton Fort Restoration Project, the agreement reached with Littlehampton Golf Club to begin the work is the culmination of his four-year dream to reveal once more an important part of the town’s heritage.

He said: “I am so pleased to be able to now be working in partnership with the members of Littlehampton Golf Club, the owners of the fort, to conduct this important conservation work. Once the work is completed in 24 months’ time, we should be able to clearly see what remains of the old fort and to decide if anything further should be done.

“The Littlehampton Fort Restoration Project is extremely grateful for the positivity and enthusiasm of the club’s members, who have expressed a keen interest in seeing what lies under the mass of ivy and brambles that cover a corner of their golf course. Without the golf club’s support, the restoration would not have been possible.”

Golf club chairman Tony Bence said: “As a born and bred Littlehampton lad, I will be interested in seeing these works as they progress. As chairman of the board of directors at the golf club, I would like to thank our members for agreeing to the partnership with the Fort Restoration Project, despite some reservations as to what might be revealed. It is to be hoped that the enthusiasm of Andy and his group will be rewarded as the two-year agreement proceeds.”

The project has received support and encouragement from both Littlehampton Town and Arun District councils. Phil Graham, economic regeneration officer for Arun, said: “Littlehampton Fort is a great heritage asset for the town and has the potential to become an important landmark for Littlehampton.

“It would be really good for the community and visitors to the town to see the fort unveiled from its hidden camouflage of ivy. It demonstrates the community spirit of Littlehampton Golf Club, which is supporting the project’s hard-working volunteers to make this happen.”

During the project, updates on the progress will be on display both at the golf course clubhouse and on the websites of the club and the project, the latter, www.littlehamptonfort.co.uk also giving details of how people can play an important part in the conservation work, and become involved.

The project currently has 125 volunteers, is self-financed and relies on donations and fund-raising, although Andy said there were plans to bid for grants now the conservation scheme is to go ahead.

Part of the fort was demolished in 1954, but Andy is confident much remains. “We know that the carnot walls and bastions are all still there, these are the defending structures or walls which surround the eastern, southern and western sides of the fort. The gun emplacements and backing retaining walls also still exist.

“Once the gun emplacement platform is cleared and repaired this will look amazing.”

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