East Weare Camp
East Weare Camp is a derelict and disused detention barracks on the Isle of Portland in Dorset, England. It is located within the East Weares area of the island, overlooking Portland Harbour, and sits below the cliff to the east of the Verne Citadel. The camp became Grade II Listed in September 1978. The site originally served the East Weare Battery which lies 200 feet below. Within the battery area is also the DISTEX site (Disaster Relief Exercise), which is often referred to as Forbidden City locally. This part was built within the battery, for the use of the Royal Navy to conduct training. The majority of the battery, DISTEX site and East Weare Camp remain on private property of Portland Port Ltd, and have not been opened to the public.
The East Weare Battery was built in the 1860s as a result of the Royal Commission to guard the new Portland harbour and Royal Navy institutions on the island. The construction of the harbour's breakwaters and the Verne Citadel were two of the biggest government-funded projects of the time. Work on the battery commenced in 1862 and finished in 1869. They were in use through to the late 20th century when the navy trained in the area. East Weare Camp was built circa 1880 as detention barracks, before being converted to coastguard use in 1914. Later on it fell into disuse.
The quadrangle of buildings were set up on the slopes of the Verne, and approximately 175m to the west of Incline Road. The camp was approached by a climbing zig-zag route, which allowed troops access to the battery and camp, via a sally port created on the east side from the Verne. The camp was enclosed with a wall, and when the site was taken over by the coastguard, work including building an outlook tower at east corner of the courtyard, which was part of coastguard observation point. In 1996, the Royal Navy left Portland Harbour, and Portland Port Ltd became the new owners, turning the harbour into a commercial port. The entire battery and DISTEX site, including the camp, fell into total disuse from this point.
One building within the camp features two 'tags' left behind by the German Navy. One damaged one is for the German Ship "Bremen", and shows the date 1987, whilst one on the right is from the German ship "Emden". These were left behind when the Naval Training Establishment was active.
Condition and current state
The buildings, like the battery and DISTEX site, have become dilapidated, and are subject to vandalism and overgrown foliage. Built with snecked and dressed rubble, some slate roofs remain today. The majority of the battery, the DISTEX site and East Weare Camp has remained closed to the public. The site has been left to become further degraded. This was despite published reports in 1996 that Portland Port Ltd had made plans of the possible renovation of historic coastal fortifications in the area. The DISTEX site area, including some of the battery's magazines was used for a short period in the 21st century as a site for Airsoft combat.
When Portland Port Ltd took over the site, it was believed the battery, and the surrounding historical buildings would be opened. Geoff Kirby, on his Exploring Portland website, noted that East Weare Battery would be "a sure-fire tourist attraction if opened but the cost of making the old buildings safe would be very high." He also noted that the battery, including the DISTEX site and camp, was "being neglected and allowed to rot away, and buildings of undoubted historical interest are falling apart". He summarised the battery as a "tourist attraction crying out for protection and exploitation." In his 1998 book Discover Dorset: Portland, local historian Stuart Morris had noted that the battery "awaits discovery by the next generation of tourists." It was also at this point in time that the HMS Opsrey complex (ex-Royal Navy shore establishment) had plans to be converted into a holiday village, however this did not materialise, and Portland Port Ltd demolished the entire complex around 2004.
A popular viewpoint over the camp is at the cliff-edge around the side of Fancy's Family Farm, near to the Verne High Angle Battery. The camp's most obvious feature from this viewpoint is a large green roof of one section of the barracks.
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- Will Bennet (1995-07-22). "Portland's naval history ends as last warship sails - News". The Independent. Retrieved 2014-03-06.
- "CONTACT FRONT Airsoft Dorset. Forbidden City". YouTube. 2011-01-11. Retrieved 2014-03-06.
- ""No Man's Land", Portland, Dorset". Geoffkirby.co.uk. Retrieved 2014-03-06.
- Morris, Stuart (1998). Discover Dorset: Portland. Dovecote Press. p. 63. ISBN 978-1874336495.