Local resident and photographer John Callaway, gives us a glimpse into the little known history of Portsmouth and the surrounding area, alongside some of his stunning photography. This week, he turns his eye to Fraser Range in Eastney.
Eastney, and in particular the fenced off site of the The Fraser Range has been something of a magnet to me over the years. Currently owned by Qinetiq, the site was previously used as both a Royal Naval gunnery range and research centre, but has sadly now fallen into disrepair. The gunnery range closed in the 1980s, at which point it became an Admiralty Research Establishment concerned with Civil Marine radar.
The relationship between Eastney and Naval gunnery would seem to date from 1859 when nearby Fort Cumberland became the headquarters of the Royal Marine Artillery. In the period 1924-37, the foreshore in front of the fort was used for searchlight and sound locator training, pier building and landing craft development. The Fraser Range seems to have been established around this time, taking its name from Admiral of the Fleet Baron Bruce Fraser of North Cape.
Fenced off and seemingly in limbo for a number of years, the main buildings are fighting a losing battle against crumbling decay and wanton vandalism. Never the most inspiring buildings, their form and functionality are lessened each time that I pass the site, as if being absorbed into the landscape.
There have been plans to redevelop the site for as long as I can remember, but those plans too appear to be in limbo, as well as courting a range of opinions as to what is ‘best’. It’s inevitable that the site will eventually be demolished to make way for something different but for now it remains somewhere that I’ll continue to return to.
In the last few years, dog patrols have been introduced, presumably to reduce the risk of further damage, although as the image above suggests, they do appear to be polite…
In 1971 the site was used as a location for Doctor Who episode entitled “The Sea Devils”, with Jon Pertwee playing the Doctor. Maybe our appetite for post apocalyptic TV series is waning in present times, but there remains just enough decay and desolation should there still be the need for such a setting…
And if all else fails, there’s still the Solent…
This article was originally published on John Callaway’s website, Ideas & images from Portsmouth and beyond. You can read more of John’s writing on his website and also see his live music photography.
Images by John Callaway.