The Royal Armouries is Britain’s national museum of arms and armour and is one of the most important museums of its type in the world.
Its origins lie in the Middle Ages. At its core is the celebrated collection originating in the nation’s working arsenal, assembled over many centuries at the Tower of London.
During the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, select items began to be arranged for public display, making the Royal Armouries heir to one of the oldest and deliberately created visitor attractions in the country.
Fort Nelson is an imposing Victorian fortress and is home to the Royal Armouries’ national collection of artillery – the Big Guns. Fort Nelson offers something for everybody, from school children and history buffs to walkers and day-trippers.
One of a series of six forts built in the 1860s as part of a defensive chain around Portsmouth and its vital Royal Dockyard, Fort Nelson is probably the best surviving example of its type and has been restored to its original 19th-century state, together with parts of its Second World War heritage.
After a recent multi-million pound redevelopment, Fort Nelson boasts a new Visitor Centre, state-of-the-art gallery, plus a welcoming café and museum shop.
The museum’s displays trace the development of artillery from pre-gunpowder siege machines to modern-day super guns, with over 350 artefacts on display. A highlight is the magnificent Voice of the Guns gallery, showcasing iconic weapons from the national collection. These include sections of the infamous Iraqi Super Gun, anti-aircraft guns used to defend the South Coast and the city of Portsmouth during the Second World War, plus the medieval wall-smashing Great Turkish bombard, dating back to 1464.
The newly configured Artillery Hall displays an extensive range of 20th century guns; the largest on display being the enormous 200-tonne First World War railway howitzer.
Set high on Portsdown Hill, Fort Nelson has some of the best panoramic views of the Solent and the Meon Valley. Visitors are free to explore the vast 19-acre site, including the monumental ramparts and deep ditches. Underground chambers and secret tunnels add to the sense of adventure.
Group tours can be pre-booked and informative guides will help to unearth the intriguing history of Fort Nelson and the people who have lived and worked there over the years.
A definite not to be missed experience is the thrilling power and noise of the daily gun firing at 1300hrs. One of the Big Guns is fired every day and there are special firings and events hosted throughout the year.
After you’ve explored the Fort, why not take time to relax in Cafe 1871, which is open daily for teas, coffees, delicious cakes and light meals.
Contact the Royal Armouries bookings team on 01329 848504 to discuss group requirements and to book tours and free coach parking. Check the Royal Armouries website for school holiday events and special gun firings.
[i] Admission and Parking is Free
Fort Nelson, Portsdown Hill Road, Fareham, Hampshire, PO17 6AN
Fort Nelson Opening Times
April – October: Daily 1000hrs – 1700hrs
November – March: Daily 1030hrs – 1600hrs
Closed December 24, 25 and 26
Facilities: Café, disabled toilets, disabled parking and partial wheelchair access