Heritage Talk: Archaeology of Clifford’s Fort

Archaeology of Clifford’s Fort

John Nolan, a semi-retired archaeologist and trustee of the Old Low Light Heritage Centre, is to give a talk about his involvement in excavations and research on Clifford’s Fort, a scheduled ancient monument, and the adjoining Old Low Light area.

This will take place on Saturday 11 March at 11am at the Old Low Light Heritage Centre. Places at £4pp (Old Low Light members and children under 16 free) can be booked online on our website by clicking the book now button above.

John became directly involved with archaeology and buildings of Clifford’s Fort in 2001 as a member of the North East Civic Trust’s team working on a Conservation Plan for the Fort and Low Lights. Subsequently he undertook recording of the surviving Fort walls and other historic features of the site before a major restoration programme started. From 2008, the £1m programme began. Modern fish processing units were progressively removed, the remains of the Fort restored, and historic buildings within were converted to new uses.

Clifford’s Fort was first built in 1672 as a coastal artillery defence against the Dutch. In the 18th century, barracks and the Master Gunner’s house were built. Later, in 1888 Clifford’s Fort became the headquarters of the Tyne Division Royal Engineers Submarine Miners. New buildings were constructed, and a narrow-gauge railway was laid to move the mines from the Fort to a boat on the pier, defended by two swivelling guns. The Fort remained in military use until 1928 when the site passed to Tynemouth Corporation for the expansion of the fishery industry, though it was partly re-garrisoned as an Emergency Coast Battery in World War Two.

John read history as a mature student at Newcastle University and for many years was an assistant to the Tyne and Wear County Archaeologist, Barbara Harbottle, working principally in the city, and at the Castle of Newcastle upon Tyne. He left the City Council to became a freelance archaeologist in 1997, focussing mainly on recording and interpreting historic buildings and landscapes proposed to be affected by development. Despite technical ‘retirement’ this continues, largely through working with community archaeology groups in Northumberland. His archaeological interests and involvement span the medieval and post-medieval periods, with work ranging from the Flodden500 project to recording 20th century air-raid shelters.

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