Royal Armouries, Fort Nelson

Aerial view of Fort Nelson from the south
baby changing facilities icon Food icon Guided tours icon Shop icon Library icon Study area icon Visual disability facilities icon Wheelchair access icon

This imposing Victorian fort is home to the Royal Armouries national collection of artillery – The Big Guns.

Although a cliché, the phrase ‘must see’ truly applies to Fort Nelson’s astonishing collection of different artillery and guns from different time periods. Over 700 items of artillery from many countries and spanning 600 years are brought to life whilst sensitively telling the unique stories behind them.

Strategically positioned atop Portsdown Hill, with panoramic views across the Meon Valley and Portsmouth Harbour, Fort Nelson is an historic monument, restored to how it would have been in the 1890s. Visitors can access most areas of the fortifications and see how the Fort would have operated.

Admission and parking are free – offering a great day out for all the family during the school holidays, and all year round.

Venue Type:

Museum, Heritage site, Castle or defences

Opening hours

Open daily

Summer (Apr-Oct)
10am – 5pm
Last admission 4pm

Winter (Nov-Mar)
10.30am – 4pm
Last admission 3pm

Closed 24, 25 and 26 December

Admission charges

Free entry. A small charge may apply for special events and some activities.

Additional info

Our library is open for research purposes by appointment only.

Fort Nelson also houses the world-renowned Royal Armouries collection of historic big guns and cannon, part of the National Museum of Arms and Armour. See the infamous Iraqi Supergun and its ancestor the Great Turkish Bombard of 1464. From the smallest cannon to the giants of the age of the battleship, visitors can see them all at Fort Nelson

Collection details

Archaeology, Architecture, Decorative and Applied Art, Social History, Weapons and War

Events details are listed below. You may need to scroll down or click on headers to see them all. For events that don't have a specific date see the 'Resources' tab above.
Victorian Life at the Fort - PLAYTIME

Victorian Life at the Fort - PLAYTIME

  • 15 — 19 February 2016

Come and play at the Fort this February half term, and experience life as it was over 100 years ago for children in Victorian times. As well as exploring the Forts vast defensive site and galleries, the Victorian characters will give you a fascinating insight in to Victorian life at Fort Nelson. You will discover, first-hand, what life would have been like as a Victorian child.

Portsmouth was Britain’s premier naval dockyard during the reign of Queen Victoria, maintaining and building warships that were vital to the defence of Britain and the Queens growing empire. Built between 1860 and 1870, Fort Nelson, along with Fort Wallington, Fort Southwick, Fort Widley, and Fort Purbrook were one of the biggest defence projects ever undertaken in Britain. Fort Nelson and the other Portsdown forts were dedicated to providing the fire power to deter an enemy attack on Portsmouth from inland, although it never saw action against the French.

This February half term during an exciting Victorian event hosted by Fort Nelson, youngsters will be able to have a go at writing with chalk on slates, learn about the British Empire during Queen Victoria’s reign and participate in traditional Victorian games and crafts. Enjoy a truly memorable day out as history comes alive.

Suitable for

  • 0-4
  • 7-10
  • 5-6
  • 11-13


Victorian Events Programme

Monday 15 – Friday 19 February 2016 / 10.30am – 3.30pm / £2 per child
Traditional Victorian games for all the family to enjoy plus make and take craft activities.

Monday 15 – Friday 19 February 2016 / Sessions at 11am, 12noon, 2pm, 3pm /
£3.50 per child*
Have a go at writing with chalk on slates and learn about the British Empire during Queen Victoria’s reign – don’t forget your homework!

*Includes an activity trail to help you explore the Fort after class.


Royal Armouries, Fort Nelson
Fort Nelson
Portsdown Hill Road
PO17 6AN

logo: Museums at Night




General Enquiries


01329 233734

All information is drawn from or provided by the venues themselves and every effort is made to ensure it is correct. Please remember to double check opening hours with the venue concerned before making a special visit.