The southern approaches to Chatham and its dockyard were protected by five forts built between 1860 and 1900 to strengthen the 18th century fortications around the perimenter of the dockyard.
Forts Horsted, Luton and Borstal are still standing, Grange and Woodlands Redoubts are in very poor condition and Forts Bridgewoods and Darland have been demolished. The forts were all built to a similar five sided, low level design and surrounded by a deep dry ditch but differed in size with Fort Horsted and Fort Luton the smallestthe largest. Access into the forts was through a single, well protected, gateway.
Their defence was based on movable artillery such as field guns on carriages and machine guns that could be stored within the fort to defend the fort itself or to be taken outside and mounted in field batteries. They could also be quickly moved if the fort was going to be overun.
Overlooking the Luton Valley, it was built in 1876 - 1892 and was in use by the army until 1961. It was a land fort, protected by a rolling bridge that could be withdrawn back into the fort. It never had any fixed armament although it was an anti-aircraft Command Post in World War 2. Fort Luton has been under new ownership since 2012 and it has now become a Community Interest Company to allow the public to access and enjoy the Fort. A small group of volunteers have helped to restore parts of the Fort to give it a new lease of life. An underground museum is also under development. See Fort Luton website for details.
Constructed between 1880 and 1889, it was still in use in WW2 fitted with anti-aircraft guns. It was the largest of the Chatham forts and was designed to be the strong point of the line, defending the road to London. The fort is completely encircled by a 30 feet deep moat and the entrance is flanked by gun rooms on either side, but it had no fixed armament. It was sold off in 1961 and fell into disrepair becoming totally overgrown in the late 20th century but is now used as a Business Centre. Private.
Built between 1875 - 1883 on high ground overlooking the western approach to Chatham, it is surrounded by a dry ditch. The fort served as barrack accommodation during WW1 and had a 4.5-inch anti-aircraft battery on its rampart during World War 2. It is now derelict and in poor condition. It is sited on the west side of Borstal, next to the prison, overlooking the M2. Private.
Construction of Fort Bridgewoods began in 1879 but was halted in 1884 when money ran out. When a new invasion threat appreared in 1892 it was hurriedly finished. In World War 2 the fort was occupied by the Home Guard, who manned anti-aircraft defences within the fort. Between 1961 and 1967 it was a Sub Regional Control Centre for the administration of South East London after a nuclear attack. The fort was sold in the late 1970s and the ditch was filled in, but in 1988, the fort was demolished and nothing of the fort is now visible.
The last of the Chatham forts to be built, it was started in 1893 and completed in 1899. It had a different design from the other forts as it was based on more up to date ideas of defence. It had no permanent armaments, but eleven machine guns defended the gorge and frontal approaches to the fort. During World War 2 it served as an air-raid shelter and it was then sold off in 1946. During the 1960s a housing estate was built over it.
Grange and Woodlands Redoubt
Woodlands and Grange, known as the Twydall Redoubts Nos 1 & 2, were designed as infantry redoubts and were constructed in 1885. They were located just south of the River Medway near the village of Twydall have central bomb-proof shelters, a shallow ditch with an unclimbable fence at its bottom, and were armed with machine guns. The ditch is crossed by a simple drawbridge which was raised to form a gate to prevent entry. The ditch at Woodlands Redoubt has been mainly filled in, but a large part of the structure remains. Grange Redoubt is in a very ruinous state and now contains farm buildings.
|Off M2, J3, at Gillingham|
Fort Luton - Magpie Hall Road, Chatham, Kent ME4 5XJ|
Fort Horsted - Primrose Close, Chatham ME4 6HZ
Fort Borstal - Fort Road, Rochester, Medway ME1 3NT
View Larger Map of Fort Luton
View Larger Map of Fort Horsted
View Larger Map of Fort Borstal
View Larger Map of Grange Redoubt