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Author Topic: The Mysterious Belvedere Battery Guardhouse, Fort Amherst  (Read 31467 times)

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Offline Leofwine

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Re: The Mysterious Belvedere Battery Guardhouse, Fort Amherst
« Reply #35 on: February 26, 2013, 22:49:34 »
The remains of the building are starting to make a little more sense. The NE & NW extremities are not clearly examined at present as they are beyond the modern fence erected there and cannot be properly accessed at present.

At present I think this is what we have, though further work may change things:



Closer view of Blockhouse


Going through the various parts:
1: Main Magazine - this lies below the blockhouse. It appears to overhang at the left but this is due to the fact that the building has a distinct taper, so is considerably wider at the magazine level (The top of the magazine chamber is about 2.1m (7ft) blow this, with the floor of the magazine about 5m (16ft) below this.)

2) Earth and rubble infill - This area is almost exactly the same dimensions as the brick floor 'cupboard' (No. 4), but is filled with earth and brick rubble. Its depth has not yet been established and whether it goes down to the Magazine Wall (no. 10) or cuts into it has not yet been established.  Whether it once had a brick infill like (4) is unclear

3) Brick Floor - This is the main brick floor, made with bricks laid on edge. It shows considerable wear and sagging, suggesting it is laid on  an earthen base rather than solid brick foundation, but this can not be established without lifting it. The exact extent of the SW end where it overlies the Magazine Wall (No. 10) is unclear as it seems some of the bricks have been removed in the past.

4) Brick Floor - This piece of brick floor is made from bricks laid flat, but on the same level as the rest of the brick floor. It shows considerably less wear than the bricks of the main floor, and may have once been a cupboard or small arms locker or something similar. It is almost exactly the same dimensions as the earth and rubble infill (No. 2).

5) Walls - These walls are of considerable thickness (2 brick lengths). The SE wall appears to have been the original exterior wall. The NW wall appears to have 2 doors set into it, leading into the chalk and clay filled area. The NW face of the wall has a 'lip' one brick thickness, 2 brick courses below the brick floor.

6) Flagstones - This area of flagstones may be a later addition as they do not appear to be seated directly on to any of the brickwork. It is unclear if this was their original extent.

7) Chalk & clay backfill - Beneath a shallow layer of turf this area extends under the flagstones (No. 6). It comprises of a clean mix of clay and chalk (the local ground composition) with no appreciable building rubble or other artefacts. This may well represent the original backfill used when the magazine was first built.

8) Inner wall - This is the inner side of a wall. It matches the height of the 'lip' of the central wall (No. 5) and it is possible that a wooden floor once spanned the area between the two.

9) Outer Wall - This wall sits above the coping stones that edge the magazine roof on the  NE & NW sides. It seems to be thicker than the wall on the SE side, and may once have formed the outer walls of the blockhouse.

10) Magazine wall - This incredibly thick wall appears to line up with the wall of the magazine beneath and appears to be an extension of it, forming a foundation for the SW face of the blockhouse.

11) Concrete plinth - This concrete plinth seems to have been placed against the magazine wall (No. 10) and ties in with the extension shown on the 1932 & 1953 plans.

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Offline bromptonboy

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Re: The Mysterious Belvedere Battery Guardhouse, Fort Amherst
« Reply #34 on: February 26, 2013, 09:46:09 »
Leofwine, that now does seem to confirm that at least the western face of the building was set back from the parapet. It is hard to see any detail for the north face but from that view it looks like the building rose direct from the magazine wall. I do wonder if Charles has access to anything better?

Offline Leofwine

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Re: The Mysterious Belvedere Battery Guardhouse, Fort Amherst
« Reply #33 on: February 25, 2013, 16:55:05 »
A slightly clearer version of the 1880-1900 image of the blockhouse.

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medwayboy

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Re: The Mysterious Belvedere Battery Guardhouse, Fort Amherst
« Reply #32 on: February 23, 2013, 19:43:03 »
Hi Bobdonk,
I believe that this in my view fits the bill of what I last saw in the late `50s. It is in the best position for views over the river/town and as such is the sort of privileges that high ranking officers enjoyed, its possible that maybe it was built on top of a previous building that was no longer used.
                               Ken

Sorry about the previous post, I did think it was in the wrong place and needed moving.

Offline Bobdonk

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Re: The Mysterious Belvedere Battery Guardhouse, Fort Amherst
« Reply #31 on: February 23, 2013, 10:31:38 »
Just a thought but could this be the bungalow from this thread http://www.kenthistoryforum.co.uk/index.php?topic=15908.0

"...for Colonel Goldsmid - a concrete expression of the high repute he now occupied in his new position. His new residence offered a magnificent view of Kent and the estuary of the Medway.

You couldn't get a better view than from the top of Belvedere battery

Offline Leofwine

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Re: The Mysterious Belvedere Battery Guardhouse, Fort Amherst
« Reply #30 on: February 22, 2013, 19:05:44 »
A few more thoughts/answers:

The embrasures/windows at the top of the Barrier Ditch were large, but were probably not that vulnerable to attack since immediately in fronrt of them is a deep pit too wide to easily cross, a kind of ditch within a ditch. The advantage of being bigger would be to allow better observation of the approaches to the Barrier Ditich, and extra traverse may have allowed the guns to sweep the glacis in front of the Barrier Ditch.

I think it is becoming clear that the building underwent changes over the years, and that the incarnation people remember was different to the original 18th/19th century blockhouse (the earliers plan I have seen it on is the 1786 one, any earlier appearances anyone else has seen?) Using the earliest pictures I have of it (dating to about the 1860s & 1880s) and scaling it from the wall beside it, the building appears to be about 16-20 feet high. However, using a couple of photos from the early 20th century, it appears taller, about 24-28 feet, so I suspect another floor might have been added some time at the end of the 19th or beginning of the 20th century. The various OS maps also show additions and alterations to the building from the 1870s to 1950s.

I therefore believe that it was built at a later date and was not part of the initial fortress defences, maybe an officers mess for the nearby barracks in Prince William`s Battery?

In terms of dating, it appears on the plan of the fort from 1786, about 40 years before the Prince William's Barracks were built. We also have records of who occupied the barracks there and they were invalide gunners and NCOs. The officers' residence (and almost certainly any mess for them) was in the large building in Amherst Redoubt.

Some newspaper reports of the exercises at the fort suggest that important dignitaries watched the 'entertainment' from there, confirming that it offered good views, perhaps increasing the likelihood that it was more of a look-out than a defensive position.
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medwayboy

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Re: The Mysterious Belvedere Battery Guardhouse, Fort Amherst
« Reply #29 on: February 22, 2013, 15:02:37 »
My thoughts are that this building may well have started out as something very different from the building shell I saw, it may have undergone radical changes to both its looks and use over the years, it certainly ended up as a once beautiful little building with large ornate windows in a spot that overlooked not only the great ditch area of the fort but also the river and Chatham town and some of Rochester.
There is another part of this fortress that makes me wonder... at the head of the ditch there are/were four very large windows that were canon embrasures, two up and two down, although It has always seemed to me that the windows were too large for this purpose? Why were they this size? Unless converted at some point, are there any posts on this subject?
                                      Ken

martinrogers

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Re: The Mysterious Belvedere Battery Guardhouse, Fort Amherst
« Reply #28 on: February 22, 2013, 13:22:38 »
Thanks for your reply medwayboy, as it helps to produce a mental image of the building, which it transpires had a few variations/adaptions over its life.
We have uncovered at least one (possibly two) cupboard areas which match a typical size for small arms storage.
We also know from archive photos that the footings to the south wall at least were built directly off of the vaulted roof below.

The intention is to conclude recording its layout asap as works will commence soon.

We are currently awaiting a design spec from the RE's before starting the removal of the existing brick flooring and surrounding area.

Once complete the intention is to accurately replicate the blockhouse floor and tell the story through interpretation.

My own thoughts are that it was more of a guardhouse / look out point, rather then a mess, but of course we do not seem to have any evidence or accurate plan of its use.

As regards being seen from Gillingham, it is far too low in the ground to be seen from central Gillingham area, as Spur battery would mask it. It was however fully visible from both north and west directions as you have said.

I agree that is was not built to withstand anything other then small arms fire as walls are only circa 450mm thick (in new money).

Yes, come down and have a look, I will question you about more of your memories whilst you are here. Also of course we need to establish how many hours you spent in the fort in your youth (illegally). Every hour has to be repaid by volunteering here (its the law!).

medwayboy

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Re: The Mysterious Belvedere Battery Guardhouse, Fort Amherst
« Reply #27 on: February 22, 2013, 12:14:02 »
Sorry Leofwine,
But I do not agree with some of your answers. Where the 'Blockhouse' stood and the height of it..it would have stood many metres above the top of the Belvedere Battery in full view from both the east and south, in fact it would have stood way above any of the Lines skyline if looking from Gillingham. It was not built to withstand heavy ordnance which most fortress's being attacked would have suffered with, I therefore believe that it was built at a later date and was not part of the initial fortress defences, maybe an officers mess for the nearby barracks in Prince William`s Battery?
However, I must come down when the weather is better to reaffirm my memory with what is now revealed.
              Ken

Offline Leofwine

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Re: The Mysterious Belvedere Battery Guardhouse, Fort Amherst
« Reply #26 on: February 21, 2013, 18:12:37 »
To answer a few of the questions here.

What is a blockhouse? A military fortification constructed of sturdy material, such as tree-trunks, brick or concrete, and designed with ports for defensive firing or observation.

Why refer to this structure as a blockhouse?  I believe there are some 19th century documents that refer to it as such. Also, in general form it fits the category of a blockhouse.

Who demolished it and when?  It was probably the Royal Engineers who did the demolition, but they seem to have record of it. The land remained the property of the M.O.D. until about 1980. We have memories images of it up until about 1960, but others from the mid 1960s of it being gone. This suggests the demolition took place in the rarly 1960s, the same time the Sally Port blockhouse was demolished.

In terms of withstanding assault, unless a large proportion of the defences were already over-run, little could be brought to bear on it other than small arms due to syrrounding parapets, and the 18" thick walls would offer effective protection from this.
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medwayboy

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Re: The Mysterious Belvedere Battery Guardhouse, Fort Amherst
« Reply #25 on: February 21, 2013, 18:07:36 »
I seem to remember that the window openings were large enough to stand upright in, I also seem to remember that there were two window openings on thje NE wall, and the same at the other end SW wall, there were also window openings on the SE wall, there was no floor only rubble, do not remember a door but if there was one it would have been on the SE wall, the building seemed quite tall when you were inside but I just cant remember if there were any more windows, it was just an overgrown shell surrounded by bushes and trees.
                                         Ken

martinrogers

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Re: The Mysterious Belvedere Battery Guardhouse, Fort Amherst
« Reply #24 on: February 21, 2013, 17:51:55 »
Do any of you guys who frequented the blockhouse in your youth remember the layout?

We have evidence of what is possibly a small (maybe external) court yard between the blockhouse and the parapet wall on the front (north) elevation. One of the old photos (extremely grainy) shows the white line of the copings passing in front of the blockhouse. This is possibly a separate parapet wall, although i have previously built buildings with an inbuilt (truncated) coping to continue as a feature (band or string course) around the building.

I have asked EH to give me a high res copy of the photo, so that I can enhance in Photoshop to see if I can spot any difference in the line between the two walls, but they do not have one that is any better than already supplied.

You mention large windows all round, can you remember how many on each elevation? We have found (by brick floor patterning) two doorways on the north elevation (plus one window, from photo). On west elevation there looks to have been one door (although brick floor missing) and at least one window.

Do you know if there was anything else on west elevation?

We haven't got a clue what was on south or east elevations (no evidence of doors as brick floor missing) so any memories welcome.

Offline man-of-kent

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Re: The Mysterious Belvedere Battery Guardhouse, Fort Amherst
« Reply #23 on: February 21, 2013, 17:02:18 »
It was still there in the early 60s, and I think the M.O.D. did most of the damage up there.
Derek Brice

medwayboy

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Re: The Mysterious Belvedere Battery Guardhouse, Fort Amherst
« Reply #22 on: February 21, 2013, 16:00:55 »
Thinking tactically, This building would have been in full view from all round and if it was a lookout/conrol point/store then would no doubt have been a target and it wasn't built to withstand serious assault, so I wonder if it might have been built at a later stage in the fort`s history as the fortress's governors residence or something of the sort, after all it overlooks this whole area and had large windows all round...........Just thinking out aloud...
                               Ken
As an after thought does anybody know who demolished this building? it was still there around the end of the 50s, if it was the council ..would they have still details/pictures of what they were to demolish?

Offline kyn

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Re: The Mysterious Belvedere Battery Guardhouse, Fort Amherst
« Reply #21 on: February 21, 2013, 14:26:30 »
They were different in size and use.  Sally Port was used to protect an entrance into the fortifications where as the Amherst blockhouse seems to be more a lookout point from the high ground.  The blockhouse was quite small compared to Sally Port.  Leofwine will be able to describe the uses far better than I can.


 

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