An important piece of World War Two history, Fort Henry in Studland in Dorset, is to be shown off to the public as part of English Heritage’s week of open days, along with free entrance to Corfe Castle and Lulworth Castle.
Heritage Open Days is an annual celebration of England’s history and culture that allows visitors free access to heritage sites and community events that are either not usually open to the public, or which normally charge an entrance fee.
Redend Point juts out into Studland Bay, but engineers think they can delay the cliff collapsing in a changing climate
Heritage Open Days
- Lulworth Castle – Wednesday 13th September 2023 from 10.30 am to 4 pm
- Morgan Carey Architects, The Goods Shed – Friday 15th September 2023 from 10 am to 4 pm
- National Trust Corfe Castle – Saturday 16th and Sunday 17th September 2023 from 10 am to 5 pm
- National Trust Fort Henry – Sunday 17th September 2023 from 10.30 am to 3 pm
World War Two bunker
Fort Henry on Redend Point, was built in 1943 by the Canadian Royal Engineers after Studland Bay was identified as the ideal location to rehearse secret plans for the D-Day invasion of northern France during World War Two.
Now there’s an opportunity to look round Fort Henry on Sunday 17th September 2023 from 10.30 am to 3 pm.
Visitors can take a self guided walk around the area, as well as viewing a display of World War Two ordnance, ration packs and children’s activities.
Cliff erosion causing concern
There’s been recent concern over the future of Fort Henry as rising sea levels were thought to be eroding the cliff it stands on. However engineers who have studied Redend Point, now believe that the main problem is due to weather rather than rising sea levels and wave action.
A concerning slump in the cliff seems to have been caused by periods of heavy rainfall followed by periods of drought.
With engineering works planned to change the action of water within the stone, it is now thought possible to preserve both Redend Point and Fort Henry for many years to come.
Walls three feet thick were enough to keep the Allied leaders safe during Operation Smash
D-Day rehearsal viewed from Fort Henry
In 1944, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, King George VI and Allied Supreme Commander Dwight D Eisenhower watched a full-scale dress rehearsal for the D-Day landings from Fort Henry – codenamed Operation Smash.
However all did not go to plan with the amphibious tanks involved in the exercise. They were designed to be able to float on water, but six of the tanks never reached the beach. Overwhelmed with the swell of the waves, they sank to the sea bed and six men lost their lives.
This resulted in the British forces changing its plans, launching its tanks much closer to the shore on D Day itself.
Visitors will be able to view Studland Bay from the same chamber that Winston Churchill used, then go in search of the dragons teeth of Studland – sharp concrete blocks intended to defend the beaches of Purbeck against Nazi tanks.
Dragons teeth were planted along the coastline at Studland to stop enemy tanks from advancing inland
Ordnance and family ration packs
Jamie Lamb-Shine, National Trust visitor experience officer, said:
“We’re delighted to welcome people to enjoy captivating displays of Second World War ordnance, family ration packs, engaging children’s activities and insightful self-guided walks.
“We’d love visitors to join us at Fort Henry in celebrating Studland’s rich history and its significant role in the D-Day landings, to explore the past and create lasting memories with us.”
Corfe Castle will have free entry for all over the weekend of 16th and 17th September 2023
Heritage displays at Corfe Castle
The team at Corfe Castle is offering free entrance over the weekend of Saturday 16th and Sunday 17th September 2023 to all visitors.
There will be 14 local organisations offering the experience of blacksmithing, stone carving, archaeology, fossil finding, clay mining and Morse code message writing.
There will also be talks throughout the day on a variety of topics, from the Roman influence on Purbeck, to conservation projects at Corfe Castle.
A lodge in the style of a medieval fort, Lulworth Castle was built to impress King James I
Hunt the bat at Lulworth Castle
There’s also free entrance to Lulworth Castle and the Chapel of St Mary in its grounds, as part of the Heritage Open Day scheme.
Not really a castle, it’s a hunting lodge built originally in the 17th century. The building was gutted by fire in 1929 but in 1970 work began to restore the castle in association with English Heritage.
Events at Lulworth Castle for Heritage Open Day, on Wednesday 13th September 2023 from 10.30 am to 4 pm, include hunt the bat in the castle, woodland walks and a children’s playground.
Wareham’s rescued and converted railway goods shed is now a working architects’ practice
Railway goods shed
On Friday 15th September 2023, Morgan Carey Architects will open up its Wareham office in Sandford Lane to the public – a converted railway goods shed which is now a working architects’ practice.
Clavell Tower at Kimmeridge and Dunshay Manor in Swanage have also opened to the public as part of the Heritage Open Days scheme.
Liam Montgomery, Heritage Open Days marketing manager, said:
“Whether it’s art, music, writing, or another outlet, creativity moves us and shapes our history and culture.
“We’re excited to put the spotlight on the people and places who give England’s heritage the X-factor and inspire festival-goers to engage with thousands of years of creativity.”
- Find out which other gems are open around Dorset on the Heritage Open Days website