Military => War Department Land => Topic started by: TowerWill on September 08, 2010, 09:55:34

Title: Caves near Strood
Post by: TowerWill on September 08, 2010, 09:55:34
Many years ago i can remember taking a train to Chatham Station,walking to Rochester,over the bridge to Strood and along the road by the River.There was a steep footpath climbing up between old chalk pits.Going by O.S. maps i think this area is Frindsbury and has a church at the top of the hill.I came down again beside a creek(Whitehall?) and eventually found myself on a flat area.There was a hill(Tower Hill?)which i seem to remember being of a rock other than chalk.In this hill i seem to remember some caves which i didn't explore.Parked nearby unattended was an old green 3 axle army lorry.Any know this area and any caves that might be there and their purpose?
Title: Re: Caves near Strood
Post by: otis on September 09, 2010, 00:34:29
Tower hill has a circular network of roads spiralling up it and a huge sandy plateau on the top. I think the Royal Engineers use it a big sandbox to practice excavations in ?

Have not noticed any caves there. Are you able to describe wherebouts by the hill ? Quite near my place, but not been over that part for a while.

    regards Otis
Title: Re: Caves near Strood
Post by: TowerWill on September 09, 2010, 08:01:06
Hi otis,thankyou for your reply.I found an entry in my notebook of this little excursion.It was in the middle of January 1967 and i was off work due to a cycle accident.This was the same day i went down a tunnel at Fort Pitt.The entry says "I went past Whitehall Creek with it's rotting barges.Near Upnor i went up a slope on a sandstone hill.There were tunnels leading off into it.I looked over the Medway and at an army R.E. depot around a lake.Over the other side was Chatham Dockyard."The army lorry mentioned was just from memory.I had a couple of maps of the area which is where i must have got the place names from.
Title: Re: Caves near Strood
Post by: TowerWill on September 09, 2010, 08:27:45
I just thought of Google Earth(i am getting on a bit)and had a look.It's been developed quite a bit over the years with a new road called Vanguard Way.The sandstone hill appears to now be covered in scrub which may well be covering cave entrances if they still exist.The lake is still there.On the street view from Vanguard Way there appears to be security fencing between it and the hill.
Title: Re: Caves near Strood
Post by: medwayboy on September 09, 2010, 08:40:53
This is a bit earlier at 1938 but can you see them on here or is the position wrong?

(http://i762.photobucket.com/albums/xx270/stroodboy/frindsbury1.jpg)
Title: Re: Caves near Strood
Post by: TowerWill on September 09, 2010, 16:43:38
That's the right map medwayboy.The cave entrances might have been in the slope under the word "Hill" of Tower Hill on your map.I seem to remember they looked out over the River and that there was more than one cave.
Title: Re: Caves near Strood
Post by: Paul on September 09, 2010, 17:44:15
The 1871 -!890 map on KLIS shows what look like formal gardens in that area.
Could they have been to do with that?
Title: Re: Caves near Strood
Post by: TowerWill on September 09, 2010, 22:27:28
What i seem to remember Paul was that the entrances were roughly shaped.Otis mentions that the R.E.'s train in this area so this might have been some of their work,training for troops before they went to France etc.The caves may have been in a cliff face on the hill.Has there been bulldozing of soil to cover these caves entrances in more recent years?This has happened at Dover during the clearance of WW2 tunnels up on the cliffs.Just looked at otis map again and is that a tramway going along the foot of the hill?Would the R.E.'s have been loading sandstone/sand into rail trucks?One end of the tramway(?) would be about where the caves were and at the oth
er end is a river landing stage.
Title: Re: Caves near Strood
Post by: merc on September 10, 2010, 00:53:51
On medwayboy's map, top right at Upnor is 'Tank Field', that was named after a watertank that was there and the name stuck :)
Title: Re: Caves near Strood
Post by: AnDy on September 10, 2010, 03:12:07
Just to the left of the word Upnor is an 'ordnance plantation' nr the allotments, wonder what that was???
Title: Re: Caves near Strood
Post by: TowerWill on September 10, 2010, 08:09:18
No ideas as to that AnDy,unless the R.E.'s had their own little wood.Talking of sand though i was working a train up to London Victoria and had started checking tickets.While going over Rochester Bridge i glanced to my left and saw a large army tipper type lorry driven by a sergeant heading towards Strood.This lorry carried a load of sand so they were using quite a bit of it somewhere.
Yes i see the tank field is next to the plantation merc.Whole area seems to have quite a military connection.
Title: Re: Caves near Strood
Post by: seafordpete on September 10, 2010, 10:05:55
No ideas as to that AnDy,unless the R.E.'s had their own little wood.Talking of sand though i was working a train up to London Victoria and had started checking tickets.While going over Rochester Bridge i glanced to my left and saw a large army tipper type lorry driven by a sergeant heading towards Strood.This lorry carried a load of sand so they were using quite a bit of it somewhere.
Yes i see the tank field is next to the plantation merc.Whole area seems to have quite a military connection.
Not unusual, some of the older tippers were ver
y unstable when empty and were always driven ballasted with sand. We took and old Aveling Barford (built 1948, crash gears and still in service 1980) to Germany that was ballasted with shingle much to the drivers delight who sold it to a german farmer and brought back earth!! It was also an excuse to fill the truck with NAAFI duty free booze too (so I'me I'm told). The plantation may have been for game shooting for the officers, they had several pheasant rearing pens at Lodgehill in the 1980s made up of old somerfield tracking.
Title: Re: Caves near Strood
Post by: jaj on September 10, 2010, 10:53:10
Where the map details 'Ordnance Plantation' that area later became Tower Hill Camp (wood nissen huts) and by the date of the map that must have occurred post 1938. 

In the 1970's the camp was used by the local authority for temporary homeless families. 
Title: Re: Caves near Strood
Post by: TowerWill on September 10, 2010, 16:44:11
The tipper lorry was a newer version with 4 very large tyres like you now see on construction sites so no telling what the army were up to.The farm i worked on had some old WW2 trucks seafordpete which is where i got a bit an interest in the things.Thanks jaj for the info about the plantation.Any ideas on the little tramway?
Title: Re: Caves near Strood
Post by: seafordpete on September 10, 2010, 16:52:51
.Any ideas on the little tramway?
Line that used to run from the riverside up to Lodge Hill Magazines?
Title: Re: Caves near Strood
Post by: TowerWill on September 10, 2010, 18:03:57
I'm not really familiar with this area.Were the Lodge Hill Magazines in a down river direction?Looks like there's a Richmond Lodge on the map but i think the tramway disappears off the map beyond this.A short branch of the tramway goes in the direction of where i think the cave entrances were.This branch could just be a shunting neck though like we had on the railways.
Title: Re: Caves near Strood
Post by: seafordpete on September 10, 2010, 18:15:29
No, inland just off the top LH corner of the maps
http://wtp2.appspot.com/wheresthepath.htm?lat=51.428344585814294&lon=0.5231277547975425&gz=17&oz=9&gt=1 (http://wtp2.appspot.com/wheresthepath.htm?lat=51.428344585814294&lon=0.5231277547975425&gz=17&oz=9&gt=1)
Title: Re: Caves near Strood
Post by: TowerWill on September 10, 2010, 18:28:52
That's an interesting site seafordpete which i haven't come across before.I'll have to look at it in more detail.I was just doing a bit more research.
Quite a bit can be found about the Chattenden and Upnor Railway on Wikipedia.Also on Wikipedia in an article about Upnor in the industry section there is a mention of high quality moulding sand being taken from a pit in the area.I wonder if the caves were also dug to excavate this sand?There might be a sizeable cave system under that hill but with the entrances now sealed unless someone knows differently.
Title: Re: Caves near Strood
Post by: stewyrey on September 11, 2010, 03:20:16
I recall going there with my mate in the early 80's, wasn't as overgrown with trees and bushes as
it is now.

  stewyrey.
Title: Re: Caves near Strood
Post by: TowerWill on September 11, 2010, 07:05:28
That's how it was in 1967 stewyrey.As far as i can remember the cave entrances were facing the river.Did you see them?
Title: Re: Caves near Strood
Post by: TowerWill on September 11, 2010, 07:20:59
Another look at Google Earth has shown me that the whole of the top of this rather strange hill appears to be covered in vehicle tracks.Also it looks like it's been bulldozed flat.It seems it's an outcrop of the Upnor Formation(info on the internet).Maybe the army have shoved sand down over the cave entrances.
Title: Re: Caves near Strood
Post by: jaj on September 12, 2010, 12:54:11
... Any ideas on the little tramway?

Sorry TowerWill.  I do vaguely remember the tramway from when I used to live and play in that area as a young lad in the early to mid 1970's.  I do however recall finding a discharged 'Baby Viper' anti-mine thingy just on the edge of the sand between Tower Hill Camp and the training area (the sandy bit).  Took the the thing home to show me dad (25yrs RE's) and you should have seen his face? He went nuts, thank godness it was spent ordnance eh.  Oh good times :-)
Title: Re: Caves near Strood
Post by: TowerWill on September 12, 2010, 15:56:23
Yes jaj i should think your dad wouldn't have been too pleased!Maybe he knows something about these elusive caves having been in the RE's for many years?There's quite a bit about the tramway though on the internet.
Title: Re: Caves near Strood
Post by: LenP on September 12, 2010, 20:03:18
See reply #5 on this thread for an explanation of 'Ordnance Plantation'.

http://www.kenthistoryforum.co.uk/index.php?topic=401.0 (http://www.kenthistoryforum.co.uk/index.php?topic=401.0)
Title: Re: Caves near Strood
Post by: TowerWill on September 12, 2010, 21:22:03
Well spotted LenP,i was wondering if the wood was for the RE's use.Quite a bit turning up about this area.Are the rotting barges still in the mud at Whitehall creek?Didn't see them on Google Earth.
Title: Re: Caves near Strood
Post by: Nobby007 on September 12, 2010, 22:05:04
Yes TowerWill there were caves there, me and some mates used to play in them in the late 70's. The biggest one was called The Witches cave and was about 40 feet deep and black with all the soot from camp fires. There were also some wooden huts up there and barbed wire. I think the cave was bulldozed and blocked very late 70's early 80's. The Army now use the land for training on JCB's etc.
Title: Re: Caves near Strood
Post by: stewyrey on September 13, 2010, 02:57:12
Hi guys, I don't recall seeing any caves but I do remember seeing the barges in the creek.
My theory, going by a 1860s map, is that the caves were mines, for the sand (Thanet sand) which was used  at the brick works that was on the site of the Whitewall cement works as shown on medwayboy's map  I say Thanet sand because I remember it being similar to the sand around some of the Swanscombe pits, as in colour and hardness.
TowerWill, were there any buildings or remains at the foot of the hill alongside the creek?

  stewyrey.
Title: Re: Caves near Strood
Post by: TowerWill on September 13, 2010, 07:17:50
Thanks Nobby007,i'm glad someone has seen and been in these caves.What you say probably explains what's happened to the entrances and also the marks on top of Tower Hill on Google Earth.Stewyrey i have a similar theory having read about a nearby sandpit.This excursion of mine was in 1967 and due to a dive over my bike's handlebars i had broken my glasses so everything distant was blurry.I can't remember about any buildings near the hill but there were rotting barges in the creek.An OS map of the '60's might show something.Yes i had a read up about that sand and it's called the Upnor Formation in that part of Kent and i think it&
#039;s found elsewhere as you say.
Title: Re: Caves near Strood
Post by: woodkentrob on July 09, 2012, 09:42:34
Hi all
Played as a kid in late 60's in & around these caves. They were rough hewn not industrial in appearance. One was much larger being approx  3' across for about 20' then opening into chamber around 8 ' diameter. Blackened with smoke. I watched several "O" class submarines being launched from this viewpoint.
Title: Re: Caves near Strood
Post by: KeithJG on September 16, 2015, 16:08:27
Hi all
Played as a kid in late 60's in & around these caves. They were rough hewn not industrial in appearance. One was much larger being approx  3' across for about 20' then opening into chamber around 8 ' diameter. Blackened with smoke. I watched several "O" class submarines being launched from this viewpoint.

I cannot believe what i am reading here as this forum repeatedly throws up my childhood ...

Having just answered the Guess the Place i just decided to Google around that area. Myself being 8yrs in 1956 when i moved to Frindsbury i was everywhere playing especially where my school friends lived.

One lived at Tower Hill Camp, seen on the black & white Google map of 1960 and we used to play also in these Sand Caves......i always remember being scared in them in case there were falls of sand as no one would know where you were if you became trapped. The smaller entrance one was quite deep and opened up further in as you say "woodkentrob"

On the coloured map courtesy of Google 1990 that wider path following on from the narrow path on the left went past the caves i remember the path that carried on was right up against the high fence and there was not much room to walk.

I don`t think the caves were anything to do with the Royal Engineers programs as the earth moving equipment had only really seamed to of just started, they were really going great guns in the late `60`s as i used to use there ploughing tracks as my rallying roads in my mini...Lol

At the point of the red arrow you can just make out two black marks and the left hand one is bigger than the other which is the way around the caves were.

Title: Re: Caves near Strood
Post by: jimawilliams on September 17, 2015, 06:16:18
What you say KeithJG, I totally agree with re childhood.  We grew up in the same area, although you were 8 years in front of me.  I played in the same caves, with the same fears of the sand collapsing!  Woodkentrob you mentioned watching submarines being launched, not something a youngster would ever forget.  I have similar memories, however for me it was seeing Harrier vertical take-off jets both taking off and landing.  Sitting high in the cave, the view and sounds were unforgettable, all being played out just 250mts away. 

In 1991 I returned to Medway for a visit and took a video of the areas I played in my youth.  That video (no sound) that I have uploaded is available on YouTube at:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nhzzN1_QLKU

The image below shows the route that I took, with place marks 1- 9 occurring at the following You Tube time points.

Place mark   Time      Feature

1           0.00      Start, footpath leading to site of old tennis club and quarry
2          1.51   Chalk quarry
3          3.45   Manor Farm Barn (Pre 2005 fire, built 1403)
4         8.32      White wall Creek – concrete barges
5         10.40   Base of sandy cliffs, caves to the left and up
6         15.27   Upnor castle
7         19.10   Kings Arms pub
8         22.00   Creek (we called it the river Wain) - Found a cannon ball here as a child one winters day.  The creek was frozen over and I fell in.  When I went to pull my shoe out I picked up a cannon ball!  We assume it had been fired at Upnor castle from a ship, missed its target and landed in the creek. 
9         26.38      Wainsott Primary School including “pre fab” classrooms   

Hope you enjoy the video.   
Title: Re: Caves near Strood
Post by: KeithJG on September 17, 2015, 15:41:25
Yes, the title is Caves near Strood so here is another which i used to play in.

I used to go over to the "old" cricket ground at Frindsbury which was on the edge of Frindsbury Chalk Quarry and watch cricket and also Tennis at the courts but soon discovered the quarry which was more appealing to me.

There was this Chalk Cave that i used to play in ,it was not very deep going in but it did have a large front ledge that one could hide behind...all good fun at  11yrs. in about 1959.

There was also a field nearby with a very large deep Bomb Crater with a tree in that was also a good play area...does anyone remember this?

The crater is now filled in as it is near the new tunnel approach road.

Superb video jimawilliams...Thanks

Title: Re: Caves near Strood
Post by: ann on September 18, 2015, 11:29:30
jimawilliams, I have just watched your video and it has brought back some happy memories.  I was never aware of the caves, but I often used to walk from Wainscot down across the fields to Upnor.  ~Thanks for the trip down memory lane.
Title: Re: Caves near Strood
Post by: jimawilliams on September 18, 2015, 12:49:51
Well thank you ann, my pleasure.  The caves were great places to explore, in hindsight, being made of sand so dangerous.
I can also recall the wheat growing in the fields to Upnor tasting wonderful!
Title: Re: Caves near Strood
Post by: TowerWill on April 14, 2016, 10:47:10
The book 'The Royal Engineers at Chatham 1750-2012' by Peter Kendall has a nice little diagram of their Tower Hiil practice ground in the 19th Century showing parallel trenches used to attack the hill (p69). A shaft with galleries was sunk somewhere in the Upnor area. A 4 gun battery was built over this mine to judge the impact of detonation.