4th August 2011
WEYMOUTH: New live timewalk attraction planned for Chequered Fort
by Harry Walton
A LOCAL historical group wants to use the Chequered Fort on Portland Breakwater as home for a new “live” Weymouth Timewalk attraction and a maritime history museum.
Dave Allan’s Pike and Shot re-enactment company is at the heart of the proposals which are hoped to be developed after the 2012 Olympics.
The fort has been abandoned since 1956 and Mr Allan said: “We want to hold talks with Portland Port about possible use of the Chequered Fort which is a unique Victorian site.
“If we can’t get use of the Fort then we will look elsewhere at other sites because the project is proving popular.
“We already have interest and support being shown by other groups including the Nothe Fort and divers who want to join us and set up a maritime museum in tandem with the concept of a new Timewalk attraction using “live” interpreters to portray Weymouth’s history.
“If we can interest Portland Port in use of the Chequered Fort then we would apply for a Lottery grant to develop the site as a double museum with future expansion into Tall Ships and maritime festivals which all ties in with the council’s attempts to turn Weymouth and Portland into a centre for maritime excellence.
“I must stress that this is all on paper at the moment and it will be several years before we can make a concrete start, but Pike and Shot has already held talks with several interested groups which have promised to support the project.”
Mr Allan added that visitors could get to the site in a variety of ways including by boat or via small land train-style transport.
He said: “Historical interpreters would then interact with visitors in a variety of sets from the Roman and Viking era through the Tudor and Civil war periods up to Georgian, Victorian and both World Wars.
“Allied to this would be a maritime and diving history display and tours potentially linking Weymouth’s Nothe and Sandsfoot forts with Portland’s Verne Citadel, High Angle Battery and castle.
“We hope to approach Portland Port soon, diving groups have already approached us about a joint venture and the Nothe Fort has promised to support the venture which could create up to 70 jobs.”
Nothe Fort director David Joy pledged the Fort’s support for the project and said: “Weymouth and Portland is steeped in a unique history and it is thanks to local organisations that nationally important structures such as the Nothe Fort have been saved for the nation providing an important heritage asset that attracts over 50,000 visitors each year.
“The Chequered Fort is an equally important structure and therefore it is essential that it is saved as a monument to the ingenuity of our forefathers and as an educational resource so that future generations have the opportunity to learn from the past.
“I totally support the concept of restoring the Chequered Fort as part of a project to save our heritage and we are making available the Nothe Fort Resource Centre and our experience in the conservation of coastal forts.”
Portland Port commercial manager Ian McQuade said: “Portland Port is always interested in exploring new possibilities with local businesses and community groups.
“We look forward to talks with Pike and Shot at the appropriate time.”
PICTURE: Dave Allan with the Chequered Fort in the distance
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