Castles, Fortresses & Associated Works => Medway => Topic started by: kyn on November 03, 2008, 19:46:41

Title: Cliffe Fort
Post by: kyn on November 03, 2008, 19:46:41
Cliffe Fort is one of a number of forts constructed along the River Thames as a consequence of the Royal Commission of 1859.  Work begun in July 1861 and took nine years to complete at a cost of 162,937.  Initial plans for the construction of the fort included thirteen guns upon the terreplein protected by shields, three guns on barbette mounts and two for land defence with twenty guns within the granite faced casemates protected by iron shields.  The thirteen guns to be installed upon the terreplein were dropped due to trouble with construction.  The site of the fort was to be on marshy ground, in 1861 gravel was found at a depth of sixty feet and chalk at seventy-nine feet.  The fort required thirty-foot long piles but still encountered problems.  Reports from 1865 showed difficulties including subsidence and cracking.  The fort, when complete, was much smaller than planned with only ten guns within the casemates.  Underneath the casemates were two parallel tunnels, one a passage connecting the shell and cartridge stores and the other a lighting passage.  The lighting passage was a narrow tunnel and had many offshoots with steps leading up to light recesses within the walls of the main tunnel.  You could also find these light recesses within the walls of the shell and cartridge stores, the recesses were constructed to prevent explosive material coming into contact with the naked flame of the lamp, this was placed within the recess and would be protected by a glass front and a glass door behind giving access from the lighting tunnel.  A dry ditch and earthworks on the seaward side further protected the fort,
it was built for a compliment of 300 men.  It was to work in conjunction with Coalhouse fort and Shornemead Fort.

Armament of the fort in 1887 consisted of two 12.5" RMLs, six 11" RMLs. both types within the casemates and two 9" RMLs in the open battery.  In 1855 building work commenced to convert one of the 9" magazines into a Brennan Torpedo Station, the Brennan Torpedo was introduced at the fort in 1890.  The torpedo was a wire-guided harbour defence missile that was launched from the station via launching rails.   In 1895 the armament consisted of two 12.5" RMLs, five 11" RMLs, one 9" RML in the open Battery, three 3pdr QF guns in new concrete emplacements on the roof and the Brennan Torpedo.  The armament was further updated in 1899 to four 4pdr QF guns and again later to either two 4.7" guns or 6" guns.  During the Second World War the fort was armed with two 4" BL guns for the use against enemy aircraft.  Many other guns were mounted within and on the fort during its time in service.

Unfortunately Cliffe Fort has seriously deteriorated over the years and the Scheduled Monument is now badly flooded, the parade ground is under at least one foot of water with the magazines, access tunnels and lighting tunnels under at least two feet of water.  Standing derelict many features remain at the fort, including gun rings, rails and other features within the casemates, gun emplacements, observation posts and shelters upon the roof, two Brennan Torpedo launching rails leading into the river and the retractable observation post for the torpedo.  The fort was used as an unofficial recreational area whilst standing derelict and during the 1980s a child had a fatal accident, although access is possible it is not easy and is VERY dangerous.  Please consider your safety if you decide to venture inside, there are many hidden dangers including a deep well that is hidden by the flooding water inside and crumbling roofs, floors and walls that may not hold your weight.

(http://i260.photobucket.com/albums/ii34/batgirlphotos/IMG_6146Small.jpg)

Ground Floor
(http://i260.photobucket.com/albums/ii34/batgirlphotos/IMG_6162Small.jpg)

(http://i260.photobucket.com/albums/ii34/batgirlphotos/IMG_6101Small.jpg)

(http://i260.photobucket.com/albums/ii34/batgirlphotos/IMG_6109Small.jpg)

Casemates and 1st floor
(http://i260.photobucket.com/albums/ii34/batgirlphotos/IMG_6138Small.jpg)

(http://i260.photobucket.com/albums/ii34/batgirlphotos/IMG_6121Small.jpg)

(http://i260.photobucket.com/albums/ii34/batgirlphotos/IMG_60671Small.jpg)

(http://i260.photobucket.com/albums/ii34/batgirlphotos/IMG_6069Small.jpg)

(http://i260.photobucket.com/albums/ii34/batgirlphotos/IMG_6072Small.jpg)

(http://i260.photobucket.com/albums/ii34/batgirlphotos/IMG_6074Small.jpg)

(http://i260.photobucket.com/albums/ii34/batgirlphotos/IMG_6079Small.jpg)

(http://i260.photobucket.com/albums/ii34/batgirlphotos/IMG_6092Small.jpg)

Roof
(http://i260.photobucket.com/albums/ii34/batgirlphotos/IMG_6205Small.jpg)

Remains of the Brennan Torpedo Station
(http://i260.photobucket.com/albums/ii34/batgirlphotos/IMG_6065Small.jpg)

(http://i260.photobucket.com/albums/ii34/batgirlphotos/IMG_6057Small.jpg)

(http://i260.photobucket.com/albums/ii34/batgirlphotos/IMG_6060Small.jpg)
Title: Re: Cliffe Fort
Post by: merc on November 04, 2008, 00:13:57
Apparantly another problem encountered during construction was the presence of Malaria Mosquitoes ##
Title: Re: Cliffe Fort
Post by: Trikeman on February 08, 2009, 21:36:52
Here's an aerial picture of the Cliffe Fort taken last year - they certainly put these things in remote places; Darnet & Hoo you either need to fly or float! The whole area is littered with historical remnants and the remoteness is a bonus as it keeps the developers and vandals at bay. One of the most fascinating areas in Kent to explore from the air, every cove, inlet and marshy island seems to conceal a little treasure.
The Forum has been a revelation for me in researching the pictures I have taken - there is so much more out there once you know what to look for, and this site is an absolute mine of information - there is simply no better source of historical information about Kent. Many thanks to all you regular contributers.
Consequently I've got a whole list of places I need to re-photograph - roll on the better weather!
I'll post a few other fort pics in the relevent threads.
Trikeman

(http://i722.photobucket.com/albums/ww221/trikeboy/Forts/IMG_6656.jpg)
Title: Re: Cliffe Fort
Post by: merc on August 11, 2009, 20:56:13
Wednesday,May 30,1877

The garrison at Cliffe Fort has been augumented by a detachment of the Royal Artillary from Sheerness,under the command of Capt. Soames,to assist in the work of extracting one of the 38-ton guns which was capsized into the mud of the foreshore while being landed from the gun barge Magog a few weeks ago,and which gradually sank to a depth of about 8 ft.
In order to rescue the gun a broad trench has been dug about the gun,and the greater portion of it uncovered.
Measures have also been taken to prevent its sinking deeper,ropes having been passed under the trunnions and secured over a beam,which rests upon a number of blocks of timber on each side. The unstable nature of the soil interposes a difficulty with respect to a foundation for the lifing jacks,but by forming a broad platform it is expected that the gun may be ultimately raised and rolled or parbuckled up the sloping beach by ropes and winches.
The river has been dammed out by a bank of clay,but there is a risk of being flooded by an exceptionally high tide. It is hoped that the gun will be got out of its dilema in the course of the present week,and mounted in the casemate in which it will guard Sea Reach. A barge laden with spars,hydraulic lifting jacks,and other appliances for raising the gun has been despatched from the Royal Arsenal,Woolwich.
Title: Re: Cliffe Fort
Post by: stewyrey on March 19, 2010, 02:07:26
Cliffe fort plans,

(http://i737.photobucket.com/albums/xx17/stewyrey/plan2.jpg)



  Stewyrey.
Title: Re: Cliffe Fort
Post by: stewyrey on March 19, 2010, 02:12:15
(http://i737.photobucket.com/albums/xx17/stewyrey/plan1-1.jpg)
Title: Re: Cliffe Fort
Post by: Andrew401968 on July 19, 2010, 21:37:09


Hi stewyrey, do you know the date for these plans, or there location/source? Was there a plan No. 1?

An interesting point about these plans is the white(ish) blank area, on both plans, on the left flank, in the area of the location of the 9" RML and their magazines, and the Brennan Torpedo Station. As far as I tell, (based Victor Smiths plan of the Torpedo station) it matches the area occupied by the Boiler and Engine Rooms, and the Water Tank. The torpedo room was outside the original fort, in the ditch, with a passage cut through the wall linking it with Engine Room. Another interesting point is the difference between thickness of the walls and surrounding casements, on the northern side facing up river, compared to the one are the fourth one. The casements after, appear to be more open, and the walls are less thick.

Incidentally, I am currently studying Cliffe Fort as a case study on Heritage and Monument Management, specifically ones in private ownership. One of the fundamental problems is balancing the desire to conserve such Monuments, with simple reality of finite resource.  


Title: Re: Cliffe Fort
Post by: david on July 20, 2010, 18:00:01
An interesting point about these plans is the white(ish) blank area, on both plans, on the left flank, in the area of the location of the 9" RML and their magazines, and the Brennan Torpedo Station. As far as I tell, (based Victor Smiths plan of the Torpedo station) it matches the area occupied by the Boiler and Engine Rooms, and the Water Tank. The torpedo room was outside the original fort, in the ditch, with a passage cut through the wall linking it with Engine Room

You need a copy of Alec Beanse's book on The Brennan Torpedo. In it is a plan of the Brennan installation at Cliffe. The white section on the plan is indeed the Engine Room, Boiler Room and Tank for the Brennan Installation.
Title: Re: Cliffe Fort
Post by: Leofwine on July 21, 2010, 01:09:26
I used to go to the fort as a kid.  Dad was/is a keen ornithologist and often used to go out there bird watching.  Whilst he spent hours looking at things fluttering around the mudflats I used to find holes in the fence and go exploring in the fort.  The only time I really worried about the bird life out there was the day we saw the Flamingo colony.
Title: Re: Cliffe Fort
Post by: kyn on July 21, 2010, 11:00:05
The Cliffe Fort plan is file ADM 78/4963 at the National Archives.
Title: Re: Cliffe Fort
Post by: Andrew401968 on July 21, 2010, 16:59:49
The Cliffe Fort plan is file ADM 78/4963 at the National Archives.

Hi Kyn, thank you for the information, do you or anybody else have a date for the plans? I am guessing that it's has to be post 1886-87, and that the blank area is due to secrecy surrounding the Brennan Torpedeo and installations. Beanse is unclear on the actual date/year for installation of the station at Cliffe, but he assumes it was soon after the adoption of the system in 1887.
Title: Re: Cliffe Fort
Post by: Andrew401968 on July 21, 2010, 17:40:32
The Cliffe Fort plan is file ADM 78/4963 at the National Archives.

I've pinned the dates down to 1899 to 1918, from the summary at Kew, although the reference you gave me should be prefixed WO. ADM 78/4963 doesn't bring up a reference, but WO 78/4963 does, thanks for pointing me in the right direction.
Title: Re: Cliffe Fort
Post by: david on July 21, 2010, 18:34:56
You are correct Andrew401968 I am reliable informed by 'MyMate' that the plan of Cliffe is WO78/4963 and  is dated 22.6.1899.

Also in the NA is:
WO 78/5434 :  Redham Mead; dock yard; Fort Cliffe, Horsted; Lyton and Darland

Title: Re: Cliffe Fort
Post by: Andrew401968 on July 21, 2010, 20:18:51
Cheers for the reply David.

Something I was just wondering and I can't find any definite information for it on the Web or in Beanse's book. Does anybody know the location for Brennan's Factory in Gillingham? There is a plan for factory at Kew (WO 28/4415) but the information does not give an exact location. I was wondering if anybody else as looked into this.

The other area that is difficult to pin down specific information on is fire control, I know how the torpedo was controlled, by regulating the speed of two wires, but how were the orders for directing it relayed from the point of observation, which in the case of Cliffe was a retractable coning tower/directing station, to the man or men controlling the speed of the wires. Clearly there must have been a system for relaying this information, because there appears to be no way in which the operator in the engine room could observe the target. Could it be as simple as relaying the orders by word of mouth or was there some sort of mechanical/electrical system?

The coning tower / directing station is another mystery area, as the only solid information/evidence available is the physical remains on site at Cliffe, which consist of a concrete conical ring on the roof, and mental cylinder inside it, and runs down to the roof below (see the pictures posted by Kyn). There appears to be rails inside the cylinder. Below that is another hole, and then pit into which the tower must have retracted. Now this tower must have been heavy, and the means to retract must have used power, unless a system of counter weights where used. Could it have used the steam from the boiler to power postons?

The conical coning tower/ directing tower was sealed, and a pintle installed so that the position could be used as a AA Machine Gun position, probably during its time as a base for the Thames Royal Navy Auxiliary Patrol during WWII.

There is some conflicting information on whether the Fort was armed with anything more substantial. Some sources make no reference to it, such as Saunders and Smith in the Kent Defence Heritage, Hogg says that some or all the 12 pounders remained until after WWII, but this conflict with other sources that say the fort was disarmed around 1927 (Pastscape).  The Palmerston Forts Society Fort Log says 2x 4? BL, and this is confirmed by Smith in Defending London's River, The Story of the Thames Forts. This seems to be confirmed by the modifications to the 6? emplacements, which I?ve seen in photo, and are visible on Google Earth, which consisted of inserting a concrete block so that the smaller 4" BL could be mounted. There are some references to the guns being for Anti-Aircraft Defence, but I think that, for a number of reasons, this seems very unlikely. Firstly, the modified emplacements do not appear to provide full 360 degree traverse, and secondly, everything I have read about 4" HA angle guns, indicates that they were in short supply and desperately needed to provide HA guns for destroyers (many destroyers had one set of torpedo tubes removed and replaced with a single HA 4" gun). The other final factor is that there appears to be evidence that guns were given rear and overhead cover, preventing there use for anything other than Low Angle Fire, however this needs further confirmation.

I would value any comments, or information on any of the points I have made above, especially if there are any know sources that relate to area which remain in the dark or are vague. I think I have look at pretty much every published source, although I have found a couple that I have yet to look at, but I doubt they will add anything new.

Title: Re: Cliffe Fort
Post by: Andrew401968 on July 21, 2010, 21:16:13
Cliffe Fort, does it have a future?

My interest in Cliffe Fort, is not specifically as a Fortification (although I am interested in the subject) but as a case study in Heritage Management, and specifically the issues relating to Schedule Monuments, where substantial remains exist. Cliffe Fort is clearly a good example, and is also at significant risk of being lost, and is listed on the Heritage at Risk Register.

Now the question is, is what to do with Fort Cliffe, to ensure its survival and future?

Clearly as people with an interest in History and Heritage, I would value your input and ideas on this, both specifically on Cliffe Fort, and the wider issues relating to managing and conserving large monuments.

Now there are a number of points to consider:

Cliffe is one of 5 surviving coastal forts in the Thames and Medway, the others are Coalhouse, Garrison Point, Hoo and Darnet. All are these are Royal Commission Coastal Forts, built in the same period 1860-70, and are casemented coastal batteries. Each is different in terms of layout and design. Slough also exist, but is substantially smaller than the other coastal forts. There are also remains of two others, Shornmead/Shornemead/Shormead (I seen it spelt differently in a number of sources, at Kew is listed under Shormead) and Grain.

Coalhouse is already undergoing restoration and is open as a heritage attraction, and there are a further 5 fortification heritage attraction close by. These are Tilbury Fort, Newtaven Fort, Upnor Castle, Rochester Castle, and Fort Amherst and the Brompton Lines. All are either open as heritage attraction and or undergoing restoration to that end. Further, there are over 30 fortification sites in the area, not including post 1914 structures, where substantial remain exist or are know to survive underground.

In the UK, there are additional substantial numbers of coastal forts of the same period of construction, of which Fort Nothe, and Hurst Castles are open to the public, the rest are either in alternative use, or derelict.

Cliffe Fort, is privately owned, and lies in an area that is use commercially, and this involves the use of machinery and heavy moving plant. There are number of additional significant monuments in the area, included the Lime Kilns and Romano-British cremation and burial site (see Pastscape). The fort lie within the area of The Thames Estuary and Mashes SPA and is a designated RAMSAR estuary and wetland, and there is the RSPB Cliffe Pools reserve next door.  

Now bearing in mind all the above in mind, what

A.   Would you like to be done with Cliffe Fort? and

B.   What do you think realistically can be down with Cliffe Fort?

C.   How could this be done?

Thank you for taking the time to read this. I am working of hypothetical Heritage Management Plan, and while it is for a course, I am hoping that it might form the basis of something real, at the very minimum perhaps excite some interest in Cliffe Fort and its future.
 
Title: Re: Cliffe Fort
Post by: david on July 22, 2010, 09:06:40
Andrew401969: The problem with researching the Brennan Story is that most of the official documents have been destroyed. I know that Alec has found most (if not all) of the existing documents and many questions are left unanswered. Just how the directing station at Cliffe worked will remain a mystery unless a new source of information is  discovered.
Regarding the armament, Hogg, although a standard reference work for many years, is often wrong. He has confused locations in some of his references and in others he is just plain wrong. I tend not to quote Hogg any more. Pastscape relies heavily upon Hogg and I have sent them corrections in many cases. The
 4-inch B.L.s were definitely fitted but the exact date and why I have no documents to support. 
One of the concrete blocks can just be seen in this view:
(http://i379.photobucket.com/albums/oo234/palmerstonforts/Thames/cliffe1.jpg)
Title: Re: Cliffe Fort
Post by: david on July 22, 2010, 15:29:05
We have been through exactly the same scenario with Fort Gilkicker here in Gosport. There is no future for Cliffe Fort unless a viable modern use can be found for it. I cannot see it attracting any money for conversion to modern usage. The decay is too great.
The one huge obstacle put in the way of converting Fort Gilkicker to apartments was put there by the very agency that should have been supporting the development, The Environment Agency. They have contested the application on the grounds that a rising sea level will make the Fort unsafe for future occupation.
What will the future be for Cliffe? It will suffer the same problem with rising sea levels.

Title: Re: Cliffe Fort
Post by: Andrew401968 on July 22, 2010, 17:47:56
Hi David,

What was English Heritage postion of converting Fort Gilkicker to apartments? How extensive where the changes? Was the structure and key features to be retained, or as in the case of Fort Picklecombe, would it be complete gutted down main structure?

As things stand, apartments would be a no, the location at Cliffe is not suitable, and I don't thing English Heritage would go for it or any of the other interested groups. Flooding is a problem, but it is believed that this is mainly due to the collaspe of the drainage system, although this due to be comfirmed. English Heritage are carrying a survey on site over the summer, to establish the extent of the deteration.

However the initial indication are that the site isn't beyond use, and there is potential. The structure remains solid and there is no cracking or subsidence. The main issure is the constant traspassing, which while many are well intentioned, many are not, and there is the potential for a accident, which could pose a threat to the future structure.

The main sticking point is the land owener and there use of the area adjacent. They have in the last few use invested resource in there facilities, so they intend to stay for a while, however there use of the area is restricted, because in addition to the reserve, there are at least 6 signficate Scheduled Monuments bordering the area of there activity. They may find that the become too cost to use so again that may change. What is definitly out is a Heritage Vistors Attraction in its own right, but I am saying too much...I trying to get peoples thoughts on what I posted at the begining.
Title: Re: Cliffe Fort
Post by: david on July 22, 2010, 19:08:29
The Gilkicker developer's plan gave the fort a secure future. The conversion was to take into account the history of the structure with greater opportunity for the public to visit than there is at present. In my opinion their attention to detail was brilliant. The plan ticked all the right boxes. Even the Environment Agency agreed that if the plans do not go ahead the fort has no future. Links to the proposals can be found on my Fort Gilkicker website. E.H. were fully supportive and the Local Council passed the plans only to have them called in by the Secretary of State because of  Environment Agency's objection. Shortly after this the E.A. changed the reason for their objection. (Their original objection was because the sequence test had not been applied, but then they agreed it was not relevant to Gilkicker ) A five day enquiry (costing a huge sum of money) dealt with every little detail of the possibility of a 1 in 200 event causing a  possible flood risk by the year 2070. I don't know how high above O.S. Datum sea level Cliffe Fort is but I should think it is on a par with Gilkicker.
Title: Re: Cliffe Fort
Post by: kyn on July 23, 2010, 10:37:22
Secure storage giving two floors of casemated rooms and tunnels that could be used or like Fort Horsted a secure business centre!
Title: Re: Cliffe Fort
Post by: kyn on July 23, 2010, 10:45:46
Cheers for the reply David.

Something I was just wondering and I can't find any definite information for it on the Web or in Beanse's book. Does anybody know the location for Brennan's Factory in Gillingham? There is a plan for factory at Kew (WO 28/4415) but the information does not give an exact location. I was wondering if anybody else as looked into this.


This is the plan  :)
(http://i260.photobucket.com/albums/ii34/batgirlphotos/KHF/IMG_4787Small.jpg)

It does not give a location though.  I believe it was down Pier Approach Road where the little industrial area is.
Title: Re: Cliffe Fort
Post by: david on July 28, 2010, 17:40:11

The other area that is difficult to pin down specific information on is fire control, I know how the torpedo was controlled, by regulating the speed of two wires, but how were the orders for directing it relayed from the point of observation, which in the case of Cliffe was a retractable coning tower/directing station, to the man or men controlling the speed of the wires. Clearly there must have been a system for relaying this information, because there appears to be no way in which the operator in the engine room could observe the target. Could it be as simple
as relaying the orders by word of mouth or was there some sort of mechanical/electrical system?


 According to Baker Brown, writing in the Journal of the RUSI in 1935, "The only vulnerable point was the observing station for the officer in charge, which was made very small and inconspicuous. The control was by electric dials. The switches which controlled the latter were combined with a pair of glasses, so that the officer could control the switches without lowering the glasses. Several plug points for the electrical connections were provided."

Also explained in Alec Beanse's book. Page 60 P3

The instrument is explained in more detail here:
http://www.palmerstonforts.org.uk/smforum/index.php?topic=45.0 (http://www.palmerstonforts.org.uk/smforum/index.php?topic=45.0)
Title: Re: Cliffe Fort
Post by: martinrogers on April 12, 2012, 22:53:44
1897
(http://i1271.photobucket.com/albums/jj631/martinkbrogers/P1040372.jpg)
Title: Re: Cliffe Fort
Post by: Rakiman on April 13, 2012, 06:51:03
I think that Cliffe Fort should be saved, and it is disgusting that it has been allowed to fall into such a state of disrepair. (Its a shame that the owners cant be held responsible and made to foot the bill....sorry rant over).

In addition to Kyns idea perhaps it would be suitable, or part of it suitable for some sort of out door pursuits centre, canoeing sailing etc. Alternatively part could be used by an organisation such as the RSPB as they have so many Reserves in the area.
Title: Re: Cliffe Fort
Post by: Admiral D Ascoyne on April 13, 2012, 09:41:46
I think that Cliffe Fort should be saved, and it is disgusting that it has been allowed to fall into such a state of disrepair. (Its a shame that the owners cant be held responsible and made to foot the bill....sorry rant over).

In addition to Kyns idea perhaps it would be suitable, or part of it suitable for some sort of out door pursuits centre, canoeing sailing etc. Alternatively part could be used by an organisation such as the RSPB as they have so many Reserves in the area.

In my employment capacity, I've had several meetings and site visits with the owners of Cliffe Fort - Bretts, and took the opportunity to talk about the fort, I was told the fort is far too expensive to look after or renovate owning to constant flooding at high tide etc, there policy is to secure it from trespassers by building a security fence around it and leave it to the elements.

Another issue is the entire area (from the fort, inland to Bretts yard, along sea wall onto higham marsh is to be left to rising tides as part of the T2100 projection of coastal erosion.
 






Title: Re: Cliffe Fort
Post by: kyn on July 08, 2014, 21:30:28
A couple of the Brennan Torpedo rail
Title: Re: Cliffe Fort
Post by: conan on October 19, 2014, 11:21:44
Thought this link showing photos of the flooded part of the fort would be of interest

http://www.derelictplaces.co.uk/main/showthread.php?t=29934#.VEOM1Vc66dc
Title: Re: Cliffe Fort
Post by: Charles on May 02, 2017, 13:01:21
Forum users might like to note that Historic England's major report about Cliffe Fort is now available for download by following the link below.

http://research.historicengland.org.uk/Report.aspx?i=14967&ru=%2fResults.aspx%3fp%3d1%26n%3d10%26rn%3d15%26ry%3d2011%26ns%3d1

At 243 pages and an appendix I suggest you think before you press print! Happy reading.

Charles
Title: Re: Cliffe Fort
Post by: kyn on May 02, 2017, 13:50:55
Thank you Charles for the heads up :)