Transformation of a unique Victorian fort with German additions is nearing completion and will add another Alderney heritage visitor attraction by the summer.
Doyle’s Battery, known locally as Fort Doyle, on Alderney’s stunning northern coast was completely overgrown with brambles and weeds – until Alderney Society volunteers first came to the rescue in 2018.
This compact but well-preserved Victorian fort with its additional World War II fortifications stands on the headland between Platte Saline and Crabby Bay. The old barrack block near the entrance is leased to the Alderney Amateur Boxing Club where international boxer Billy Le Poullain first learned his trade.
Volunteers have also cleared the batteries at Fort Tourgis and Bibette Head, while Visit Alderney has also opened The Nunnery Heritage Site, one of Europe’s best-preserved small Roman forts with numerous later historical additions, and the iconic ‘Odeon’ range-finding tower.
At the same time, the Alderney Society – along with the members of the States Works Department (SWD) – set about refurbishing Fort Doyle as an important historic site and a key visitor attraction.
Volunteers have cleared the undergrowth and opened up a maze of trenches and several bunkers created by occupying German forces. It will be a fascinating historic experience for visitors of all ages.
Completed in 1854, Doyle’s Battery is the smallest fort on the island and originally accommodated four guns with barracks for 22 men, officers’ quarters, cookhouse, magazine and artillery stores. During the Occupation, two anti-tank gun bunkers were constructed along with bunkers for tank turrets, mortars, machine guns and personnel in what was known to the Germans as Resistance Nest Dohlenfeste.
After visiting the site in September 2020 with Alderney Society President Dr Trevor Davenport and Vice-President Pauline Black, States Members Annie Burgess, Chris Harris and Kevin Gentle asked for a report with suggestions for its refurbishment. It was proposed that the project would be a joint venture between the States of Alderney and the Alderney Society.
Dr Davenport drew up an extensive report on how it might be restored with improved public access and information boards. These boards will be similar to those which are currently displayed at other sites round the island such as at Fort Tourgis, Bibette Head, Les Rochers, The Nunnery Roman Fort and ‘The Odeon’.
“This is a gem of a small fort,” said Dr Davenport. “Its position at Crabby near the harbour is very convenient and will furnish Alderney with another superb location for visitors and locals alike to appreciate and enjoy.
“We have received fantastic support from the States with several Members and officers showing keen interest with the result that a modest sum was agreed to fund improvements that could not be carried out by the States itself. We are also indebted to all those members of the SWD for their enthusiasm in supporting this venture. To date, many hundreds of manhours have gone into this project.”
The final phase will be to restore the toilet facilities, clean and redecorate the important rooms and bunkers where necessary, and place information boards around the site.
The Society anticipates the site will be ready to open to the public in April, in time for what is expected to be a busy post-pandemic summer for tourism.
Annie Burgess, Chair of the Island’s Economic Development Committee, said: “We owe a debt of gratitude to the hard work of the volunteers who have transformed Fort Doyle to what it is now, a stunning example of our unique heritage.”
Main picture of Fort Doyle by Alan Perks.