Posted: 12 July 2012 22:34
It has been announced that Newhaven Fort is to be leased out by Lewes District Council, thereby threatening the future of an important piece of British Heritage.
The fort is the largest military defence work in Sussex and houses an amazing military museum and education centre that I visit on a regular basis - indeed, I was speaking in the School Room there just a few weeks ago.
The possibility that the fort might be sold off broke in the local press just a few days ago, so I'm not sure just how long this has been in the pipeline.
The museum is under threat - it may be scaled back while the rest of the site is leased for some other purpose - not much has been reported so far, apart from this Sussex Express piece, 12 July.
What becomes of the collections? The fort houses an exhibition devoted to the World War Two home front (a subject taught as part of the National Curriculum in primary schools), a Royal Observer Corps collection, aviation artifacts, the Surrey and Sussex Yeomanry collection and a Great War exhibition. This is not to mention the only 20th century coast defence battery with representative guns in emplacements in Sussex and an important 19th century Palmerston fort.
Newhaven also has strong connections with the Canadian Army as the port was used to embark the troops for the ill-fated 1942 raid on Dieppe - and receive those lucky enough to return.
Why are all these artefacts at Newhaven Fort? Because it's a museum.
Why is it a museum? Because the fort is really only good as a coast defence battery or as a museum. (Coastal defence was scrapped in 1956.) I can't think of any other purpose to which you could put the fort and still respect its heritage.
Previous attempts to turn the fort into a money-making venture have failed; heritage has a value beyond money, but requires money to keep it going. The fort is said to lose £200,000 a year - a big hole to fill, especially in these times of financial hardship. We can only hope that common sense prevails and a solution is found.
The Newhaven Fort website is at: http://www.newhavenfort.org.uk.
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Hibbs, Peter What future for Newhaven Fort? (2020) Available at: http://www.pillbox.org.uk/blog/216706/ Accessed: 20 January 2020
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