LDA Design has been commissioned by Historic England to lead a team to prepare a visionary masterplan for Fort Cumberland, located on Eastney Point in the south-east corner of Portsea Island.
Fort Cumberland is one of the finest examples of 18th century, pentagonal-shaped bastion forts in England. The fort’s fascinating story tells of the dramatic changes in defensive warfare over more than 250 years, from its Georgian origins to WW2 and the late 20th century conflicts. Now it faces very different existential threats from climate breakdown, including rising sea levels and the conservation challenges arising from ageing buildings and structures across two and a half centuries.
Fort Cumberland is a remarkable and unique place, a Scheduled Monument with above and below ground structures protected by a range of statutory controls including Grade II and II* listings. The site and its setting are highly sensitive and vulnerable to change, whether planned or unplanned and the visionary masterplan must balance up strategic objectives under the headings of people, planet, and place.
Fort Cumberland’s enormous historic value and its potential has largely remained untapped and hidden from view behind its fortifications. It is home to Historic England’s world-class Centre for Archaeology and is also home to research collections of international importance. It is in a remote location, yet within relatively easy reach of Portsmouth and Southsea, if improvements can be made to travel connections which could encourage people to walk, cycle or take the bus. There will also be opportunities for making Fort Cumberland an essential destination on long-distance leisure routes connecting to the ferry across to Hayling Island and making it part of the bigger leisure circuit around Portsea Island and Langstone Harbour.
Bernie Foulkes, a director at LDA Design said and project lead for the Fort Cumberland vision plan, said: “This project highlights the some of the biggest challenges we all face in the future about how we plan and manage change for our most valuable cultural and historic sites that are under threat. Fort Cumberland is a very special place, but has been until now, mostly hidden from view in every way. Through the vision and masterplan commission we want to explore how we open it up, reveal its astonishing history and character and sustain activity and life into the future.”
The potential for improving educational and cultural links with the city and the University of Portsmouth are clear. There are opportunities for re-using and adapting existing structures for small-scale, complementary research and employment activity, as well as visitor facilities. Securing long-term revenue will help to support vital conservation work.
Fort Cumberland is an important part of Portsea Island and Southsea’s extensive and unique coastal environment, providing real opportunities to support nature recovery and increase biodiversity.
With so much interest and such careful balances to strike, LDA Design will embark upon a co-design programme that will involve a wide range of participants. The vision and masterplan will explore a range of options for further development. The commission is due to report in March 2024.
Historic England’s Alastair Godfrey said of the plan: “We are glad to be working with LDA Design on this exciting project to prepare a vision for Fort Cumberland. The fort is a fascinating site and some of our most ground-breaking scientific research into historic artefacts happens within its walls. This visionary masterplan will seek to enhance what makes the site special, strengthen its fabric, and explore a wider range of new and complementary uses within the fort complex.”
Painting of Fort Cumberland by Bernie Foulkes