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Image: Archcliffe Fort after the building of the new A20 in the 1990s.

Archcliffe Fort after the building of the new A20 in the 1990s.

Archcliffe Fort stands on a headland overlooking the harbour, known as Archcliffe Point. In 1370 a watchtower, surrounded by a chalk bank and ditch was built on the site of the present Archcliffe Fort. This fortification remained substantially unchanged until 1539 when Henry VIII ordered that a substantial ‘bulwark’ be constructed. Later when the Spanish Armada threatened the south coast, this fort had to be strengthened.

Again, in the reign of James I, it became necessary to spend more money on the repair of the fort. This was in 1624 during the war in the Netherlands, when an army of 12,000 men was brought to Dover and embarked for Holland. After the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660, the fort was fully manned with a captain, a lieutenant, an ensign, a sergeant, two corporals, sixty soldiers, one drummer, one gunner and two matrosses (assistant gunners). As soon as it became evident Charles II was safely established on the throne, an order was issued in June 1661 reducing the manning levels at the fort to a captain, lieutenant and four gunners.

In the 1750s work was carried out on the fort, building two new guard houses, raising a parapet and constructing new barracks. In 1780, with war against France raging, £1,200 was spent bringing the fort up to date. During the Napoleonic Wars additional money was spent on the fort, despite it being considered obsolete. The military considered the expense worthwhile until the developments on the Western Heights became operational.

On 7 February 1844 the South Eastern Railway opened its line to Dover from Folkestone. The company’s station was reached by means of two short tunnels under the south west corner of the fort. A report in 1847 stated that the fort was armed with six 32 pounder guns mounted on traversing platforms. Its masonry walls were in good order having the appearance of being recently restored. An additional 32 pounder gun was mounted so as to fire over the rampart, and was used for general artillery practice. In 1872 the fort was re-armed with five new 10 inch guns and a 7 inch gun on a Moncrieff disappearing carriage. The advantage of this type of carriage was that the gun was lowered below the parapet for reloading, protecting the gunners from enemy fire.
The fort was not upgraded during the First World War other than the mounting of some small calibre, quick firing guns to prevent landing parties taking advantage of the shelter of the cliff face. In the early 1920s the railway’s demand for more tracks resulted in parliamentary permission being given for the removal of the southern half of the fort.

Little used during the Second World War, by 1956 the Ministry of Defence no longer considered it a military installation. In 1979 it was transferred to the hands of the Department of the Environment and scheduled as and Ancient Monument. During the construction of the new A20, in the 1990s, part of the entrance and the dry moat had to be destroyed. In 1995 work started to convert the fort for use by the Emmaus Community, a group working to help homeless people by providing accommodation and work for them. The fort now provides accommodation and workshops, where old furniture is recycled and sold in the shop on the premises.

Image: The Moncrieff disappearing carriage in action.

The Moncrieff disappearing carriage in action.

 

 


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