Dale Fort has a fascinating history of over 160 years.
1850 - Charles Louis Napoleon’s (III) had been President of France since 1848 and his fighting talk panicked the British government into fortifying the coastal defences of southern England and Wales against an invasion. Sir John Fox Burgoyne, the Inspector-General of Fortifications, recommended that Dale Fort should be built as part of a system of twelve fortifications to deter Napoleon’s forces from attacking the Pembroke Dockyard.
1856 - The fort was completed and manned by a garrison of sixty soldiers, along with some of their families.
1861 - Dale Fort mounted seven large (68-pound) smooth bore muzzle-loading cannons facing out to sea, and two smaller (32-pound) cannons pointing inland to defend against the building being outflanked from the land.
1870 - After the threat of invasion was gone, the garrison was reduced to eleven soldiers and their families. In 1876 there was a recommendation that the fort should be re-armed with larger and more modern guns, however this was never implemented.
1890s - Further improvements in warship technology meant that the existing guns of the fort were inadequate. This led to an experiment with Edmund Zalinski's Pneumatic Dynamite Gun – a 17m long weapon with a 38cm diameter barrel that could fire a dynamite-filled shell weighing half a ton a distance of 3km.
The gun was only in place for a few years before being scrapped due to the invention of stable explosives that allowed an explosive shell to be fired from conventional guns.
You can still see the remains of its circular gun emplacement at the top of the fort.
1902 - The fort was sold to Lieutenant-Colonel A. Owen-Evans of the Royal Engineers who converted it into a home for his family and later on a military hospital and a signal station during the First World War.
1925 - After the Colonel’s death, the fort was sold to a Miss M.A Bland (later Mrs Lee-Roberts). She continued to make improvements to the property, such as introducing an electricity supply and building the glasshouse conservatories.
1942 - Mrs Lee-Roberts moved out of the fort and it was taken over by the Admiralty who put the fort to various wartime uses including watching for sea mines and overseeing the ‘de-gaussing’ of ships in Milford Haven. De-gaussing involved altering a ship’s magnetic field using electric coils to avoid detonating magnetic mines places at the bottom of the sea.
1946 – Following the war the West Wales Field Society purchased Dale Fort, which it then leased to the Council for the Promotion of Field Studies. In 1959, it was sold to the Field Studies Council (formerly CPFS) and has been run ever since as an educational field centre used by thousands of students each year - and also a Real Family Holidays location since 2014.