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Since 1880, Fort Glanville has stood sentinel guarding the entrance to our harbours. Despite being built on the sand dunes of the northern Adelaide beaches and withstanding the weather, this remarkable old stone and red brick building is still intact today. After many uses over the years, including the Scouts and accommodation during the Great Depression, the site today it is a museum as part of the Fort Glanville Conservation Park.
Volunteers from the Fort Glanville Historical Association have care of the Fort and keep the history and traditions alive. Open days are on the third Sunday of every month only over the warmer months, from September to May. A visit here makes a fabulous family outing or for those interested in all things historic or of a military nature.
A fun family outing on a Sunday afternoon. Image by Kat May.
The volunteers here do a great job of showing you what life was like here for soldiers who served here in this remote outpost. On arrival, you can see museum items such as soldier uniforms and weapons. Pick up a program of the afternoon's events. You then walk down a path entering the fort which is barricaded all around. You can spend some time to wander around and then return to the seated area to watch displays of cannon firing and soldiers drill. They start with the smaller cannon and then take a break with other events such as drill. The third and final firing is later in the afternoon.
Firing the cannon is done with full regimental order just as it was done in the 1880s. Image by Kat May.
During program intervals, you can join one of the soldiers and tour underneath the firing area that faces the sea where the ammunition was kept. Here you can see tunnels with the massive wooden loading arm for the large 10-inch cannon, which has been restored. This huge cannon is a remarkable one and very rare. It lowers so it can be loaded from below ground and then raises up and turns to the direction of the sea.
Candle light underground was kept behind glass. These walls have lots of stories and the soldiers will tell you some. Image by Kat May.
A few hours here is lots of fun for kids suitable for over pre-school age. I would not suggest taking babies or toddlers as the cannon firing is loud and would frighten them. You cannot take a stroller or wheelchair down into the underground parts of the fort. Although a wheelchair would be ok for the cannon firing area. Kids love to see the views of the sea from the top section and have a photo taken with a soldier.
The most exciting part of the afternoon is the cannon firing, with a commentary provided to tell you about the cannons and some history of the fort. The soldiers drill exercise was done with some purposeful blunders and a little humour making visitors laugh. The soldiers look great dressed in their uniforms with shiny brass buttons. Young colonial lads called Adelaide soldiers dressed in their redcoats "The Lobsters."
Other parts of the fort to inspect are the soldier's barracks where you can see the original furniture including the folding cast iron beds. There is also a basement kitchen with a large old iron wood stove, storerooms and the commanding officers quarters. Many provisions had to be stored at the fort as it was a long way by horse and cart on a dirt track from Port Adelaide to get to this part of the beach. There were no houses or shops here back then. There was the grand home, Glanville Hall nearby, and a few farms along the rough potholed track called Military Road, which had fences and gates across it. This important road gave soldiers access to field gun emplacements on the beaches at Glenelg and Henley.
Remember to walk dowstairs to see the soldiers living areas. Image by Kat May.
Fort Glanville and Fort Largs, along with many forts along the Victorian coastline, were built in the 1880s due to the scaremongering from newspapers and concerned citizens regarding the Crimean War and having no protection from England in an attack. Fear of the coming Russians caused mass hysteria in Australia. It took a lot of work to get the forts built as there is no stone around here. It would have been quarried in the hills or mid-north and brought by bullock wagons. In addition, almost half a million bricks were made and transported from Victoria. Fort Largs is still there and is used as a police academy.
The government kept Fort Glanville intact in case it was needed but for most of last century, it lay abandoned and neglected. During World War 2, when there was bombing in Darwin, it was used as stores with ammunition. However, after all this history, the fort has never needed to fire a shot in defence. These days the museum is preserved as a reminder of our past. The building takes a lot of upkeep. The old stone walls have ongoing salt damp problems and the cannon ammunition is expensive. So do take the family along and support the work they are doing in saving this part of Adelaide's history. During our History Festival in May, they do a night event by lantern at the fort.
Many thanks to the volunteers for information and photos. Image by Kat May.
The fort is also open on Tuesdays from 10-12pm. See the information here as it would be best to book for Tuesdays. This is just a general guided tour of the premises and you do not get any of the program as I have described here for the Sunday Open Day. Fort Glanville also caters for weddings and functions. The site has access toilets, onsite parking and barbeques.
We really enjoyed our outing to Fort Glanville Museum.