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Montefiore Hotel + Restaurant Tel Aviv

On Season

You can’t do everything in life but you sure can lunch with style and aplomb in Montefiore Hotel downtown Tel Aviv. It’s housed in a 1920s ‘Eclectic’ style building and was the city’s first boutique hotel when it opened in 2008. A peachy presence peeking through the street fernery of Lev Ha’ir (“Heart of the City District”) gives way indoors to a monochromatic jazzy look. Architect Moshe Lovrinzki designed the original house; architect Gad Halperin restored it in 2000. Eight years later, then husband and wife team Mati and Ruti Broudo opened the 12 bedroom hotel and accompanying street level restaurant. Mati recently told The Times of Israel, “Out of all the cities I have lived in – New York, London, Paris and Rome – Tel Aviv is the most diverse and interesting walking city. It’s probably my favourite city in the world.” We almost agree. It’s our joint favourite as we’re equally loving the oldest and the newest cities in the Holy Land.

The Montefiore Cocktails list is optimistically titled “Spring is Here I Hear”. It includes two non alcoholic beverages and eight signature drinks: Champagne Cocktail, Hôtel le Grand, Madame Rouge, Mai Tai, Oh Fashioned, Puebla, Put It On the Spritz and Tokyo Club. The wine list is extensive with a good Israeli representation including Ayalon Valley, Eliad, Neve Yarak, Noble, Shoresh and Yatir Forest. We opt for a Noble Flam 2013 with its big attitude big flavour. The wine list is in five sections. White: one Georgian, one Portuguese, two Austrian, two German, two Spanish, five Greek, five Italian, 36 French and 19 Israeli. Red: one Portuguese, four Austrian, eight Spanish, 27 Italian, 34 French and 41 Israeli. Rosé: one Italian, four French and two Israeli. Amber and Skin Contact: one Italian, two Georgian and three Israeli. Sparkling: 23 French, one Austrian and one Georgian.

The food is international with a nod to France and a hint of Malaysia. Starter is endive, stilton, red pear, caramelised onions. Main course is Jerusalem artichoke, poached egg, pistachio. Our waiter nails it with, “Do you fancy apricot and almond tart with whipped crème fraîche on the terrace?” The bill comes with tipping suggestions: 12 percent basic service, 15 percent good service, 18 percent very good service and 20 percent excellent service. Maybe it’s the sun or the Madame Rouge (Hendrick’s Lunar, St Germaine, liqueur de violettes, lavender, creole bitter) or simply excellent service but we’re feeling generous. There’s a season for everything, even if it can’t all be done, and this is a time to love.

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Olive Restaurant + Ha Nevi’im Street Jerusalem

You Can’t Do Everything

Most days we stop by Olive, eating outside when it’s hot; inside when it’s hotter. The fayre is just too tempting and the restaurant is unavoidably located at the crossroads where Ha Nevi’im Street meets Kheil ha-Handasa Street to the north of the Old City. Everything at Olive is greater than the sum of its parts. Eggs for breakfast? That will be shirred eggs plus a salad, half a loaf of sliced bread, 12 dips and the best coffee in the St George Quarter. Pecan pie for afternoon tea? That will be all about presentation artistry plus fresh fruit to balance the carbs. On Saturdays we’re just longing for those first three stars in the sky to appear for Shabbat to end and supper to begin. At Olive of course.

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The Lion + The Lamb Jerusalem

The Other Chosen Ones 

“I will say to those called ‘Not my people’, ‘You are my people’; and they will say ‘You are my God’.” Hosea 2:23

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Rothschild Boulevard Tel Aviv + Dreams

What  Matters Happiness is… Saturday afternoons spent on the dreamscape that is Rothschild Boulevard. Happiness extended is… Saturday evenings spent on the moonscape that is Rothschild Boulevard. In the middle of the road is a wide stretch of land for sunbathing, drinking, eating, gossiping, playing bowls, political demonstrating and this being Tel Aviv, racing motorbikes.


Shireen Abu Akleh + Oskar Schindler + Zion Cemetery Jerusalem

Solace of the Lasting Kind

Shireen Abu Akleh and Oskar Schindler’s lifespans only overlapped by four years. In death their graves are mere metres apart in Zion Cemetery high on a hillside in Jerusalem close to the site of The Last Supper. Shireen was born in Jerusalem in 1971 into a Palestinian Arab Christian (Melkite Catholic) family. She became a journalist and worked for the Arabic language television channel Al Jazeera for 25 years, reporting in the Israeli occupied Palestinian territories while also analysing Israeli politics. In May 2002 while covering a raid by the Israel Defence Forces on the Jenin refugee camp she was shot and killed despite wearing a press vest. The death of this much loved reporter caused international outrage and investigations into the circumstances of the killing still continue.

“I chose journalism to be close to people,” Shireen shared. “It might not be easy to change the reality but at least I bring their voice to the world. Of course I get scared. In a specific moment you forget that fear. We don’t throw ourselves to death. I go and try to find where we can stand and how to protect the team with me before I think about how I am going to go up on the screen and what I am going to say.”

Born into a Catholic family in Moravia in 1908, Oskar became an industrialist and member of the Nazi party. He is credited with saving 1,200 Jews during the Holocaust by employing them in his enamelware and ammunitions factories in Moravia and occupied Poland. He gradually changed his focus from profit to people, bribing Nazi officials to keep his workers safe. In 1962 Oskar and his wife Emilie were named Righteous Among the Nations, an award bestowed by Israel on gentiles who rescued Jews during the Holocaust. “I had to help them,” he declared. “There was no choice.”

All is and are and will be at peace on Mount Zion. A white cat prowls between the gravestones.

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Soho House Jaffa Tel Aviv +

Convent Boys

We’re off clubbing in Soho.

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Haworth Tompkins + Theatre Royal Drury Lane London

Going West

Adam, Gilbert Scott, Pugin and Wyatt. Architectural dynasties. Terry and Squire. Current second generation architects. Benjamin Dean Wyatt was heavily involved, among many others, in the design of Lancaster House, built in 1825 to 1840 for the ‘grand old’ Duke of York and subsequently the Duke of Sutherland. This Bath stone pure Regency statement doubles as Buckingham Palace in the Netflix series The Crown. The house is set back from The Mall a few doors down from Clarence House. It’s as big as a whole city plot. Benjamin designed the staircase which is scagliol’d to the nines, gilt to the hilt. Now occupied by the Foreign Office, Lancaster House is hidden from public view. Theatre Royal Drury Lane in Covent Garden is not.

Benjamin Dean Wyatt was the eldest son of the better known James Wyatt. His public venue of 1812 has been comprehensively restored and renewed by architecture firm Haworth Tompkins. A cool £60 million later, the Grade I Listed Building doubles as a theatre and upstairs restaurant serving afternoon tea. There’s another restaurant tucked away downstairs through an archway. Much has been written and rightly so on the rejuvenation of the theatre space itself: this article concentrates on the suite of reception areas fronting the building. A Pantheon inspired domed rotunda flanked by sweeping cantilevered staircases leading to the Grand Saloon and adjoining Ante Room overlooking the portico has all the presence of a grand country house. Combine a stair with the rotunda and you’ll come close to the showpiece of Townley Hall in County Louth.

A theatre has occupied this spot on Drury Lane since 1663 making it the oldest playhouse site in continuous use in history. In 2020 the architectural historian Simon Thurley, former Chief Executive of English Heritage, discovered at a provincial sale a print of Benjamin Dean Wyatt’s original Gothic Revival design for the theatre. The Prince of Wales at the time directed a change of design; not the first time a Prince of Wales has interfered in an architectural scheme. Thanks to Prince Charles’ intervention, Richard Rogers’ modernist designs for the residential redevelopment of Chelsea Barracks were scrapped to be replaced by Squire and Partners’ more conservative mansion blocks and townhouses.

Theatre Royal Drury Lane is owned and operated by Andrew Lloyd Webber’s company LW Theatres. Project Director Steve Tompkins explains, “Drury Lane is the history of British theatre in one building. Much of our task has been to protect and restore its astonishing original qualities. It’s hard to imagine a more complex or more delicate theatre restoration than this one.”

Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber says, “I believe the Lane is now one of London’s most warm and beautiful auditoriums. It’s the most versatile historic theatrical space anywhere in the world.” His lordship has added prominent modern artworks to the period collection including a pair of Shakespearean paintings in one of the staircase halls by American artist Maria Kreyn: Lady M and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Upstairs in the Grand Saloon, afternoon tea with cakes by baker Lily Vanilli is being served.

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Lucy Worsley + Bolsover Castle Derbyshire

With Buildings as with Faces There are Moments when the Forceful Mystery of the Inner Being Appears

It’s one of the majestic sights of Derbyshire. The unmissable Bolsover Castle is perched on a ridge high above the Vale of Scarsdale commanding attention for kilometres. Built on the site of a medieval fortress, the castle is a rare example of a 17th century aristocratic residence that was never Georgianised or Victorianised. Its centrepiece, The Little Castle, rising sheer from the cliff and overlooking the lawn in the bawn from dusk to dawn, was designed to resemble a Norman keep and does a pretty good job of that, certainly from a distance. The Cavendish family added parapets and installed rich panelling and colourful wall paintings in the main rooms. Historian Anne Daye calls their work “bijou fortification”.

The reason for it surviving unmodernised is not uncommon – neglect. In 1984 English Heritage took over the castle and began restoring it. Some of the lower building ranges are windowless and roofless but are otherwise intact ruins. The Little Castle has been so restored it’s as if the Cavendishes have just popped out in their sedan chairs. Respectfully set back from the stone walled compound, a contemporary café in a slick single storey pavilion mightn’t cook banquets but does serve up rather good sandwiches and cake.

Finola O’Kane, Professor in the School of Architecture, Planning and Environmental Policy at University College Dublin, observes how, “Ruins in Ireland have always been political in light of the country’s history. There’s an insouciance about ruins in England.” Often in the Emerald Isle apathy is apparent towards country houses due to their Anglo Irish origins. There are no Calke Abbey-style tour queues or Chatsworth-like business ventures. Powerscourt House in County Wicklow is perhaps the exception but it has no historic interiors left to wander round. Bolsover Castle is sufficiently sprawling so as to accommodate the high volume of visitors.

“Aged 20 I’d just finished the final exams for my history degree,” reveals Lucy Worsley, “and in the few weeks between exams and our having to leave college for good, I happened to pick up a random book in the library by Mark Girouard. It was called Robert Smythson and the Elizabeth Country House and I can’t recommend it enough. It’s about a treasure hunt that Mark Girouard made in search of the houses designed by Robert Smythson. He’s the best known of the shadowy mason designers – before the age of the professional architect – and designed fabulous Elizabeth buildings like Wollaton Hall and Hardwick Hall. The book builds up to a climax in Jacobean England: a house on a windy hilltop in Derbyshire associated with Robert Smythson’s son, John. The pictures of this chivalric romantic recreation of a gothic castle really intrigued me and inspired me to get a job at Bolsover Castle, working for English Heritage.”

She adds, “Over the next few years I was the Assistant Inspector of Ancient Monuments and Historic Buildings responsible for a big re-display project at Bolsover. This included the conservation of the wall paintings, restoration of the battlements, a new exhibition and the return to working order of what The Guardian newspaper called ‘the rudest fountain in England’.” These interventions at the turn of the 21st century have imaginatively livened up the sparseness of the The Little Castle. Dr Worsley wrote the English Heritage guide to Bolsover Castle.

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Stockwell Park Crescent + Stockwell Park Road + Lorn Road + Slade Gardens Stockwell London

Pilaster to Post

Heading south from Kennington Park, sandwiched between the road to Clapham and the road to Brixton, lies Stockwell Park Conservation Area. Designated in 1968, it includes speculatively built residential development dating mainly from the late Georgian to mid Victorian periods in a sylvan setting. The streets around Stockwell Tube Station may still be a bit dodgy; the Conservation Area avenues are not. Flat conversions of the 20th century have gradually been amalgamated back into full houses. Recent infill apartment developments have been designed to resemble their neoclassical neighbours in a spot the difference competition. Bridget Cherry and Nikolaus Pevsner describe Stockwell Park Conservation Area in in their 1983 guide to South London as being “a pleasant enclave of restrained stucco villas and terraces”.

Stockwell Green to the south of the Conservation Area became a popular address for wealthy merchants in the 18th century. The Conservation Area land was farmed until the early 1800s. Regency townhouses were followed by ‘rus in urbe’ detached and semi detached villas with long rear gardens. Stockwell Park Conservation Area is an important example of this early form of suburbia. The layout of Stockwell Park Crescent is shown on an 1841 map. St Michael’s Church fronts onto Stockwell Park Road and backs onto Stockwell Park Crescent. Its stone spire pierces the sky above the residential apron. The Pevsner guide (his name stuck) states that William Rogers’ pinnacled spire is “rather spindly”. The architect made additions to the medieval St Mary’s Church to the north of Stockwell on Albert Embankment, now the Garden Museum.

The largest public open space in the Conservation Area is Slade Gardens, named after the family who purchased nine hectares in the Manor of Lambeth in 1804. Just over three decades later, much of the land was developed for housing. After World War II, the London County Council began buying up properties to create a new public open space. The steeply pitched gables of the pairs of mid 19th century Gothic meets Tudor brick houses on Lorn Road peer over the trees of the park. The Pevsner guide calls them “fanciful Gothic villas”. Isolated on an island site surrounded by the verdant stretches of Slade Gardens is a row of white flat roofed two storey modernist houses on the cul-de-sac Ingleborough Street.

Osbert Lancaster’s 1938 ‘pocket lamp of architecture’ Pillar to Post illustrates styles of architecture starting with Egypt and ending with 20th Century Functional. The cartoonist declares, “Architecture, therefore, by reason of its twofold nature, half art, half science, is peculiarly dependent on the tastes and demands of the layman.” At least three of Osbert’s categories feature in Stockwell Park Conservation Area: Regency, Gothic Revival and Kensington Italianate.

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Numero Uno Restaurant Northcote Road + Clapham Junction London

Like a Snow-cooled Drink at Harvest Time

Every ‘hood should have one. Knightsbridge has Giovanni. Clapham Junction has Numero Uno. The trusted Italian. Long before Northcote Road was fully Fa’ Ball’d there was Numero Uno. While other brasseries and bars have come and gone, Numero Uno has stood its ground. The unpretentious traditional menu is divided into Antipasti, Zuppe, Risotto, Specials, Pasta, Pesce, Carni. Calamari frutti is a must. Italian waiting staff add to the Verona-on-the-Common authenticity. All so refreshing to the spirit. Does the snow of Lebanon ever vanish from its rocky slopes?

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Boutique Hotel Awards + Sun Street Hotel Shoreditch London

It Rises Again

The Boutique Hotel Awards are the first and only organisation exclusively dedicated to recognising unique excellence in boutique hotels. All entrants are personally evaluated by independent and experienced judges.

Last year’s winners were selected from over 300 nominations across 70 countries. There are 15 international categories including World’s Best New Hotel (The Carlin Boutique Hotel in Queenstown, New Zealand); World’s Best Design Hotel (Akademie Street Boutique Hotel in Franschhoek, South Africa); World’s Best Chic Hotel (Hotel TwentySeven in Amsterdam, Netherlands); World’s Best Honeymoon Hotel (Drake Bay Getaway Resort in Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica); World’s Best Beach Hotel (Velaa Private Island in the Maldives); World’s Best Family Hotel (Rockfig Lodge Madikwe Game Reserve in Madikwe, South Africa); and the top prize World’s Best Boutique Hotel (San Ysidro Ranch in Santa Barbara, California).

There was only one international category winner in Britain last year: Sun Street Hotel in London was awarded World’s Best City Hotel. The judging panel recorded, “Head Chef Stuart Kivi-Cauldwell’s salmon comes from the oldest smokehouse in London, his wagyu from chocolate fed cows in Ireland, and his catch of the day from the best boat that’s just come in.”

Stuart has created a modern British cuisine menu complemented by an extensive wine list. Dinner highlights include chalk stream trout and black truffle and burrata tortellini. Food and drink are served in the Orangery and adjoining 40 cover restaurant opening onto the courtyard as well as a suite of reception rooms facing Sun Street. There’s also the welcome glass of Marlin Spike blended aged rum served in the entrance hall.

Designers Bowler James Brindley have used a rich palette of period hues – aubergine, olive and teal – accompanied by lively wallpapers as a backdrop to luxuriously comfortable interiors. And the best velvet cushions and lozenge-shaped poufs in town. Vincent Cartwright Vickers’ birds from The Google Book and water and earth zodiac signs are just some of the decorative themes. There are 41 bedrooms including seven suites. Every bedroom has a king size bed with Oxford pillows, an Illy coffee machine, Penhaligon’s Quercus range bathroom goodies, and twice daily maid service.

General Manager Jake Greenall, formerly of Beaverbrook, a luxury country house hotel in Surrey, says, “Sun Street is a hotel with a heartbeat, a place where guests are treated like part of the family, not just a room number. It’s a home away from home for our guests, with the added benefits that a luxury five star hotel can bring.”

The hotel fills six Georgian brick terraced houses designed by George Dance the Younger at the turn of the 19th century and is part of the development One Crown Place. This revival of a full urban block includes the hotel, The Flying Horse pub, Wilson Street Chapel, a new office building and two multi-use prismatic towers (28 and 33 storeys respectively) designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox.

George Dance the Younger succeeded his father as supervisor of planning and building in the City of London upon George Dance the Elder’s death in 1768. He excelled at a streamlined neoclassicism; his most famous pupil Sir John Soane would be even more radical in his interpretative and idiosyncratic use of the classical orders. The Flying Horse pub is slightly newer that the abutting terrace: it was built in 1812 and remodelled 53 years later. The ground floor pub is a large squarish space with dark panelled walls.

A plaque on the façade of Wilson Street Chapel states, “Erected Anno Domini MDCCCLXXXIX,” and confirms Jesse Chessum and Sons as builders and Hodson and Whitehead as architects. A sign next to the plaque reads, “We preach not ourselves but Christ Jesus the Lord, II Corinthians 4:5.”

New York City architectural practice Kohn Pedersen Fox has designed major international urban schemes including Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles, California; Abu Dhabi Airport in United Arab Emirates; and Dongdaegu Transportation Hub in South Korea.

Aiman Hussein, Director of MTD Group who delivered One Crown Place, comments, “We are thrilled to have Sun Street Hotel at One Crown Place. Led by the esteemed Bespoke Hotels team, it forms a key ingredient for making One Crown Place a desirable destination where the City of London and Shoreditch come together.”

This year, the Boutique Hotel Awards are revealing their favourite picks in a new book The Ultimate Collection of Boutique Hotels celebrating 13 years sampling the best boutique hotels in the world. The publication features the best international boutique properties from luxury villas to regal chateaux to far flung islands. The front cover star is Isla Sa Ferradura in San Miguel, Ibiza. It will be an essential coffee table and reference book for all avowed luxury travellers.

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The Standard Hotel King’s Cross London + Wedding

Flying the Flag

There’s nothing standard about an evening in The Standard. Even the bogs aren’t standard: one wall’s fully windowed and disco music blasts from the ceiling. So it makes sense there’s no such thing as a standard wedding in The Standard. If anything, knotting the nuptials reaches a dizzyingly high new standard. Penthouse level. Wine, dine, wed and off to bed all under the same glorious non standard roof.

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Chatham + Rochester High Street Kent

House Rules

It’s curious that the phrase for keeping schtoom includes the word ‘chat’ in it. Almost the first house visible coming out of Chatham Railway Station is the blue plaqued former home of Charles Dickens. He lived with his family in Ordnance Terrace from age five to nine. The aspiring writer may have seen nearby Gibraltar Cottage being erected in 1820. This quaint weatherboarded building is now partly obscured by a spaghetti of road signs, traffic lights, lampposts, bus shelters and telephone wires. Down the hill and onto the seemingly never ending 2.75 kilometre High Street linking Chatham to Rochester and a smorgasbord of heritage thrills awaits.

Chatham Memorial Synagogue is an eclectic loosely Byzantine building designed by Hyman Henry Collins, City of London District Surveyor. He was also the architect of St John’s Wood United Synagogue (one of eight he designed in London and the only still surviving) and Park Row Synagogue in Bristol. The stone street front is broken into distinct massing elements: a central two storey gabled block with a projecting loggia containing a glazed entrance porch is flanked on one side by a single storey gabled wing and on the other by a square tower supporting a steeple.

In place of a fanlight over the entrance doors a lunette shaped plaque states: “5629 = 1869. This freehold land was bought and this synagogue was built, endowed and presented to the Jewish community by Simon Magnus a native of Chatham as a tribute to the memory of his much lamented and only son Lazarus Simon Magnus who died 9 Tebeth 5625 = 7 January 1865 aged 39 years.” Records suggest a Jewish community being established in 12th century Rochester until expulsion in 1290 and then Jews started settling in Medway towns again in the 17th century.

Opposite the synagogue is Chatham House which unlike its name makes a strong statement. This grand four bay three storey stuccoed townhouse is undergoing a massive restoration. It had been Featherstone’s department store since the 1930s; a descendent of the shop owner is restoring the building in stages. A brewery with Gothick windows attached to the rear of the house is a reminder it was originally built for the Hulkes brewing family. The single storey projecting shopfront has been removed and ground floor sash windows and a Doric porch reinstated.

Next door to Chatham House is The Ship Inn formed of two adjoining stuccoed and painted brick buildings. A four bay three storey block abutting Chatham House is attached to a two bay two storey block. Weatherboarded returns such as to the rear of The Ship Inn are a popular nautical architectural finish. The pub dates from around the same era as its neighbour. This historic grouping continues with the freestanding 343 to 345 High Street, a boxy pair of early 19th century of exquisitely restored two bay houses. The upper two floors are faced with pale yellowy brick. Intact original shopfronts are Dickensian Christmas card material – all that’s needed is some fake snow along the windowsills.

Across High Street a block or two down from the synagogue is the former St Bartholomew’s Chapel of Ease, later the Celestial Church of Christ, and now the Granite Gym. Founded in 1078 by Bishop Gundulf of Rochester Cathedral as part of the now gone St Bartholomew’s Hospital, the current flint and rubble with limestone dressings building dates from the 12th and 13th centuries. Sir George Gilbert Scott added the north aisle in 1896. He died a year later in St Pancras Hotel, a building designed by his father Sir Gilbert Scott. The long side elevation of 5 Gundulph Road looks down onto the mossy rooftops of St Bartholomew’s. This impressive three storey brick villa has a narrow bay windowed street front. Where Chatham and Rochester meet along High Street is all about beauty and decay, love and neglect, joy and hope.

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Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson + Fort Amherst Tunnels Chatham Kent

Promise to Love You Forevermore

Visiting a key site of Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson’s defences may seem a little disloyal straight after enjoying a three day Napoléonic extravaganza (admittedly for Napoléon III not his uncle) but when in Chatham it’s impossible to resist a private tour of Fort Amherst. The tunnels to be precise. The tunnels – riddled with ghosts – to be even more precise. Initials and dates of long gone occupants are carved into the walls. Listed graffiti.

Garrison soldiers expanded the natural chalk caves in the 1790s, adding brick arched tunnels and gun positions to defend  Fort Amherst. After British victory at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, technology moved on from the gun ranges of Fort Amherst, but the fortifications continued to be used by the army as a training ground. Staged practice sieges became a popular tourist attraction in Victorian times: Charles Dickens describes such events in The Pickwick Papers.

The tunnels were adapted for civil defence and brought back to life as an Air Raid Precautions Base of Operations in World War II. They provided shelter from bombardment, storage for ammunition and even secret access between the lower and upper works of the fort. The fourth and latest chapter of the story of Fort Amherst is a return to tourism. Fort Amherst Heritage Trust host tours and events throughout the year. All are welcome, even Bonapartists.