The stunning Victorian fortress – Fort Nelson near Fareham – features in Michael Portillo’s latest Great British Railways Journeys series, due to broadcast on BBC2 on Monday (January 14) at 6.30pm.

The former Conservative minister and journalist stopped off at the Royal Armouries Museum as part of Series Four of the popular documentary, which sees Michael use George Bradshaw’s 1863 railway guide as his handbook.

He tours the length and breadth of the British Isles to discover what remains of Bradshaw’s world – and next week travels port to port, from the centuries-old naval hub of Portsmouth to historic Grimsby docks.

During his visit to the Portsmouth area, Michael looked behind the scenes at the Royal Armouries Museum at Fort Nelson – home to the national collection of historic cannon and artillery.

Aided by Royal Armouries’ Curator of Artillery Philip Magrath and uniformed gunners from the Portsdown Artillery Volunteers, Michael was filmed firing a 32-pounder, smooth-bore, breech-loading gun, dated 1883.

Philip said, “It was quite a spectacle for Michael to fire a gun of this type. Fort Nelson was built by the Victorians to repel a feared invasion by the French and this is a fine example of a gun used for ditch defence, or for the flank defence of fortifications, such as this.

“We had the Portsdown Artillery Volunteers in full uniform, showing Michael how the gun is primed and discharged and he then fired it himself. Although guns were never fired in anger at Fort Nelson, this is a fine example of a fully-restored Victorian hill fort and provides an atmospheric and authentic backdrop for this fascinating series.”

Standing high on Portsdown Hill near Fareham, Fort Nelson showcases one of the world’s finest collections of artillery and cannon, from across the ages and from all corners of the globe.

In 2011, this unique heritage attraction underwent a £3.5m redevelopment to create a museum for the 21st century, supported by a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, complete with new galleries, state-of-the-art education centre and visitor facilities.

Great British Railway Journeys also sees Michael in Portsmouth Dockyard for the commissioning of Britain’s newest destroyer HMS Dragon. Whilst on board, he feeds the crew and afterwards visits a local factory.

Museum entrance is free and visitors can explore the 19-acre Victorian Fort, complete with underground tunnels and brand new galleries, showcasing the national collection of big guns. There’s also the chance to visit Café 1871, offering hot and cold snacks, plus Halloween treats.

Built in the 1860s, the Portsdown Hill Fort is home to the national collection of artillery, with over 350 exhibits from all over the globe. The museum’s new galleries tell the fascinating stories of the objects, their history and the people who used them.

The collection originated at HM Tower of London and has been on display in Hampshire since 1995.

For more details about Fort Nelson, please visit

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Notes to editors

To find Fort Nelson, follow the brown Tourist signs from the M27. The Fort is open seven days a week, from 10am to 5pm.

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