Concealed for many years by the infrastructure and vibrant activity of the bustling Fish Quay. It is perhaps surprising that many will have missed the significance of the walls and moot of this scheduled ancient monument. In fact Clifford’s Fort is one of the earliest surviving coastal batteries in Britain.
Originally this area was a sandy spit on which a lighthouse was built in the 16th century. The Tyne was already a busy river by that time, with regular supplies of coat being shipped to London, and when the 3rd Anglo-Dutch War broke out in 1672, it was felt that strategic defences were needed at the rivers mouth.
Clifford’s Fort was built very quickly in order to fill this gap. The perceived threat from the Dutch never materialised but the forts strategic significance did not diminish and by Napoleonic times, it was equipped with 22 gun emplacements. By the 1880s, the guns were finally deemed obsolete and their embrasures were blocked up. However, the fort was given a new lease of life as it became a base for the Tyne Division Royal Engineers (Volunteers) Submarine Miners. A new explosive mine gate was created, fed by a narrow gauge railway and with two 6 pounder guns to defend it.
The Fort remained in use until 1928 when it became redundant, but the site was again used in the Second World War as the location for a Coastal Battery with two 12 pounder gun emplacements.
Work is on going to reveal and restore aspects of Clifford’s Fort structure, each stage bringing fascinating new insights into more than 330 years of history.