Digging deep for a Victorian spade - Friday, 22 October 2010

Do you have great-granddad’s old spade lurking in your garden shed – or are you a dedicated collector of Victorian memorabilia? The hunt is on to track down an authentic spade or shovel that will be used to perform the honours at Fort Nelson’s official ground-breaking ceremony.

Britain’s oldest museum – the Royal Armouries – would be delighted to hear from anyone who is happy to lend a spade or shovel, dating from Queen Victoria’s reign.

A £3.5m project started in August to transform the Victorian Fort – currently home to the national collection of cannon and artillery – into a visitor attraction fit for the 21st Century.

The spade or shovel will be used to turn the “first turf” on November 3 at the Fort on Portsdown Hill, near Fareham.

Museum Director Peter Armstrong said, “Building methods have obviously changed, radically, since the Fort was built in the 1860s to protect Portsmouth from feared invasion by the French. We thought that using a Victorian spade, rather than a modern shiny example, would be symbolic of our aim to refurbish the Fort in a sympathetic but exciting way.

“We would be delighted if anyone who has a spade would get in touch – it can be anyone from a private individual to custodians of larger collections.”

If you can help, contact Joss Loader on 07838 379599.

The ground-breaking ceremony is the latest milestone in the project, which saw national building company Mansell awarded a £2.25m contract in the summer to build visitor facilities and a breathtaking new glass-fronted gallery at the free heritage attraction.
The project – part-funded by a Heritage Lottery Fund grant of almost £2m – will see the Victorian Fort refurbished sympathetically into a modern visitor attraction, complete with state-of-the art education facilities including a “classroom of the future”.

The overall revamp includes:

Further details of this and the full Royal Armouries’ Dangerously Entertaining Events calendar by visiting:



Media contact

Joss Loader
Primary PR Ltd.
Tel: 07838 379599
Email: info@primarypr.co.uk

Notes to editors

Facilities will be somewhat limited at the Fort on Trafalgar Day, as electricity supplies will be switched off, as a planned part of the £3.5m project to transform Fort Nelson into a state-of-the-art museum. The main Redan barrack block building and tunnels will be closed, but visitors will still be able to access parade, ramparts, ditch and Artillery Hall. All daily events will still go ahead, and the refreshments kiosk will be offering a basic service (the cafe will be shut). The museum will close at 4pm that day.

Download the PDF press release.