NOBODY has seen the true face of Fort Gilkicker in more than a century.
But now developers behind the conversion of the Victorian fort have started to remove a huge dirt mound in front of the Grade II listed building.
The fort, in Stokes Bay, Gosport, was built in 1863 with 22 gun emplacements which could sweep the waters around Portsmouth with devastating gunfire.
But during the First World War it was covered in concrete to hold bigger weapons.
When the heavy concrete made the fort tilt towards the sea, it was shored up with dirt – and it’s been the same ever since.
As a result, the fort’s granite facade was hidden from view until now.
Development director David Adams, from Fort Gilkicker Properties, said: ‘I think it’s hugely exciting.
‘No-one alive today has ever seen it before.
‘The fort deserves to be seen and it deserves to be restored.
‘Sometimes members of the public walk past and if I have time I show them around to see what we’re doing.
‘When I show them inside they are amazed and think it’s great we’re restoring it.’
Excavation work on the mound will allow the developers to carry out vital surveys on the land there.
They will also carry out archaeological assessments before starting construction work.
Eventually the entire facade of the fort will be uncovered, revealing the entirety of the original granite which faces the sea.
The former gun casements will also be opened up as windows.
Around 30 per cent of the homes planned for the fort have already been reserved by interested buyers.
There will be 22 three-storey houses in the crescent part of the fort.
There will also be four apartments in the former barracks block which sits behind it.
The project architect, Michael Franklin, of FSP Architects and Planners, said: ‘It’s very exciting and it’s an amazing building.
‘It’s very important to Gosport’s heritage and it’s a shame it has been buried all these years.
‘This is a fantastic opportunity to expose it and put it back into use.’
Developers will include viewing platforms in the eventual construction for the public to look out to sea.