A unique eighteenth century fortress, built in 1775 by Thomas Wynn, who later became Lord Newborough, in response to a perceived threat to the British mainland during the American war of independence.
Llanwnda, Caernarfon, Gwynedd, LL54 5TP
History of the Fort
1775 – 2023
The Fort started life in 1775 as a barracks built by Thomas Wynn the 3rd baronet, who as Lord Lieutenant of Caernarfonshire, was responsible for the defence of the county. It was built as a defence against possible invasion by the French during the war of American independence. It was known as Abermenai Baracks in 1824 when the barracks were extended, but the name was changed to Fort St David.
At about this time the Dock was built and thereafter the Fort was used for the families’ leisure activities. Yachting became a favourite pursuit of the Wynns and over the years they collected many different types of yachts many of which are now in the care of the Merseyside Maritime Museum.
During World War II the fort was again used for military purposes both as the base for the Home Guard and for two rescue launches.
It was not until 1977, to help cover the cost of maintenance, it was decided to open the fort to the public. At first this proved popular, but by 1986 the number of visitors had declined and the Fort was sold. It was bought by Shotley Marina, whose plans for a large development did not meet the approval of the authorities and the fort was again put on the market and then left to decay.
In 1992 Belan was sold to the Blundell family. John Blundell, a scientist and musician had been looking for a suitable place to research ways of increasing fish stocks using only natural resources. After consultation with Bangor universities’ marine biology department, he decided to go ahead with the project and adapt one of the sheds by the dock for this purpose.
The Fort and the dock, having been left empty and unloved for so many years were in a sad and decrepit state, as were the many historic artefact such as the cannon and dock machinery which had been left exposed to the weather and salt air. The Blundells found themselves with the daunting but exciting responsibility of caring for Belan and doing their best to rescue it from further decline.
1992 – 2023.
So much has happened during the last 31 years that it is impossible to give more than a very brief account.
In 1996 the fort was reclassified as a Grade1 listed building. In common with many historical buildings the work of repair and renovation proved costly and on-going. To help towards covering the costs, initially of the marine biologists and later of the repair work, the houses have been gradually improved and restored to provide comfortable accommodation for visitors.
Over the years the Fort has become a popular holiday venue and a Mecca for several groups with shared interests and it is gratifying that some of the current guests are the children and grandchildren of our first visitors!
Arranging and presenting a variety of ‘Events’ musical and otherwise, has added another stimulating dimension. As a family of musicians, (though John Blundell, who was an excellent cellist, sadly died in 2017), music has always been an integral part of the life of the fort and there have been numerous musical gatherings and wonderful concerts. Crucial to this is the Music Room, which was designed by John and opened in 1998. It the only large indoor space at the fort and without it many of the events and activities which take place would not be possible.
The Friends of Belan Association was inaugurated in 2005 and continues to this day. The thoughts the family expressed then remain just as valid today.
Owning a Grade 1 listed property is a huge responsibility. We have the unusual opportunity of steering and developing Belan in the way we wish, and our wish is for the future long-term well- being of the fort. Our plan is to maintain its unusual ‘out of this world’ ambience whilst making the most of its natural potential. It is indeed rare for one place to lend itself to such a wide range of possibilities.
We want Belan to be an asset to the locality. By reaching out and involving the local community and the wider world we aim to create a special place where people come together, in an exceptional environment, to learn new skills and share and develop new interests.
By joining Historic Houses, the Fort has moved into the next stage in its long life, and we hope and believe that it is a step in the right direction.