Cliffe Fort, Kent
Mead Wall, NW of Rochester
Off Salt Lane
Cliffe Fort stands at the northern edge of a RSPB reserve, where it meets the River Thames. It is one of five surviving coastal forts in the Thames and Medway; the others are Coalhouse, Garrison Point, Hoo and Darnet. All are these are Royal Commission Coastal Forts built in the 19th century.
The point at which Cliffe Fort was built was carefully chosen as it stands at the point where the Thames Estuary suddenly narrows and on a bend in the river making the site an ideal spot to hamper and deny enemy shipping to access London. Together, with other river defences at Shornmead Fort and Coalhouse Fort, formed an outer line of defence with Gravesend and Tilbury Forts, a little further upstream, forming an inner defence line.
Today Cliffe Fort shows signs of neglect and has seriously deteriorated over the past few years and is now badly flooded. The site is privately owned surrounded by a working quarry, but the Saxon Shore coastal path from the RSPB reserve takes you close to the fort.
A lovely walk on a sunny day from the RSPB car park towards thefort along the Saxon Shore coastal path.
~ History ~
1859 ~ A Royal commision is completed for the construction of forts to be built to protect access to the River Thames and London.
1861 ~ Work begins at Cliffe Fort, taking nine years to complete at a cost of £162,937. During construction the gravel upon which the fort is being built is found to be sixty feet deep. The fort requires thirty-foot long piles to be driven into the ground.
1865 ~ Construction reports subsidence difficulties with walls cracking. It is therefore decided to build the fort much smaller than originally planned.
1870 ~ A dry ditch is added to the completed fort's defences prior to a garrison of of up to 300 men arriving to take up their posts.
1890 ~ A wire guided torpedo defence system is built into the forts defences, with further armament updates for the rest of its history into the second World War.