Camden Fort Meagher is positioned on Ram Head near Crosshaven, County Cork. The fort derives its name from the Earl of Camden, who was Lord Lieutenant of Ireland in 1795. Fort Camden, though internationally recognised to be one of the world’s finest remaining examples of a classical Coastal Artillery Fort, has sadly become derelict and overgrown.See Camden Fort Meagher and all Cork has to offer by arranging your trip with our Cork trip planning website.
Fortifications on the site originally date from around 1550 and were further added to in 1600, then after the battle of Kinsale in 1601 the fort fell into disuse. At the end of the 17th century the fort was again fortified, this time by the Jacobites in an effort to block the Williamites' naval forces. In 1690 the fort was used to fire on the Williamite fleet as it entered Cork Harbour. However, a party was secretly sent ashore to attack the fort from the landward side and the fort fell to the invaders. In these early days, the fort was known as James' Battery and consisted of two blockhouses and eight guns.
At the start of the Napoleonic War (1799 - 1815), the naval establishment at Kinsale was transferred to Haubowline Island in Cork harbour, Fort Camden was remodelled and numerous other defences were installed around the Cork coastline to provide protection to Haubowline Island naval base and the surrounding harbour area. The harbour at Berehaven in West Cork also received fortification so this could be utilised as a second base for the Royal Navy fleet.
In 1805, the gunpowder mills at Ballincollig to the west of Cork city were purchased by the British Board of Ordnance and vastly extended to provide gunpowder for use against Napoleon’s fleet. The French army was finally defeated in the Battle of Waterloo on 18 June 1815. By 1837, Fort Camden contained only a token force of a master gunner and eight men.
The Fort was briefly used as a prison, and prisoner were used for there labour in the construction of its fortification. Then in 1855 Cork harbour was again recognised as being an important strategic position for the defence of Ireland, the west coast of England and Wales.
A Royal Commission proposed that Fort Camden was remodelled with significant landward defences and further seaward firing gun batteries. Construction work started at Fort Camden in 1861, however the contractor went bankrupt in 1863 and the War Department took over the work, using first convicts and then military and civilian labour. The cost of completing the works was £75,979.
In the 1880s the breech loading rifled gun was beginning to be introduced and the Cork defences were again reviewed. A minefield was laid across the channel and this was covered by batteries of quick firing 6-pdrs. The fort was also fitted with a Brennan Torpedo inDuring the First World War, Cork harbour was used as a naval base to cover the western approaches. An anti-submarine net was constructed and further changes to the armament occurred across all the harbour defences.
When the Irish Free State was established in 1922, a clause in the Anglo-Irish Treaty left the harbour defences at Cork, Berehaven and Lough Swilly in the control of British government. These ports became known as the Treaty Ports. The politically uncertain situation of the ports meant that modernisation and maintenance by the British forces was not seen as a priority. The harbour defences at Cork were eventually taken over by the Irish authorities on 11 July 1938 when de Valera, his son and the Irish Military chiefs were present to take part in a handover ceremony. Fort Camden was renamed Fort Meagher in honour of Thomas Francis Meagher, who had fought for Ireland’s independence from British rule and emigrated to America to escape a sentence to be ‘hung, drawn and quartered’ after his involvement in the Young Irelander Rebellion of 1848. Today however, Fort Meagher is still commonly known as Fort Camden.
During the Second World War, the Irish Army formed its own coast artillery service with headquarters at Spike Island. The Coast Defence Service was maintained until it was dissolved in 1949.
In 1987 Cork County Council indicated that they were interested in having the fort developed as a military museum and suggested that the fort should be transferred for a nominal sum to a public body such as the council. In 1989 Cork County Council acquired ownership of the fort.
Plans stated at the time included the development of a Military Heritage Centre and general tourist attractions, including visitor accommodation, watersport facilities, craftshops and restaurant.
Despite best efforts this did not come to pass and in February 2010 after almost 20 years of repeated approaches by Crosshaven Community, Crosshaven Tourism on behalf of the Community of Crosshaven made serious and significant progress with Cork County Council with a view to beginning Restoration of this magnificent Fortress. On the 22nd of July 2010 an agreement was reached and documents were signed to afford the Community of Crosshaven a 12 month rolling lease.
A Project manager was procured and together with 6 FAS workers have spent since July 2010 clearing, strimming and maintaining the site also weather proofing all buildings to arrest any further decay. Volunteers of Rescue Camden restored 2 rooms in the Casemated building, opening to rave reviews, warm appreciation and some emotional reunions with over 8000 visitors in Serptember 2010.
With the financial assistance of Cork County Council a photographic exhibition depicting the Fort in its current condition was displayed in one of the restored rooms ( Photographs can be seen in our album & purchased upon request). A re-enactment room was a huge source of interest to all who visted with fantastic military memorbilia on display. A live re-enactment by the 101 airborne division & displays from the Irish Coast Guard Historical Society brought September to a thrilling end.
In October 2010 It was agreed that this Project would require a stand alone Committee with complete focus on the aims and objectives required to further develop it. To this end a new Committee, under the auspices of Crosshaven Community Association, Rescue Camden was formed.
Project partner Cork County Council's support, financially & logistically has been immense. A fantastic example of Local authority / Community partnerships that has so far yielded 7 new job's on site with the great hope of increasing this significantly in 2011. FAS have also been huge backers to the project, providing 6 FAS scheme employee's to date. We are so very grateful to our project partners for there unwaivering support and look forward to progressing the project further in what clearly has been thus far a template for other such projects in the Country. Voluntary Community Committee set up in 2010 to help with the Restoration & Development of Camden Fort Meagher which is internationally recognised as one of the finest remaining examples of a classical Coastal Artillery Fort.
Rescue Camden Committee;
Chairman - Noel Condon
Secretary(s) - Eileen Murphy / Marion O' Riordan
Treasurer - Eileen O'Brien
Ray O' Keeffe
Camden Fort Meagher Reviews
Well done to those who brought the base back from ruin. I have been living in Cork all my life and only last year I heard about the Fort, Its well worth a visit and very reasonable fee. great views... more »
Visited recently with a group, some with mobility problems. We had a most enjoyable day mainly due to the incredible Volunteer Staff would couldn't have been more helpful. Very good Coffey shop... more »
What as great place to visit so much history. The volunteers are to be praised to the sky for their knowledge of the for and their dedication to its revitalization.the council will have a hard act to follow in the maintenance of the gem in cork harbour
The fort is open over Summer only, generally from May to mid-Sept. They are on Twitter and Facebook if you need to find out if it's open. It's a massive and fascinating site, worth a visit for the amazing views of Cork Harbour from the teashop deck alone. My kids also loved the hands-on army exhibits (manning an anti-aircraft gun was a big success!) and subterranean exploring, and the volunteers were friendly and fascinating. There's loads of parking on site. While terrain is a little hilly, it's easy enough to navigate, although unfortunately wheelchair users may not be able to view some of the underground areas.
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