PARTS of a seafront fort have been closed to the public after some of the supporting shingle was washed away during an "unprecedented" storm.

The stability of historic Hurst Castle is being threatened by a large gap which has opened up between the base of the outer wall and what is left of the beach.

English Heritage, which owns the scheduled monument, has closed several rooms until further notice after large cracks appeared in the walls and ceilings.

A statement on its website says: "Unfortunately it has been necessary to close the WWII room, the laundry room, the searchlight room and the Friends of Hurst Castle rooms to visitors while work takes place to strengthen the shingle bed on which the castle was built. We apologise for any inconvenience caused."

It is latest in a series of incidents in which the ancient castle has been damaged by bad weather and coastal erosion.

As reported in the Daily Echo, repairs costing millions of pounds are needed to prevent the fortification from falling into the sea.

Earlier this year emergency meetings were held after the Solent Protection Society discovered that parts of the castle previously underpinned by shale had been left left exposed and unsupported.

The castle is at the end of a long spit which has been breached by the sea several times since 1954.

A large sum of money was spent on stabilising the spit in 1989 and other costly repairs were needed after it was battered by storms in 2013 and 2014.

The latest bout of bad weather is thought to have been the most serious since 2014, with winds reaching 109mph off the Isle of Wight.

An English Heritage spokesman said: "Following an unprecedented storm Hurst Castle has unfortunately suffered some damage to its structure caused by the extreme winds and rain.

“Some areas of the castle will remain closed while English Heritage carries out essential maintenance to the sea defences and external structure.

“A planned programme of work to strengthen the sea defences at the castle is already under way, but this sudden deterioration means that we must re-prioritise the works."

The oldest part of the castle was built between 1541 and 1544. Its job was to guard the Needles Passage, the port of Southampton and the growing naval base in Portsmouth.

It was also used as a prison and famously housed King Charles 1 before he was taken to London for his trial and execution.


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