Fort LupinArticle and pictures by Michel Plancon, all rights reserved.
Fort Lupin (also called Fort de la Charente) is located on the southern bank the Charente river, built on a rock midway between the river mouth and the first meander toward Rochefort. This position was very good one, allowing the guns of the fort to either enfilade the Charente against warships'trying to enter the river or to fire on the rear of any vessels having successfully passed the difficult entrance to the river. It crossed the fire with another fort, built on the northern bank of the Charente, the Fort de la Pointe, which still exists today but exhibits a much simpler fortification design.
Although the shipyards built by Colbert at Rochefort in 1666 were farther inland, the need to protect Rochefort against enemy ships sailing up the Charente was made evident by the Dutch raid on the Medway in 1667, when the Dutch attacked the English fleet at anchor below Chatham.
The engineer La Favolliere made some proposals to build fortification works alongside the Charente in 1672, especially in the areas of Port des Barques, Fort de la Pointe and Fort Lupin. Fort de la Pointe was completed in 1680 as a simple unrevetted battery and Fort Lupin was built between 1683 and 1686 based on an initial project designed by François Ferry'after implementation of the modifications made by Vauban. The initial project of Ferry was indeed much more impressive and costly, consisting of a fort equipped with 36 guns and was reduced by Vauban to the design which can seen nowadays for budget reasons.
It was also more suited to the specific situation of the Charente river, forcing the vessels to pass one by one very close to the fort, the river being too narrow to allow passing several vessels at the same time. Additionally, the fort protected the nearby Fontaine Saint Nazaire, ensuring the water supply for the war ships.
Fort Lupin is an example of the very elegant fortification design of a series of forts built by Vauban along the French shores, consisting of a semi-circular battery for use against ships, a cenrtal tower and a front to protect the landward side (see plan above, from A.G.).
Besides Fort Lupin, the most representative of these beautiful forts are the nearby Fort du Chapus, protecting the Oleron channel, the tower and battery at Camaret near Brest and Fort Saint Louis, one of the forts guarding Toulon harbour.
On the river side, the fort consists of a semi-circular battery 72 metres wide with 22 embrasures'for guns at 5 metres above the low tide river level, with a sentry post on the battery capital. On the landward side, the front consists of part of the central tower, with 12 embrasures on two fire levels enfilading the wet ditch, the covered way'and glacis.
The tower originally was covered by a third level of horizontal and vertical enfilading fires ensured by a wooden roof with pugging in the medieval style (similar to the one on the small redoubt''a machicoulis' near the Fort d’Anjou on Briancon heights).
There are two walls backing barracks, one having the gate and two beautiful watch-towers with cupola roofs are symmetrically placed on each corner. The wet ditch is closed on the river side by two batardeaux'with a “dame” and one with sluice gate to fill up the ditch at high tide. There are two additional embrasures for guns on each side of the covered way, re-enforcing the battery's firepower over the river.
As no hostile vessel has ever entered in the Charent river due to the efficiency of the fortification, Fort Lupin has never been attacked and was decommissioned at the end of the nineteenth century. Being abandoned for many years, it became rather vandalized.
In 1950, the fort was classified as a historical monument and was bought in 1964 went into private ownership. Since that date, this family has carried out an outstandingly good restoration work program allowing us to see this small coastal fort in very good condition today.
Visiting Fort Lupin
Fort Lupin can be accessed by car or motorbike by driving 15 km from Rochefort by taking road D753 going to Royan and crossing the Charente river on the very scenic toll bridge. After the bridge, turn right and take the road D238E1 followed by D125 going toward Soubise and Saint Nazaire sur Charente. The village of Lupin where the fort is, can be reached by turning right 3.5 km after Soubise and following the signs. As the Fort Lupin is built alongside of the Charente in beautiful and very wild agricultural surrounding, the road is a dead end and I recommend parking in the village and going on foot to the fort by following the signs.
As private property and possibly due to the very limited number of fortification enthusiasts who go over there, the fort is not permanently opened for the visit and unless this has changed since my last 2003 trip in this area, this can only be done during the third week end of September during the European Patrimony Days.
However, you can still have a very worthwhile visit at any time (preferably at low tide) of all the outside by going on the covered way and on the Charente river banks. This can be seen on the attached pictures showing the tower-reduit & covered way, the wet ditch and the gate (see below), the battery on the Charente river side and the watch towers. After seeing Fort Lupin, it is worth going to the nearby Fontaine Saint Nazaire then to the mouth of the Charente river to Port des Barques facing the Fort de la Pointe. Of course the Fort Lupin and surrounding visits make more sense when coupled with a visit to Rochefort with many items of interest, some remains of the Chevalier de Clerville fortifications, its historical Arsenal, home of the first dry docks, the wonderful Corderie Royale (royal ropery) and the Naval Museum.
For the ship building lovers, in one of the dry docks the building of a replica of the frigate “L’Hermione”, which is being made according to the original ship design and eighteenth century techniques. This frigate was the ship used by Lafayette on the journey to Boston during the US Independence war.Article and pictures by Michel Plancon, all rights reserved.