Exploring Kent's Past

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Monument details

HER Number:TQ 67 SE 37
Type of record:Listed Building
Name:NEW TAVERN FORT

Summary

This riverside fort formed part of the defences of the Thames and was sited to cross its fire with Tilbury Fort opposite on the north bank. It originated in 1780 as an irregularly planned earthwork, fronted by an unrevetted ditch. It was armed with fifteen heavy guns (32 and 24 pounders) firing through embrasures. The medieval Milton Chantry was incorporated within the perimeter of the fort and used as an artillery barrack. Other buildings were added by the 1790s, such as the Commanding Royal Engineer’s Quarters, stables and magazines, as well as a loopholed rear defence wall and caponier. The fort was further developed throughout the 19th and into the 20th century. The fort was disarmed by c.1938.


Grid Reference:TQ 65292 74238
Map Sheet:TQ67SE
Parish:GRAVESEND, GRAVESHAM, KENT

Monument Types

  • FORT (Post Medieval to Modern - 1780 AD to 2050 AD)
  • GUN EMPLACEMENT (Post Medieval to Modern - 1780 AD? to 2050 AD?)
  • COASTAL BATTERY (Modern - 1904 AD? to 1938 AD?)
  • RADIO TELEGRAPHY STATION (Destroyed 1946, Modern - 1940 AD? to 1945 AD?)
Protected Status:Listed Building (II*) 1261173: NEW TAVERN FORT; Scheduled Monument 1013658: NEW TAVERN FORT, GRAVESEND, INCLUDING MILTON CHANTRY

Full description

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(TQ 65307430-sited from HHR map) 5277 GRAVESEND New Tavern Fort TQ 6574 SW 2/89 II* 2. There have been artillery fortifications at Gravesend since the Mid Tudor Period but the earliest development of this site as part of the Thames defences against attack by sea began in 1778, prompted by the threat posed by the American War of Independence Little trace above ground of these earlier works survives. In 1860 there was a Royal Commission Report on Coastal defences and work began at Gravesend in 1869. From this period are 3 open emplacements for 9 inch rifled muzzle loading guns along the East face, built of stock brick with cambered brick arches and an unusual form of open emplacements with a heavy wrought-iron casement shield. Connecting with these is an underground brick network of shell and cartridge stores and a main magazine with shell stores. C.1905 2 concrete emplacements for 6 inch breech loading guns were established on part of North side of the fort and 2 bomb-proof shelters were built into the backs of the C19 gun emplacements. (1) Additional bibliography. (2-7). Mentioned in context of Thames defences (8) and 20th century defences (9).

"This riverside fort formed part of the defences of the Thames and was sited to cross its fire with Tilbury Fort opposite on the north bank. It originated in 1780 as an irregularly planned earthwork, fronted by an unrevetted ditch. It was armed with fifteen heavy guns (32 and 24 pounders) firing through embrasures. The medieval Milton Chantry was incorporated within the perimeter of the fort and used as an artillery barrack. Other buildings were added by the 1790s, such as the Commanding Royal Engineer’s Quarters, stables and magazines, as well as a loopholed rear defence wall and caponier." (10)

From the National Heritage List for England:

Reasons for Designation
New Tavern Fort is an unusually complete example of 18th century fortifications which underwent development in the 19th and 20th centuries. The fort displays a complete sequence of mounted guns representing each stage in its development, and contains a number of unusual features which have been preserved in situ. The site is known for its connection with General Charles Gordon who lived here from 1865-71 and was later killed at Khartoum. The foundations of his house still survive within the fort. The fort itself, along with Tilbury on the opposite bank of the Thames, illustrates well the strategic importance of the Thames Estuary and the methods employed to defend it over a period of 170 years. The fort is particularly well preserved, having been maintained over a number of years by the New Tavern Fort Project. In the north west corner of the fort is Milton Chantry, a 14th century building representing the chapel of a medieval hospital. A medieval hospital is a group of buildings housing a religious or secular institution which provided spiritual and medical care. The idea for such institutions originated in the Anglo-Saxon period although the first definite foundations were created by Anglo-Norman bishops and queens in the 11th century. Documentary sources indicate that by the mid-16th century there were around 800 hospitals. A further 300 are also thought to have existed but had fallen out of use by this date. Half of the hospitals were suppressed by 1539 as part of the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Some smaller institutions survived until 1547 when they were dissolved by Edward VI. Many of these smaller hospitals survived as almshouses, some up to the present day. Despite the large number of hospitals known from documentary sources to have existed, generally only the larger religious ones have been exactly located. Few hospitals retain upstanding remains and very few have been examined by excavation. In view of these factors, all positively identified hospitals retaining significant medieval remains will be considered nationally important. Milton Chantry has a well documented history from the early 14th century onwards and has undergone a variety of uses. Despite this, the building has survived intact and contains numerous well preserved architectural features dating from the 14th to the 19th centuries. Archaeological remains will also survive in, around and underneath the chantry building relating to the chantry itself and the hospital of which it was a part. Although Milton Chantry follows one of the more common plans of chantry foundations, very few of these have survived intact or are as well preserved.

History
Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

Details
The monument includes the upstanding and below ground remains of New Tavern Fort which includes within its grounds the earlier chapel or chantry associated with the Leper Hospital of St Mary the Virgin at Milton by Gravesend. The monument lies near Gravesend Pier and close to the River Thames. Both the fort and the chantry are Listed Grade II*. The chantry is situated at the north west side of the fort. New Tavern Fort was built as a result of the 1778 survey of the defensive requirements of the Thames. Fear of a French invasion led to the fort being built to provide cross fire with Tilbury on the other side of the river. Originally New Tavern Fort consisted of a battery on two faces forming an angle towards the river with a strip of rampart joining it to a smaller, straight battery, defended to the front by a flat-bottomed ditch containing a wooden palisade c.3m high. The fort was constructed of unrevetted earth and was designed for an armament of heavy, smooth-bore cannon firing through embrasures. The rear of the fort was originally open and unprotected but before the end of the century a brick wall, with loopholes for musketry, was added. Although the initial construction was between 1780 and c.1783, the armament of the fort was updated and increased at intervals throughout the 19th century. In the 1840s the fort was modernised to take a heavier armament, which involved the reconstruction of the older gun emplacements, but this did not alter the basic plan of the fort. A magazine designed to hold 250 barrels of powder was built close to the chantry building, and another smaller magazine, for 50 barrels, was established nearby. Other new buildings constructed at this time included a wash-house, coal store and a guardroom. Once again, in the 1860s and 1870s, the development of large guns forced improvements in the design and armament of coastal defences and so between 1868 and 1872 new brick emplacements for 10 heavy guns were constructed, with magazines below. Again, however, the plan of the fort was not altered. By the end of the 19th century muzzle-loaded guns had become obsolete, and the perceived danger from breech-loading weapons mounted on enemy warships meant that emphasis was placed on strengthening defences downstream from Gravesend, and thus New Tavern Fort lost some of its strategic importance. In 1905 concrete emplacements for two six-inch breech-loading guns were built, joined together by a walkway with a separate magazine underneath. Although the fort was garrisoned during World War I, its strategic importance continued to decline. In 1930 it was purchased by the Gravesend Corporation who laid it out as a pleasure garden for the public. During the Second World War the magazine built for the breech-loading guns was used for a time as an air raid shelter. Since then the site has again been cultivated as a public garden. In the north west corner of the fort is the earlier chantry building and associated priests' house. The chantry is a long, rectangular, stone-walled building with a central partition. It now contains two timber floors, which were added once the building passed into domestic use in the 16th century, along with the 17th century staircase. The stone building has been dated to c.1300, and still retains its original 14th century arch-braced roof. A timber-framed building runs out at right angles from the south wall of the chantry. This was the priests' house and contains part of an aisled hall dating to c.1321, along with a queen post roof. Both the chantry building and the priests' house were encased in red and yellow brick in the 18th and 19th centuries when they were part of the barracks of the fort. The exact origin of Milton Chantry is unknown, although lands in Essex granted to the hospital at Gravesend are mentioned in the Pipe Rolls as far back as anno 2 Henry II (1155/6). The chantry then appears to have been refounded by Aylmer de Valence, Earl of Pembroke, in 1321 when he made a grant to Roger de Stowe, master of the chantry, and all the brethren of the site and lands of the chapel and all the lands pertaining to it in the hundreds of Barnstaple and Rochford in Essex. He also directed that there should be a master priest, an assistant and two chaplains, all of whom should be appointed by the Bishop of Rochester, and that they should pray for the souls of de Valence and his family and also for the Montechasie family who had been the former lords of the manor. In 1524 an Inquisition was taken which found that the master and brethren had died without a new master being elected, and thus the chantry was automatically dissolved and passed into Crown hands. It was then granted to Sir Henry Wyatt to be refounded as a chantry of two chaplains. Sir Henry died in 1537, and by 1540 the clergy had been dismissed and the building had come into domestic use. In the late 17th century it was used as a tavern, and in 1780 the building was incorporated into the property of the New Tavern Fort as accommodation. The chantry was sold to Gravesend Council by the War Department in 1930, and during the Second World War the basement was prepared as a gas decontamination centre in anticipation of gas warfare. The building was passed into State care in 1972. All upstanding and below ground remains of the chantry and fort (including the late-C19 angle-iron ‘Dacoit’ fencing which marks the eastern boundary of the monument) are included in the scheduling. All modern features within the chantry, such as the reception bar, water heater, light fittings and the English Heritage information sign are excluded. Within the Fort Gardens all bill-boards, notice boards, information display boards, rubbish bins, dog litter bins, benches, wooden and metal railing fences, modern brick walls, brick and stone-lined flower beds, stone paving and the surfaces of all paths are excluded. Also excluded are all canon, guns and shells on display, the sentry box, toilet blocks, modern reconstructions of gun and traversing platforms, the bandstand, all concrete steps and the metal staircases which have been added to the northern magazine block, the modern structure to the north of the fort ditch, the wooden bridges in the defensive ditch, stone edging along the path half- way down the earthen revetment, all modern fittings associated with the magazines (doors, windows, notices), the modern stone `amphitheatre' built into the ditch of the fort, the wrought iron gates at the southern entrance and all below ground service trenches and their above ground access points; the ground beneath all these features is, however, included in the scheduling.

The following text is from the original listed building designation:

1. GRAVESEND 5277 New Tavern Fort TQ 6574 SW 2/89 II*
2. There have been artillery fortifications at Gravesend since the Mid Tudor Period but the earliest development of this site as part of the Thames defences against attack by sea began in 1778, prompted by the threat posed by the American War of Independence. Little trace above ground of these earlier works survives. In 186O there was a Royal Commission Report on Coastal defences and work began at Gravesend in 1869. From this period are 3 open emplacements for 9 inch rifled muzzle loading runs along the East face, built of stock brick with cambered brick arches and an unusual form of open emplacements with a heavy wrought-iron casement shield. Connecting with these is an underground brick network of shell and cartridge stores and a main magazine with shell stores. C.1905 2 concrete emplacements for 6 inch breach loading guns were established on part of North side of the fort and 2 bomb-proof shelters were built into the backs of the C19 gun emplacements.
Listing NGR: TQ6529574231

A Second World War naval radio communications centre was set up in the Victorian magazines of New Tavern Fort, a public garden off Milton Place, Gravesend. It utilised rooms within the magazines and on the surface above was a pair of 20m high metal pylons used as radio masts. The evidence of existence is physical and photographic but the evidence of function - as a radio intelligence gathering site - is entirely oral, from the recollections of participants and eye witnesses. Testimony refers to the presence of radios and desks, naval radio operators, and sleeping accommodation. It has been reported by witnesses that enemy radio intercepts were recorded and taken away each day to Bletchley Park. The centre is thought to have been commissioned in 1940 but its longevity is unknown. The masts were still present in 1945 and were probably removed by 1946. The bases of the masts are still evident.
Owner : Public
Publicly accessible : Yes
How accessed for survey : The bases of the radio masts are visible within the public park and the rooms occupied for radio purposes within the magazines are accessible during the normal opening hours of this historic building.
Tourism Potential : The site is already a tourism attraction. It could be enhanced with further interpretation once more information is known.
Condition : moderate
Date of visit : 23/01/06
(11)

A battery for two breech-loading guns was added on the north rampart of New Tavern Fort in 1904. It is 45m in length. Its guns crossed their fire with similar weapons at Tilbury Fort on the north shore of the Thames to command Gravesend Reach. It consists of two (now rearmed) concrete gun pits and flanking war shelters, connected by an open covered way. There are underlying brick-lined vaulted magazines for shells and cartridges, with ammunition lifts rising to the emplacements. On either side of the magazines are artillery and other store rooms connected with the battery. To the left of the western gun emplacement is a small rectangular concrete fire control position for a depression range finder. Disarmed by 1908, the battery remained in War Office use and was rearmed for training the Territorial Army in 1930 but was disarmed by 1938. The remainder of the fort had become a public garden in 1932. During the Second World War the magazines were a gas respirator store. Historically restored from 1975, the battery is now part of the New Tavern Fort Museum and has been rearmed (in the 1980s) with historical weapons.
Owner : Public
Publicly accessible : Yes
How accessed for survey : The battery is within a public park called the Fort Gardens
Tourism Potential : An existing tourism attraction
Condition : moderate
Date of visit : 31/01/06
(12)

A watching brief maintained during garden and modernisation works in 2011 recorded numerous walls and floors relating to structures both pre-fort and from the fort itself. (13)


Admiralty, River Thames - Tilbury to Margaretness (Chart). SWX8504.


Smith, V.T.C., 01/01/98, New Tavern Fort (Bibliographic reference). SKE13947.


Smith, V.T.C., 01/01/98, New Tavern Fort (published by Thames Defence Heritage, 1998) (Bibliographic reference). SKE14002.


Bullock, 1852, Gravesend Reach (Chart). SWX8140.


1941, Photograph (Photograph (Print)). SWX10116.


1941, Photograph (Photograph (Print)). SWX10117.


1944, Photograph (Photograph (Print)). SWX10071.


Watson-Smyth, M. (ed.), 1993, Deserted Bastions - Historic Naval and Military Architecture (Monograph). SWX9394.


Kent County Council, 1999, Survey of Kent post-1500 defence sites, KD127 (Index). SWX11828.


2000, Photograph (Photograph (Print)). SWX10287.


2000, Photograph (Photograph (Print)). SWX10288.


<1> OS Card / NAR index entry, DOE(HHR)Dist of Gravesham Kent Feb 1977 ADD. (Unpublished document). SKE6461.


<2> OS Card / NAR index entry, Post Med Arch 12 1978 110 (VTC Smith) (Unpublished document). SKE6461.


<3> OS Card / NAR index entry, The Ind Arch of SE Eng 1978 42 (AJ Haselfoot) (Unpublished document). SKE6461.


<4> OS Card / NAR index entry, A Handbook of Kent's Defences 1540-1945 1977 9 (D Bennett) (Unpublished document). SKE6461.


<5> OS Card / NAR index entry, Arch Cant 89 1974 141-68 (VTC Smith) (Unpublished document). SKE6461.


<6> OS Card / NAR index entry, Arch Cant 1975 209 (VTC Smith) (Unpublished document). SKE6461.


<7> OS Card / NAR index entry, Coast Defences of Eng and Wales 1856-1956 1974 105-6 (IV Hogg) (Unpublished document). SKE6461.


<8> Saunders, Andrew, 1995, Thames fortifications during the 16th to 19th centuries (Article in monograph). SWX9358.


<9> Smith, V.T.C., 1995, The defences of the 20th century (Article in monograph). SWX9359.


<10> Victor Smith and Andrew Saunders, 2001, Kent's Defence Heritage (Unpublished document). SKE6956.


<11> Recollections of eyewitnesses to the existence of a radio station (Miscellaneous Material). SKE14003.


<12> Victor Smith, 2013, New for old: The development of New Tavern Fort at Gravesend in the Industrial Age (Article in serial). SKE24819.


<13> Alan Ward, 2011, An archaeological watching brief at New Tavern Fort, Gravesend, Kent (Unpublished document). SKE17287.

Sources and further reading

Cross-ref. Source description
---Bibliographic reference: Smith, V.T.C.. 01/01/98. New Tavern Fort.
---Bibliographic reference: Smith, V.T.C.. 01/01/98. New Tavern Fort (published by Thames Defence Heritage, 1998).
---Photograph (Print): 1944. Photograph. 4001. print.
---Photograph (Print): 1941. Photograph. 2059. print.
---Photograph (Print): 1941. Photograph. 2061. print.
---Photograph (Print): 2000. Photograph. 194. print.
---Photograph (Print): 2000. Photograph. 196. print.
---Index: Kent County Council. 1999. Survey of Kent post-1500 defence sites. KD127.
---Chart: Bullock. 1852. Gravesend Reach. chart.
---Chart: Admiralty. River Thames - Tilbury to Margaretness. chart.
---Monograph: Watson-Smyth, M. (ed.). 1993. Deserted Bastions - Historic Naval and Military Architecture.
<1>Unpublished document: OS Card / NAR index entry. DOE(HHR)Dist of Gravesham Kent Feb 1977 ADD..
<2>Unpublished document: OS Card / NAR index entry. Post Med Arch 12 1978 110 (VTC Smith).
<3>Unpublished document: OS Card / NAR index entry. The Ind Arch of SE Eng 1978 42 (AJ Haselfoot).
<4>Unpublished document: OS Card / NAR index entry. A Handbook of Kent's Defences 1540-1945 1977 9 (D Bennett).
<5>Unpublished document: OS Card / NAR index entry. Arch Cant 89 1974 141-68 (VTC Smith).
<6>Unpublished document: OS Card / NAR index entry. Arch Cant 1975 209 (VTC Smith).
<7>Unpublished document: OS Card / NAR index entry. Coast Defences of Eng and Wales 1856-1956 1974 105-6 (IV Hogg).
<8>Article in monograph: Saunders, Andrew. 1995. Thames fortifications during the 16th to 19th centuries. 124-134.
<9>Article in monograph: Smith, V.T.C.. 1995. The defences of the 20th century. 135-143.
<10>Unpublished document: Victor Smith and Andrew Saunders. 2001. Kent's Defence Heritage.
<11>Miscellaneous Material: Recollections of eyewitnesses to the existence of a radio station.
<12>Article in serial: Victor Smith. 2013. New for old: The development of New Tavern Fort at Gravesend in the Industrial Age. Arch Cant CXXXIII 2013: 131-166.
<13>Unpublished document: Alan Ward. 2011. An archaeological watching brief at New Tavern Fort, Gravesend, Kent.

Related records

TQ 67 SE 1107Parent of: MILTON CHANTRY (Listed Building)
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