Royal Armouries, Fort Nelson

Aerial view of Fort Nelson from the south
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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.

Daily gun firing every day at 1pm.

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.
Sunday Gun Firings

Sunday Gun Firings

  • 1 May 2016
  • 19 June 2016
  • 26 June 2016
  • 21 August 2016
  • 11 September 2016
  • 23 October 2016
  • 13 November 2016

On selected Sundays throughout the year there are special firings, featuring authentic gun drills by uniformed detachments from Portsdown Artillery Volunteers.
Fort Nelson is a historic monument, rescued from dereliction and carefully restored. It commands spectacular views over Portsmouth Harbour to the south and the picturesque Meon Valley to the north. The Royal Armouries museum was opened in 1984 for the first time, and today is one of the largest artillery museums in the UK.
The detachments will be available after the firings to talk about the guns and their history.
Guns are fired at:
11:30am, 2pm and 3pm.
These events are FREE and everyone is welcome.

Suitable for

  • Family friendly


Guns are fired at 11:30am, 2pm and 3pm. These events are free and everyone is welcome.


Victorian Spies

Victorian Spies

  • 30 April — 2 May 2016 *on now

Children will be invited to take on the persona of a top secret agent who has been recruited to accept a mission for French Emperor Napoleon III who wants to attack Fort Nelson. The agents will be tasked to explore the vast 19 acre site, and to spot the weaknesses in the Fort’s defences in a fun adventure trail for all the family.

To complement the activity, which carries a small charge, there will be free themed Victorian insight sessions throughout the weekend. On 1 May 2016, a uniformed detachment from Portsdown Artillery Volunteers will demonstrate a gun drill and live fire the powerful 32-pr smooth-bore breech loading gun.

Victorian Spies

• Starts at: 10am Saturday 30 April 2016
• Finishes at: 5:00pm Monday 2 May 2016
• Price: £2.50 per child (aged 3-15 years)
• Suitable for: Families

Victorian themed insight sessions:
• Time : 12:30pm & 3pm daily
• Free to participate

Gun firings
• Daily 1pm live firing of the 25-pr gun
• May 1 2016, live firing the 32-pr by detachments at 11:30am, 2pm & 3pm
• Free to view

Fort Nelson is a large Victorian fortification (one of the famous Palmerston Follies) which was built between 1860 and 1870 to deter an enemy attack on Portsmouth from inland, although it never saw action against the French. Today it has become home to one of the national collections of artillery, one of the largest collections of its type in the UK.

Over 700 items of artillery from many countries and spanning 600 years of history are sensitively brought alive with the unique stories that accompany them.
A great example within the collection is the 18-inch 200 tonne Railway Howitzer which weighs the same as 17 double-decker buses. Designed and built by the Elswick Ordnance company of Newcastle, in 1918, as part of the strategic development to build bigger calibre guns with more destructive shells, today it is the world’s largest surviving military gun.

Commanding spectacular views over Portsmouth harbour to the south and the picturesque Meon Valley to the north, Fort Nelson makes an idyllic picnic spot. With ramparts, the parade plus secret tunnels to explore, the Fort provides an exciting day out for all the family. Car parking and entry to the Fort is free.

Suitable for

  • 7-10
  • 14-15
  • 0-4
  • 5-6
  • 11-13


Price: £2.50 per child (aged 3-15 years)

The Mighty Mortar

Museums at Night: Mighty Mortars

  • 13 May 2016 6:30-10pm

Those taking part in the tours will be able to experience Fort Nelson when the lights go down and see for themselves how the museum’s character changes dramatically during the twilight hours.

Visitors will be able to discover what Victorian garrison life would have been like on a tour of the Fort’s barracks room and kitchen and sample typical food and drink of the period.

A costumed guide will escort visitors through the atmospheric underground tunnel to the North Mortar Battery, where a uniformed detachment from Portsdown Artillery Volunteers will demonstrate a gun-drill and live fire the mortar13-inch mortar.
Operations Manager, Nigel Hosier said, “We are yet again delighted to be able to provide a unique after hours experience which enables visitors to travel back in time and sample life as a Victorian garrison, and experience live gun firings.”

Join us at Fort Nelson for the Museum at Night event and experience history and explosions after dark.

Tickets available from 1 April 2016

• Date: Friday 13 May 2016
• Sessions: 6.30pm & 8pm
• Adults: £15 Children: £10 (aged 3-15 years) (subject to availability)
(Pre- book your tickets from 1 April 2016. Telephone 01329 233 734 or visit the Fort Nelson Visitor Centre).

About Museums at Night

Twice a year, all UK museums and heritage sites are invited by non-profit cultural publisher Culture24, to throw open their doors after hours to showcase their treasures in unexpected ways.

Museums at Night is an opportunity for museums and galleries to come together around a single, simple campaign that is attractive to venues, audiences and the media. It is an experience where visitors can get involved and delve deeper into fascinating subjects.

In 2016, Museums at Night events will take place between Wednesday 11 - Saturday 14 May and Thursday 27 – Saturday 29 October at hundreds of venues across the country.

Suitable for

  • Any age


Adults: £15 Children: £10 (book via Fort Nelson 01329 848 516).
Royal Armouries Museum, Fort Nelson, Fareham
Fort Nelson is a scheduled ancient monument and contains areas of uneven ground. Please wear sensible footwear and warm clothing.


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.