Revealing the Past to Secure the Future: The Renaissance of Newhaven Fort

Lewes District Council and its partner, Wave Leisure Trust Limited (Wave), have today, thanks to National Lottery players, received a First- Round Pass of funding of £157,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) towards the restoration of the historic Newhaven Fort project. This is 75% of the total development funding of £209,400 which will go towards the preparation of a Second-Round Application for the renovation and rejuvenation of the site which will secure the integrity of this South Coast landmark and Scheduled Ancient Monument.

The project aims to unlock the full potential of Newhaven Fort making it an asset for the community of Newhaven and the surrounding area for learning, employment, training and economic regeneration. It will link the community to its own history – from ancient ties with the Stone Age through two World Wars up to, and including, the present day.

The project will secure the future of the Fort by restoring the historic structure – part of which is on the Heritage at Risk Register. It will open up areas which are currently inaccessible, rejuvenate the site with new exhibitions and attractions to draw new visitors to the area, and leave a local community legacy of new volunteering opportunities.

The current Fort building on the site is the largest man-made defence work ever constructed in Sussex and is now a Scheduled Ancient Monument. Designed by a 22-year-old Lieutenant in the Royal Engineers, it was commissioned in 1859 as part of a major strengthening of Britain’s Channel defences by Lord Palmerston in preparation of a perceived threat from a resurgent France.

The Fort has the classic features of its period including firing galleries reached by an extensive tunnel network which is dug into the chalk; a Caponier at beach level, a Grand Magazine, Parade Ground and ‘Casemates’ which were used as barrack accommodation. The walls are constructed out of concrete – the first time this material was ever used extensively in a British fortification.

Commenting on the funding award, Cllr Andy Smith, Leader of Lewes District Council said: “We are delighted to have received this invaluable support from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The funds will allow us to move forward with our plans for the conservation work to the physical structure of the Fort, maintaining safe access and revealing elements which are currently hidden.  At the same time, we will be working closely with Wave on the Second-Round Application.”

Duncan Kerr, Chief Executive at Wave said: “It’s great news and really exciting. This funding will allow us to work up the project further and gives Lewes District Council the opportunity to recruit a strong team to support us in the next phase of the regeneration of the Fort.  The HLF award will help us enhance the visitor experience by adding new fun family elements and refocus the Fort and its links with Newhaven town, safeguarding the future and preserving the site for another century.”