Fort Amherst is Britain's largest Napoleonic fort and was built to protect Chatham Docks by attack from the land. Although described as Napoleonic, Fort Amherst actually traces its origins back to the Dutch Raid on Chatham in 1667. The Royal docks were plundered, thirteen ships destroyed and two (including the flagship Royal Charles) were taken by the Dutch Navy. Fort Amherst was part of the subsequent defences put in place to ensure nothing like this could happen again.
|Guns line the Ramparts around the site|
|Large parts of the Fort are yet to be restored.|
Its been a long time since I was last at this site and a lot has changed. Above ground the extensive Chatham Lines and outer defences of the fort have now been opened to public right of way. Its is possible to walk unobstructed across the whole of the site. Fort Amherst Heritage Trust now owns and manages over 20 acres and is restoring the fort one section at a time.
The Fort was an important part of the regions defences during WWII. The tunnels were utilised by the Anti-Invasion Planning Unit and by Civil Defence, who used a section as their headquarters. The Civil Defence role was particularly important as it coordinated services for the whole of the North Kent area in the event of bombing.
|Tank Traps in the Memorial Garden|
|3.7 Inch Heavy Anti Aircraft Gun|
Below ground there are extensive tunnels and walkways through the chalk hills linking the various sections of the site.
|Tunnels below the fort snake through the chalk hill|
|Recreation of the ARP station that was sited inside the tunnels at Fort Amherst|
The volunteers at Fort Amherst run tunnel tours twice a day at 11am and 2pm. The tours last about 90 minutes and are very interesting. One word of warning though, the tunnels are extensive and the tour route includes several sets of steep stairs, so if you have mobility issues its worth planning ahead and asking if special tours can be organised. Having said that the standard tour isn't too taxing and gives the visitor a unique view of the hidden site below ground.