Displayed in a fenced area in Royal Pier Road on Gravesend’s riverside are the brick and stone remains of one of a network of five cross-firing artillery blockhouses built by Henry VIII in 1539/40 to guard the river approaches to London. It is the only one of them visible. Excavated in 1975/6 it was stabilised and then displayed for the public by a succession of owners. Such was its national historical significance and regional value within the suite of defences of the Thames that it became a Scheduled Ancient Monument and its stabilisation was renewed just over 10 years ago. Unfortunately in recent years the building has suffered both vandalism and structural maintenance issues, resulting in an attrition of fabric and even removal of bricks and stone off-site. There is also growth of weeds between bricks and its setting has become untidy. Before long, the building could become a candidate for the national At Risk register.
This situation has been brought to the attention of the owner of the blockhouse which is considering the issues of the site. An immediately available ‘pump priming’ fund for remedial works has been identified and advised. Advice about routine structural inspections and maintenance to avoid more expensive problems developing later has also been given, as well as about control of weeds and a regime of mowing for the grassed surround. It is hoped soon to learn of an action plan for this nationally important building which is located in a show-case position within Gravesend’s heritage riverside. Without timely action, the display of this site may have a bleak future. On another property adjacent it is hoped to undertake a limited archaeological investigation to explore the blockhouse’s Western Gun Line, with the aim of learning more about the site. Report from Victor Smith, 28th December 2014.