Kent Historic Defences
Kent Historic Defences Special Interest Group
The role of the Kent Historic Defences Special Interest Group is to contribute to continuing research of the known defences and to make new discoveries, by the study of records, maps and aerial photographs, ground investigation or other.
Members of the committee undertake field recording of sites, identify sites meriting protection, suggest sites for public access where this seems beneficial and carry out archaeological examination in appropriate cases.
The committee will provide contacts and opportunities for participation in the restoration of defensive sites, mainly ones being worked on by other organisations and to give historical insights and advice to the latter, if requested.
We aim to share the results of research and discovery, reaching out to the wider community by publication, use of websites, a variety of media, exhibitions and conferences as well as by organising tours.
In the possession of the writer is an iron key thought to have been used by Lt. Col. Charles G. Gordon (later General of Khartoum fame) during his stay at New Tavern Fort in Gravesend from 1865-71 when acting as Commanding Royal Engineer for the Thames District.
With a study of Kent’s defences during the Great War submitted to the editor of Archaeologia Cantiana for publication and an historical overview of the 20th century defences of Thanet near completion, two research and publication projects by Victor Smith are scheduled to begin in 2016: The New Tavern Fort project
I’m pleased to announce that at long last Volume 23 of the Journal of the Ordnance Society has been published. From the point of view of the HDC it contains a paper “The artillery of the Great War anti-invasion defences of the Swale area of Kent” by Alan Anstee a member of the HDC. This illustrated work is the culmination of several years research, both independently and as part of Kent County Council’s Swale 20th century Defence Project.
New Tavern Fort (armed from the 1780s-1908) on Gravesend’s riverside displays a regionally important collection of 12 pieces of historic artillery. All are relevant to the site, whether as authentic re-arming of its phases of development or representative of other defences in the district at various dates. The Historic Defences Committee have been pleased to respond to a request from their friends at the fort with an offer of guidelines for continuing maintenance for the guns. This follows information supplied by the HDC at an earlier stage.
Report for the KAS AGM by Alan R. Anstee An on going research project The R.E.s have left us a wealth of maps and photos of the fieldworks, so we know that they looked like and where they were. The war diaries gave some information as to which areas units were working in but little more. However there is no real information on the men who built them. Thanks in no small part to the East Kent Gazette we now know, the names of many of the officers and men.
Following a meeting with historians of Thanet’s military past, an assessment has begun of the available documentary sources to support a possible new project for an enhanced study of the defences of this council district. This would continue Kent County Council’s Defence of Kent Project which aims to better understand the role, evolution, distribution and survival of the county’s varied military and civil defence structures, built or used during the 20th century. It is hoped to bring this subject more fully into the public domain, providing greater awareness by publication, educa
Since the beginning of the year work has really taken off at Fort Luton. We have been lucky to have received two groups who have requested to work for a day to help move our project along as well as having weekly work days with our own volunteers. We are currently setting up a Community Interest Company with the aim to allow Fort Luton to be available to the local community with the exterior of the fort used for events and the casemates to be used for community talks, workshops, arts and other creative events. We will also allow rooms to be hired for parties and social gatherings.
On a Thursday evening of August 1860 the members of the Volunteer Artillery Corps were at Archcliffe Fort practising with three 32-pounder smoothbore muzzle-loading guns that were mounted along the front of the battery. The guns were firing at a target placed in the channel. Although all three of the guns were around 60 years old they had all been fired many times and were thought to be perfectly safe. The guns were being watched by many of the corps who were standing to the right of the battery, they were standing about twelve yards from No.2 Gun.
The history and archaeology of a Cold War bunker at Gravesend: a research and reporting project It has been a remarkable – and at times exciting - journey, beginning with the discovery in 1990 of a 13-room Cold War Civil Defence Control Centre under Woodlands Park, Gravesend. This was built in 1954 and maintained during the first half of the Cold War as a command post for the coordination of local civil defence forces in the event of an air attack, whether by conventional or nuclear weapons.
The sad end of the Sergeant Major’s Career by Alan R. Anstee Whilst researching for the Swale 20th Century Defence Project a number of interesting and at times odd events concerning the military were seen in the local newspapers from the early years of WWI when large numbers of troops were based in and around Sittingbourne. Perhaps the oddest of these was first seen in the 23rd January 1915 edition of the Kent Messenger. This reported on the trial of John Murphy, alias Hugh Charles Caston a Royal Engineer Company Sergeant Major.
A Fire Fatal at Milton Regis by Alan R. Anstee In February 1915 with large numbers of troops billeted in and around Sittingbourne the potential benefits of having troops in the area was demonstrated by the effects of a fire in King Street. The following account is based on reports in the Kent Messenger (KM) of the 6th February 1915 and the East Kent Gazette (EKG) of the same date.
Fan Bay Deep Shelter Fan Bay Deep Shelter is a system of underground tunnels located on the edge of Fan Hole on the White Cliffs. The shelter is located on the land which was purchased in the national appeal to buy the remaining section of the White Cliffs in 2012. The tunnels are in excellent condition and today remain the biggest and best preserved deep shelter in the Dover area. The underground tunnel system is almost all that remains of the Fan Bay battery.
Brought to you by the Kent Archaeological Society’s Historic Defences Committee, the Friends of Grain Coastal Park and by Bourne Leisure Defence against invasion! Visit Slough Fort, Allhallows and the military landscape at Grain Saturday 25th October 2014, 1045-1530
There are volunteering opportunities at a number of Kent’s historic forts. These can be interestingly varied. Depending upon the sites concerned they may, for example, involve helping to expose buried structures, clearing or controlling vegetation over or around them, assisting with restoration, historic refurnishing and fitting out as well as carrying out historical research and acting as a guide for visitors. There can even be opportunities for re-enactment. You don’t have to be an ‘expert’ to join in as coaching is given.
The Defence of Swale Project The Defence of Swale project is a London Array funded and Kent County Council administered heritage project. The project is designed to map and catalogue 20th century military and civil defence assets of Swale to provide an overview of Swale’s defence heritage. The project aims to provide an improved understanding of the District’s 20th century defence heritage, identification of key assets and opportunities for volunteers to engage in discovering the District’s past.
The Battle of Britain that Never Was! In May 2014 the Historic Defence Committee in partnership with KAS, Maidstone Museum and KCC ran a battlefield tour of the WW1 defensive sites of Swale and Sheppy. Download the guide here: The Battle of Britain that Never Was
AN OVERVIEW OF THE TWENTIETH-CENTURY MILITARY AND CIVIL DEFENCES OF SWALE Victor TC Smith(With contributions from Alan Anstee)
This overview is intended to give a general and local context for the assistance of those participating in the Defence of Swale project. From their investigations a detailed study can emerge. The project is coordinated by Kent County Council and funded by the London Array offshore wind farm, with the support of English Heritage.