Fort Amherst

Fort Amherst

Fort Amherst, in Kent, England, was constructed in 1756 at the southern end of the Brompton lines of defence to protect the southeastern approaches to Chatham Dockyard and the River Medway against a French invasion. Part of it is now open to the public.

The primary purpose of all the Medway fortifications was the defence of the Naval Dockyard. which became Fort Amherst. It was completed in 1758 and defended with 14 42-pounders, 10 9-pounders, 8 6-pounders and 2 4-pounder guns. These became known as the Cumberland lines, and were entered by four gateways with bridges. K.R.Gulvin, Fort Amherst,after 1982,pub. Fort Amherst and Lines Trust, Illustrations Medway Military Research Group, 1977.]

In 1770 Lt General Skinner extended and strengthened the lines, the Amherst Redoubt was strengthened, further batteries added (such as the Cornwallis Battery) and the ditches revetted (lined with brick).

During the Napoleonic Wars the Chatham defences were enlarged and strengthened considerably. In 1802-11 French prisoners of war were set to work on extending the tunnels and creating vast underground stores and shelters, new magazines, barracks, gun batteries and guardrooms. More than 50 smooth-bore cannon were also mounted. The last building works were about 1820.

:It is a common misconception that French prisoners of war were used. It has recently been discovered that there would have been maybe five French prisoners in the entire fortifications, and instead a lot of the work would have been done by British prisoners from Maidstone Gaol, and by Cornish and Welsh miners, as they had experience of digging tunnels, more so than any prisoner would have.Fact|Kent|date=May 2007

A maze of tunnels dug into the chalk cliffs were used to move ammunition around the fort.

A second gun battery, Townsend Redoubt, was built at the northeastern corner of the dockyard at the same time as Fort Amherst. Both forts were inside the 1756 brick-lined earthwork bastions known as the Cumberland Lines, which surrounded the whole east side of the dockyard down to St Mary's Island. These have now been built over.

Fort Clarence in Rochester and Fort Pitt, on the Rochester-Chatham borders, were built in 1805-15 to protect the southern approaches.

Fort Amherst has been described by English Heritage as the most complete Napoleonic fortification in Britain and as such has great national historical significance.

The fort was still in use during the Second World War and restoration to make more areas open to the public is in progress.

Current Usage

Fort Amherst is managed by the Fort Amherst Heritage Trust who open the fort to visitors on a restricted basis and run a program of re-enactment events, and ghost tours through the tunnels. [http://www.fortamherst.com Fort Amherst and Lines Trust Website viewed July 2007 ] ] Halloween tours also take place, where guests make their way through the dark rooms and passages and are greeted by people dressed up as scary figures.

Some of the cannons can be heard on Sundays throughout the year and periodically during school holidays. Ghost tours traditionally take place one Friday evening a month and during the October school half-term.

On Sundays, during the summer 2008 season, the Fort is open to the public, without charge, to promote the future Great Lines City Park and the proposed World Heritage Site application for Chatham Dockyard and its Defences.

References

External links

* [http://www.fortamherst.com Fort Amherst and Lines Trust]
* [http://www.undergroundkent.co.uk/top_site_fort_amherst.htm Upper Fort Amherst]
* [http://www.chathamworldheritage.co.uk Chatham's World Heritage Site application]


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