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BREAN DOWN FORT – FOLLOW UP Q&A

After reviewing the footage from our investigation at Brean Down Fort both Rick and I were amazed at some of the strange sounds we picked up on the digital voice recorder located in the Powder Room Tunnel (Area M on the map below). What intrigued us even more was that the digital voice recorder was on the floor behind the locked metal gates so anyone attempting to tamper with it would have been captured and as far as we knew there was no other way in?

With this in mind we posed a few questions to Paul from the National Trust who is a National Trust volunteer at Brean Down Fort and who was with us for part of the investigation. Each answer from Paul has been posted in its entirety with no editing.

 

QUESTION 1
Original Audio / Enhanced Audio
One of the pieces of evidence we captured was what sounded like a metal hinge swinging open and then a wooden door creaking. We posed the following question to try to ascertain if, historically, there may have been this kind of door in place to the Powder Room?

 

Real Or Otherside
Would there ever have been wooden doors, possibly with metal hinges, on the entrance to the Powder Room Tunnels, where there are now metal gates?

Paul
I have not seen any evidence that there were doors on the tunnel entrance – it's an interesting question.  If there were doors, then the hinges would have had to have been copper / zinc or similar which I doubt would be strong enough.  Iron and steel couldn't be used due to the risk of sparks in proximity to gunpowder.  I would imagine there were possibly no doors – the magazine is still bone dry inside after nearly 150 years. The underground artillery stores on Steep Holm which is better preserved than Brean Fort do have wooden frames, presumably for doors – I'll check to see if there are any evidence of hinges when I'm there next month. However, what there was in the wall out side the tunnel entrance was a metal hoist running in a metal bearing 2/3 up the wall in front of the door.  This was used to raise / lower barrels / cartridges in and out of the magazine.  This and its pulley may well have squeaked.  I'll send some photos of the bearing point in the wall next time I'm at the fort.

 

QUESTION 2
We wanted to try and find out from Paul if it would have been possible for a person, or animal, to gain entry to the Powder Room Tunnels without the group being aware of it. If Paul could confirm that this was theoretically possible it would potentially explain some of the strange sounds we captured.

 

Real Or Otherside
Are there any other ways in to the Powder Room Tunnels that would allow people or animals in without walking through the main courtyard and down the stairs?

Paul
There is only one way in / out of the main magazine and that's down the stairs.  The lantern tunnel adjacent to the magazine does open into the magazine tunnel and magazine, but is secured with bars.  The drop is about 9ft from where it is open to the magazine tunnel floor – most animals would be injured falling from this height, as was a small girl several years ago before the bars were put in!  We never find any rabbits, or evidence of them (droppings, etc), in the underground magazines.

 

QUESTION 3
The reasoning behind this question was to enforce whether animals would be able to gain access to the Powder Room Tunnels unnoticed and what type of animals, if any, are indigenous to the Fort and its surrounding areas. If Paul could confirm there were animals such as seals, rabbits, dogs etc in the vicinity, again, it could explain some of the strange sounds we captured.

 

Real Or Otherside
I know you mentioned there being nests of spiders in areas of the fort but are any other animals known to inhabit the fort such as seals, dogs etc and could they gain access to the tunnels as per question 2?

Paul
The only animals that regularly frequent the fort are rabbits and goats. There is a small warren in the grass above the magazine, but we never find them in the underground room, nor is there ever any droppings in the magazine.  The goats never hang around when people are about.  There are seals that live off Steep Holm island several miles off the end of Brean Down.  I doubt they'd be able to get up the cliffs to the fort even if they wanted to.  It's hard enough for two legged animals!

 

Thanks again to Paul from the National Trust for answering these questions and for allowing us to post his answers.