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East Weare Camp

A Grade II Listed Building in Castletown, Portland, Dorset

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Latitude: 50.562 / 50°33'43"N

Longitude: -2.4296 / 2°25'46"W

OS Eastings: 369668

OS Northings: 73666

OS Grid: SY696736

Mapcode National: GBR PZ.2PYW

Mapcode Global: FRA 57SL.596

Plus Code: 9C2VHH6C+Q5

Entry Name: East Weare Camp

Listing Date: 21 September 1978

Last Amended: 26 February 2018

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1205814

English Heritage Legacy ID: 381981

Location: Portland, Dorset, DT5

County: Dorset

District: Weymouth and Portland

Civil Parish: Portland

Traditional County: Dorset

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Dorset

Church of England Parish: Portland All Saints

Church of England Diocese: Salisbury

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A defensible barracks built in 1870-80 constructed of local stone and overlooking Portland Naval base.


A defensive barracks of c.1870-80, later converted for coastguard use, and with subsequent adaptations.

MATERIALS: constructed of snecked and dressed rubble, some slate roofs remain.

PLAN: two rectilinear buildings set at opposing positions on a levelled slope and adjoined by an enclosure wall to form a quadrangular camp of c.35m square. There are projecting corner units to the south and north and the remains of other structures within the courtyards. East Weare Camp is set well up on the slopes of The Verne, c.175m to west of Incline Road. It is approached by a climbing zigzag route.

DESCRIPTION: the principal south-west front is a broad single-storey elevation. The central entrance has a wide semi-circular arch in heavy pecked rusticated quoins, voussoirs and keystone under heavy roll-mould coping. The door is set slightly forward and rises above the enclosure wall, although partially covered by the apron of a modern steel structure that provides weather protection for the failing roofs. There are various blocked openings to all elevations, some with remains of timber window units. The lintels have been raised above inserted gun ports and iron plates cover the musket slits. The main elevations have chamfered cills and cast-iron vents at upper level between the openings. The wall is crowned in a heavy roll-mould cornice. The entrance is flanked within by hipped slate-roofed workshops, now in a state of collapse, and the entry arch is repeated on the courtyard side. The entrance to the north-west workshop has two cast-iron columns standing on pad stones and supporting the remains of a former roof structure. Each workshop has a stone division wall incorporating a chimneybreast for a fireplace on each side. There are other C19 iron fixings remaining such as door pintles and some floors are still covered in flag stones. A roofless brick addition is attached to the north west, extending along the enclosure wall to the edge of the lower section of courtyard, which is accessed by steps.

The enclosure walls to north-west and south-east sides are ramped down from the workshops to the barracks. The north-east building is a former barrack block, also with a heavy roll-mould cornice. To the left the lower openings are blocked and at upper level is a series of deep-set cast-iron windows. To the centre and right are various openings and a structure at upper level with external stairs probably relates to the later coastguard observation point. The outlook tower in the east corner of the courtyard is also part of this later use of the site. The north-east barracks building could not be internally inspected due to unsafe structure. All of the buildings have suffered some degree of collapse and been subject to vandalism. The site is generally overgrown making complete external inspection impractical.


The area around Portland Harbour has historically been recognised as an important military strategic location. The mid-C19 was marked by a period of growing political and military concern over French foreign policy and an arms race developed between the two nations. In 1845 the Royal Navy established a base at Portland, constructing a new harbour where its fleet of steam-driven warships could be replenished with coal. In 1859, due to concerns over a possible French invasion, Lord Palmerston, the Prime Minister, instigated the establishment of the Royal Commission on the Defence of the United Kingdom which recommended that vital points along the south coast, including the Royal Dockyards at Portsmouth, Chatham, Plymouth and Portland, be fortified. As a consequence the defences at East Weare, to the south of Portland Harbour, were developed and the Verne Citadel fort (1857-81) and East Weare Battery (1862-9) were constructed. In circa 1880 East Weare Camp was established and from 1889 the rifle range was being built. The building of Verne High Angle Battery in 1892 and Upton Fort in 1902 demonstrates Portland’s continuing role as an important strategic location.

East Weare Camp, a self-defensible detention barracks, provided secure accommodation for the gunners and garrison of the East Weare Batteries, A-E. This is the only known example of this type of small defensible barracks. A range finding station and observation post were built near East Weare Camp in c.1901. Converted to coastguard use in 1914, East Weare Camp has had successive adaptations and alterations during the C20. By 1991 it had fallen out of use, was dilapidated and subject to vandalism. In 1995, a modern steel structure was erected over the south-west range in order to shield the failing original roofs. The site left Ministry of Defence ownership in 1995 and since that time minimal remedial works have been carried out to the barracks and the fabric of the buildings has continued to decline.

Reasons for Listing

East Weare Camp, Portland is listed at Grade II, for the following principal reasons:

Architectural interest:
* As a rare C19 defensible barracks adopting an original design in response to its required function overlooking Portland Naval Base;
* Including some architectural detailing and constructed using good quality Portland stone;
* Despite considerable dilapidation it still retains a legible layout and a substantial proportion of its principal structure.

Historic interest: 
* The C19 and earlier military defences at East Weare and the surrounding area have an important role in demonstrating British naval history as it developed, particularly in response to innovation brought about by the Industrial Reviolution.

Group Value:
*        As part of a complete naval base of considerable importance, specifically designed as the first safe anchorage for the replenishment of the navy’s fleet of steam-driven warships;
* Portland Harbour and the nearby coast of the Isle of Portland has a significant collection of designated assets associated with the military history of the area, including Portland Castle (Grade I and Scheduled Monument) and the Verne Citadel.

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