By using this website you are consenting to our policy for the use of cookies. For further information, consult our policy for the use of cookies and privacy, where you can disable them.


Report of Annual General Meeting and visit to the Lines of Torres Vedras




The Annual General Meeting took place on Saturday 8 July 2023 at the Restaurante Portal do Moinho, Ervideira, in the municipality of Mafra.


As is the Society’s custom, the meeting formed part of a visit to a place of interest and this year we had decided to revisit the Lines of Torres Vedras, bearing in mind that many of our newer members were unfamiliar with the “Lines”. The Lines of Torres Vedras were a defensive military system erected north of Lisbon between 1809 and 1810. In the highest secrecy, the future Duke of Wellington, and his chief engineer, Lt. Colonel Richard Fletcher, devised a defence strategy to protect Lisbon from the impending invading French army. The strategy consisted of fortifying points on hill tops, controlling roads, and enhancing natural terrain obstacles. These defensive works, constructed mainly by Portuguese labourers from the surrounding farms and villages, were distributed along three lines that stretched between the Atlantic Ocean and the River Tagus, totalling 152 forts and redoubts.


Our bus left Estoril, picking up members in Lisbon en route, and proceeded directly to the Forte São Vicente (see photos above), situated on a hill top above the town of Torres Vedras. The Society is fortunate in that our vice-chairman, Mark Crathorne, is an acknowledged expert on the Peninsular War and in particular the three French Invasions of Portugal in November 1807, March 1809, and July 1810. Mark led us around the fort, explaining the features and purposes of the well-preserved military architecture, and the optical communication system, comprising ten telegraph stations installed at the highest points of the Lines, based on a naval signalling method involving hoisting balloons made from pigs’ bladders on vertical ropes, whereby messages could be quickly passed between the various forts. Afterwards we were able to visit the Interpretation Centre of the Lines and its exhibits, located within the former chapel of the fort, and see an excellent short film in English. Many participants took the opportunity to wander at will around the fortifications and admire the stunning views.


We then took to the coach and arrived at the restaurant Portal do Moinho, in Ervideira. The AGM was efficiently chaired as usual by Dr Filipe Lowndes Marques. The necessary reports had been circulated to members well before the meeting and the Chairman of the Society’s Council, Edward Godfrey, drew attention to the Society’s healthy financial situation as evidenced by the accounts for 2022, which were unanimously approved. Edward also drew attention to the passing away of Terry Weineck, who had led the Society’s Porto Group for several years. Fortunately, Alan Dawber had come forward to act as Terry’s successor and has been showing great enthusiasm in maintaining the Porto Group’s activities, talks and visits.


This year the Society was required to hold elections to fill positions for the forthcoming three-year cycle of governance. Regarding the Board of the General Meeting, Dr. Filipe Lowndes Marques and Dra. Maria da Assunção Duarte Silva da Cunha Reis were again elected Chairman and Secretary, respectively. All five members of the Council (the directors) stood for re-election and were re-appointed. The composition of the Council remains as Edward Godfrey, Mark Crathorne, Danica Monteiro, Curtis Stewart and Andrew Shepherd. The three members of the retiring Fiscal Council had decided to stand down after many years’ service and tributes were paid in respect of the sterling work performed by Andrew Bailey, Ana Maria Seabra and Barbara Charlton. In their places were elected Clive Viegas Bennet, Tim Richardson and Stuart Stoker.


An excellent buffet lunch was then taken and there was a short opportunity to admire the surrounding countryside (see photo above) from the restaurant’s delightful lawned gardens. Heading back to the bus, we then set off travelling in an easterly direction to the Forte de Alqueidão, passing en route at Pêro Negro, the house (see photo) that served as Sir Arthur Wellesley’s (later Duke of Wellington) headquarters in October/November 1810. Alqueidão, like São Vicente, has well-kept paths, exemplary structures and magnificent views. It is on the highest point of the First Defensive Line with embrasures for 27 cannons and a capacity for 1,600 men. With a view that stretches from the Tagus River to the Atlantic Ocean, its mission was to guard one of the main access routes to the capital. Due to its position, Wellesley rode up there every morning from Pêro Negro to check the disposition of enemy troops.


Finally, we continued to the pleasant town of Sobral de Monte Agraço, which was the scene of relative heavy fighting between regiments of the Anglo-Portuguese Army and a Corps of the French Army under the command of Gen. Clausel on 14 October 1810, resulting in over 100 deaths on both sides. Here some of us visited another of the five municipal Interpretation Centres of the Rota das Linhas de Torres Vedras, while others enjoyed a refreshing drink. And so we returned to Lisbon and Cascais, pleasantly tired, but certainly knowing a little bit more about Anglo-Portuguese history.