LAST week, we took a look at the history of Chapel Bay Fort near Angle from its creation to when the Army left in 1932.

This week, we take a look at what happened to the fort after this point and how it became the museum it is today.

In 1932, the Army left Chapel Bay Fort and according to an October 8 edition of the Western Morning News, it was sold off along with Scoveston Fort, Fort Hubberston, Thorn Island, Fort Stark Rock Island Fort Milford, Milford Fort and Fort Popton.

The Western Mail on October 7 that year stated that it was bought by Mr A. W. Gutch of Angle, who purchased the 20-acre property. Gutch was an agent for Miss Mirehouse, of Angle, who owned the shooting rights to the land.

It was scheduled as an Ancient Monument by the Ministry of Public Building and Works in 1959 and during the 1960s, had various uses relating to agriculture, including fodder storage, mushroom farming and veal rearing. It was during this time that the fort began to deteriorate.

In the 1970s, the deterioration continued and was accelerated by the maritime environment as well as unchecked tree growth, architectural theft, vandalism and fly-tipping.

A radio mast was put up in the remaining 10” gun position and generators were installed in the former Oil & Paint Store.

Around 1972, Lt. Col. L.N.A Davies made the first suggestions to restore the fort, but it seems there was nothing done at this time.

In 1991, the last surviving 10” 18-tonne gun was taken from the base of the cliff below the fort by the Royal Electrical & Mechanical Engineers Light Aid Detachment.

Three years after the removal of the last gun, work began to start clearing the overgrowth over a number of weekends organised by George Geear which would allow for an assessment of the state of the structure.

Western Telegraph: Chapel Bay Fort before restoration.Chapel Bay Fort before restoration. (Image: Chapel Bay Fort and Museum)

In 1995, Chapel Bay Fort and Museum was set up as a registered charity and Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority appointed Niall Phillips Architects to carry out a study and report on ‘Chapel Bay Fort: Options for its Future.’

In 1998, plans were refused to build a custodian’s dwelling on the site of the former Officer’s Mess to provide a permanent presence on the site in the hope of preventing further vandalism.

Despite volunteer efforts to secure the site, it continued to be vandalised and in 1999, the Soldier’s Latrines were smashed, which broke cast iron frames and slate panels, the Master Gunner’s Quarters porch was demolished and a number of chimney pots were broken. The last remaining original doors to the Infantry Casemates were also burnt.

A resubmission of the Custodian’s Dwelling planning application was successful in the October and in 2001 the skeleton carriage for a 10” 18-tonne R.M.L gun was under construction and installed in the surviving gun position and the Custodian’s Dwelling was completed.

The following February, a 4.5” B.L. gun was delivered to the site by the Army and in 2003 a 10-inch 18-tonne gun was craned onto the skeleton carriage, and mounted.

The Western Telegraph reported on May 13 that the gun had returned for the first time in almost a century. The report also stated the initial gun – which was recovered in 1991 as mentioned earlier – had been disposed of in the 1900s by pushing it off the cliff.

Western Telegraph: Chapel Bay Fort site.Chapel Bay Fort site. (Image: Chapel Bay Fort and Museum)

In 2004, the 39 Regiment Royal Engineers cleared the blocked moat and a new bridge was installed under the Military Aid to the Civil Community Scheme.

In 2005, the Battery Control Station was restored after funding from Heritage Lottery Fund: Awards for All and the following year CADW part funded restoration of the Master Gunner’s Quarters.

In 2007, Chapel Bay Fort was featured on BBC Coast Programme and the following year, a grant from Pride in Pembrokeshire allowed the volunteers to get new oak windows in five of the Casemates, with the final three getting new windows in 2010 after funding from CADW and Pembrokeshire County Council.

In 2008, the 170 (Infrastructure Support) Engineer Group of the Royal Engineers helped to work on the interior of the fort, a fitting moment as it was their regimental predecessors who built it in 1891, using a 1914 plan of the building.

A vertical searchlight beam was exposed at the fort in 2012 as part of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Beacons and the same year, funding was approved by the Defence of the Realm Project and the Community Facilities & Activities Programme so major restoration could be done on the fort for it to open to the public as a museum.

In 2015 the fort opened as a museum to the public and the soft opening attracted hundreds of people over the Easter weekend.

There were guided tours of the museum filled with military technology, underground works and tunnels, gun emplacements and magazines.

The weaponry on display included historic items, First World War items, bomb disposal, artillery and small arms among others. At the time, Chapel Bay Fort Museum operations director George Geear said: “It was very well attended; it’s been pretty crowded; we’ve been doing four guided tours a day with up to 20 people in each one, and we’re only open to walkers off the footpath at the moment. It’s a very ‘soft’ opening; we’re finding our way in easy.”

The following year, volunteers restored a British Army 5.5inch gun from the Second World War which later went on display.

In 2018, a rare Allan-Williams turret was put on display in the museum after it was restored by Chapel Bay Fort volunteer Sean Meaker. It was one of just 36 of the 199 made thought to be surviving in the UK.

The fort is now open between Easter and September on Saturdays and Sundays.