2015 has been a pretty poor year for my levels of exploring, I’ve hardly managed to get out at all this year so I was pretty upbeat about exploring Fort Gilkicker. A location close to home, but still requiring an early start to dodge the inevitable dog walkers & people playing on the nearby golf course.
Fort Gilkicker initially peaked my interest after I saw some posts on Instagram by @dr_crooks71. It’s a 19th century curvilinear Palmerston fort, built in 1871 to protect the coastline and harbours around Portsmouth. Being a fairly small fort I was surprised to learn that it housed a total of 26 guns.
Fort Gilkicker is easily spotted from the approach road, just over half a kilometre away, it’s ten chimney stacks protrude in to the skyline. As you arrive at the front of the fort you’re greeted by my favourite feature, “FORT GILKICKER” hand-painted above the door – a rare treasure to find a sign so well preserved. It makes me wonder if it’s in fact been repainted recently it’s that good!
Entry to the fort is exceptionally easy, with the front door wide open, we immediately came across the burnt-out shell of the former security hut. It’s obvious that security isn’t present here anymore, a lot of mindless damage, smashed windows & litter everywhere in the courtyard. The fort entrance passes through the old barracks block, now stripped it once accommodated one field officer, four officers and two-hundred-and-twenty NCOs and privates.
We immediately went in to the basement section of the semi-circular casemates structure. Much like other forts of this period there’s two parallel passageways running the length of the building which would have been used for storing ammunition and then using the shell lift to deliver it upstairs to the 18 ton guns above. Some nice signage also exists in these lower rooms.
Moving up to the next level, the casemates, home to seventeen 18-ton guns and five 12-ton guns is an impressive space. At the far end of this level is a fantastically preserved ammunition lift, the likes of which I’ve only seen at the Breakwater Fort in Portland harbour. The chain & mechanism while rusted in place, remain. The loading platform & hinged section still working perfectly. Hopefully this won’t fall victim to vandalism.
The future for Fort Gilkicker
The future of Fort Gilkicker is uncertain. While subject to redevelopment plans (which were actually accepted) the developers website hasn’t been updated since 2012 when they were announcing an open day for the general public to come and view the building and also boasting that 30% of the twenty-two proposed homes had already been reserved. In a more recent interview with the developers (January 2015) they were “optimistic there will be progress within the first month or so of 2015”. Sounds like they’ve bitten off more than they can chew to me!
With the lack of on-site security and nothing new to report from the developers in over three years, Fort Gilkicker’s immediate future doesn’t look good, and this grade II listed monument will no doubt remain on the buildings at risk register for some time.