Capel Battery Project
Back in November 2018 after many years of just sitting idle, I arranged a visit to the site with the owner who showed me around to see what had been done since he bought it in 2011 and he told me of what his plans were.
The whole site was mostly overgrown with brambles etc and looked like hadn’t been touched since it was demolished in the 80’s, there was evidence of some building foundations in existence but mostly covered over. The only work that had been carried out was excavation of the No1 gun Shelter, Gun Store and Compressor room with both ramps either side of the magazine dug out, the rest of the entire emplacement and magazine was still buried under tons of earth so difficult to ascertain what the condition was. There was also a new nissen hut errected on one of a pair of bases uncovered at the eastern end of “Burma Road”.
The plotting room and underground dressing station were also accessed, the plotting room had a container sealing the entrance and the dressing station which had been dug out in the 90s by the previous owner who had aspirations of creating a visitor attraction like Fan Bay, but the extent of the collapses and back fill were too great and it now sits with only the stairwell dug down to the bottom but blocked with earth, it also had an extensive fall of red running sand at the bottom of the first stairwell so now nearly blocked again.
So after discussion with the owner he told me how he wants to rebuild the Guard Room as it was in the war, so we agreed we would start excavations, work started April 2019 and we started digging, One of the first things we found was the toilet soil pipe and water pipe, work progressed quickly and by May 2019 the foundations were mostly exposed, they seemed in reasonable condition considering the demolition, the walls were all there and were mostly at or just below damp course level but all the floors were gone.
From the guard room we started pushing outward finding the drainage system which is all intact, then moved to the General store, Cookhouse, Battery Office etc. Most of the Barracks site now is a position where nearly all the building foundations have been exposed and we have now moved our focus onto the gun emplacement.
During July 2020 we carried out a survey of the gun doing some test trenches assessing that the shell hoist lift shaft top, the top canopy and both forward front blast walls had been demolished. We first started to expose the gun emplacement floor using existing plans to reveal the floor and edge of the gun pit on western side, this revealed the gun pit rail bed in good condition minus the metal rear rail bed, but we were pleased with the condition as the front retaining wall was intact.
Heavy machinery was brought in and work commenced to clear the hundreds of tonnes of earth which covered the emplacement in the space of 4 days over half the emplacement is now dug out, with the spoil being moved to recreate the original defence bank around the barracks site. Assessment of the exposed emplacement is in-fact in fairly good condition revealing the concrete ammo benches, charge bag storage bays and shell mini lift mounts, even some of the camouflage paint is left including cam netting fixing points and of course the gun pit itself seems to be fully intact minus the metal rail. Work will continue on monthly workdays, more to follow...