Graffiti yobs have 'desecrated' one of Portland's most important historic monuments - causing outcry among residents.

Appalling damage has been caused to the Grade II listed Verne High Angle Battery - known locally as the 'ghost tunnels' - as well as being covered in graffiti the monument appears to have been shot at by pellet or BB guns, with evidence of fires, disposable barbecues and broken glass also found at the site.

Dorset Echo:

Despite having previously been the target of graffiti, the battery is described as 'the best-preserved' monument of its type in the country. Built in the 1890s to defend Portland Harbour from enemy ships, it was also used during the Second World War to store ammunition in preparation for the D-Day landings.

Portland resident Stella Brading discovered the vandalism whilst walking her dogs at the site on Friday afternoon.

She said: "I first came across the broken bottles on one of the ramps. They had clearly been shot at with a pellet gun or BB gun as there were no stones around the glass.

"I took photos then turned round to discover all the new graffiti and more broken glass, used disposable barbecues and signs of a few fires."

Dorset Echo:

Portland resident and local historian Stuart Morris explained how the battery was originally designed for the use of large rifle-muzzle loading (RML) guns, which could fire high to drop onto the decks of enemy ships.

The battery included bomb-proof shelters and stores protected by earth banking, while the remains of a railway line for transporting ammunition can also still be traced.

"It is the best-preserved battery of its type in the country," he said. "Its importance and very wide interest are recognised by it being a scheduled monument. Military historians come from afar to study it - but to locals the 'ghost tunnels' have something of a mystical appeal.

"Any desecration is to be deplored. I hope the graffiti and mess are cleared up without delay."

The battery became obsolete well before the First World War, Mr Morris said, "and its guns never fired in anger."

The site was bought from the War Department by the former Portland Urban District Council in the late 1930s.

It was owned by the former Weymouth & Portland Borough Council and is now understood to belong to Dorset Council. 

A Dorset Council spokesperson said: “We own the freehold to the Victorian High Angle Battery site, a Scheduled Ancient Monument (comprising historic tunnels and gun placements). The site is maintained and managed on instruction from Historic England, as is Nothe Fort. The site is also within the Verne Conservation Management area and although public open space it is actively managed by Dorset Council on instruction from Natural England.

"Unfortunately, the site is a hot spot for graffiti and littering and it’s an ongoing battle to try and keep it in a state of good repair. We’ve spoken with Historic England about the removal of the graffiti and our Conservation Officers will be overseeing its removal in due course, as part of their work to preserve the site properly and maintaining the historic detail. We’d politely ask that visitors to the area  respect this historical landmark.”

Dorset Echo:

Meanwhile Dorset Police encouraged residents to report criminal damage to them and warned that action will be taken against anyone found responsible.

A police spokesman said: "We would encourage anyone with information relating to incidents of criminal damage to contact Dorset Police at, via email or by calling 101.

"All reports will be investigated appropriately, we will do all we can to identify those responsible and take action against them."