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Fletcher Battery

A Grade II Listed Building in Eastchurch, Kent

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Coordinates

Latitude: 51.4193 / 51°25'9"N

Longitude: 0.8774 / 0°52'38"E

OS Eastings: 600162

OS Northings: 172853

OS Grid: TR001728

Mapcode National: GBR STR.SS7

Mapcode Global: VHKJ9.5L69

Plus Code: 9F32CV9G+PX

Entry Name: Fletcher Battery

Listing Date: 31 August 2017

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1445810

Location: Eastchurch, Swale, Kent, ME12

County: Kent

Civil Parish: Eastchurch

Built-Up Area: Bramley Park

Traditional County: Kent

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Kent

Summary


A First World War Coastal Gun Battery built in 1917, and extended during the Second World War.

Description

A First World War Coastal Gun Battery built in 1917, and extended for the Second World War.

MATERIALS: shuttered concrete, with iron fittings.

PLAN: the First World War battery has two north facing gun emplacements set in to a revetment.

At the eastern end of the revetment there is a former fire control building. To the east and west there are machine gun pillboxes. Behind the battery there are the remains of temporary ammunition store, and a power supply building. To the north-east of the site there is a Second World War gun emplacement and ancillary building. Also from this period, to the south-east of the site there is freestanding ammunition store with two access shafts, and to the far west of the site there is a spigot mortar mounting.

DETAILS:

First World War

The two gun emplacements survive as semi-circular concrete structures set in to a concrete revetment. There are some vestigial fixtures such as fixings in the wall for the barbette platform, and hold-fasts (metal fixing bolts or plates for securing the gun mountings). Each retains their shell-shelf and a number of storage lockers. Between the two emplacements there is a section of lower concrete walling above which there are brick steps up to the former gunnery officer position. On top of the revetment and to the east, are the remains of the mount for a Bar & Stroud rangefinder. Access to the brick lined tunnel which connects the site under-ground has been blocked off. The southern face of the revetment is covered with late-C20 timber fencing with wire fencing above. To the west of the revetment a store room delineates the end of the battery. To the east there are two store rooms set into the revetment. They are formed from large concrete blocks, have flat concrete roofs, and replacement late-C20 PVC doors and windows.

To the west and east of the battery there are two sets of machine gun pillboxes. They are constructed of shuttered concrete, circular and in a group of three. The set to the west are mostly covered in an earth bank. The example to the east has a late-C20 single storey concrete store inserted to the south face. All embrasures have been filled-in to prevent access. To the south of the gun emplacements are the remains of the temporary ammunition store. The northern face comprises of an earth bank and the south face is a rendered 2m high wall with all openings blocked. Between the gun emplacements and the ammunition store is a small single-storey power supply building. It is square in plan and has a single access door to the north protected by a semi-circular blast wall. The roof is concrete and gently sloping.

Second World War

At the east end of the revetment there is a concrete two-storey former observation building. The principal and more domestic elevation faces south. The building is rectangular in plan with a projecting hexagonal section to the eastern end, and a gently sloping concrete roof. Access on this elevation is both at first-floor level via a steel external stair, and centrally at ground-floor level in the hexagonal section. There is a stone plaque set into the face of the wall commemorating Sir Richard Fletcher, and all fenestration and doors are late-C20 UPVC replacements. The northern elevation is predominantly blind but has a continuous narrow horizontal strip of replacement UPVC windows just below the roof line. It is assumed that the interior is late-C20 in character and without any military fixtures or fittings. To the east of the observation building there is a concrete topped brick corridor probably designed to give covered access to the eastern machine gun pillbox group, and the Second World War gun emplacement.

At the eastern extremity of the site there is a concrete Second World War gun emplacement. It faces north and has a blast wall to the south. It has ammunition storage lockers inset at ground level, and guide rails inset into the road surface for the blast doors (now removed). To the east of the emplacement there is a set of straight concrete stairs leading up to the top of the revetment. A late-C20 wall has been added to the rear of the emplacement along with a timber flat roof effectively creating a covered store. Inside the emplacement retains its barbette wall fixings, hold-fasts, shell-shelf and storage lockers.

Adjacent, and to the south-east there is a single-storey rectangular ancillary operations building made of concrete block-work and blind to east, north, and south. The west elevation it is broadly symmetrical, and has two access doors set into steel reinforced door frames, the example to the south having an open-sided concrete porch. The rectangular high-set windows also have reinforced frames, and paired steel-shutters. All fenestration and doors are UPVC replacements. To the south of the gun emplacement there is a dedicated ammunition store. It is broadly triangular in plan and is approximately 20m wide on each face. It is dome shaped with the apex approximately 3m above ground level. It is constructed of shuttered concrete, and to the north and west it has free-standing concrete access shafts. The shafts have double steel-doors to the upper section above a chamfered concrete band, and have flat concrete roofs. To the far west of the site there is a cylindrical concrete mortar mounting which is approximately 1m in diameter and 1.5m tall. It has a steel spigot on the top for connection to a 29mm mortar.

History

Fletcher Battery in Eastchurch was constructed in 1917 and designed to work in conjunction with the Victorian Barton's Point Battery, located a few miles further west. The combined objective was to protect the Sheerness Dockyard from German sea-borne attack. The battery is named after Sir Richard Fletcher (Baronet) (1768-1813), who is remembered for constructing the Lines of Torres Vedras between the Atlantic and Lisbon under great secrecy in 1810. He used the natural lie of the land, clearing all vegetation and constructing multiple lines of defence, all controlled by a system of flag signals. Neither Napoleon nor even the British Government were aware of the defences until Wellington utilised them later the following year. Fletcher died in action at San Sebastian on 31st August 1813, and he is commemorated on a plaque at Fletcher Battery.

The battery is situated north of Eastchurch, approximately 200m from the cliff edge, and was initially configured for two 9.2 inch breech-loader MK X guns in barbetted mountings (a protective circular armour support for a heavy gun). The guns were relocated from Slough Fort, Allhallows (National Heritage List for England reference 1393526, listed at Grade II*). They stood behind a concrete revetment which housed a tunnel probably connecting them with machine gun posts to the east and west. Aiming and elevation was determined via a Bar and Stroud rangefinder. Behind the gun emplacements there was a long linear temporary ammunition store, connected to the gun emplacements by a light railway. The wider site was protected by a diamond shaped ditch which is no longer extant.

After the First World War the site was selected for permanent retention in 1920, and at some time before the Second World War, barrack rooms were constructed outside the site perimeter to the south-west. By the Second World War, the battery was enlarged with the addition of a third gun emplacement to the east. The temporary ammunition stores were replaced by two larger subterranean stores. The one to the south-west of the site was connected to the two original guns by a light railway. The example to the east was built to serve the third emplacement, which also had the benefit of an adjacent hardened operations building. The combined site was now controlled by a new observation building built into the east end of the original revetment and connected by a tunnel to the original emplacements, and by a covered walkway to the third emplacement. A 29mm mortar was also added to the north-west of the site for close protection from a cliff assault.

During the Second World War the battery was used for counter-bombardment and after the addition of the third gun in 1943, was used for night time long-range fire, probably in conjunction with the Red Sand Fort which is located towards the middle of the Thames estuary.

The 9.2-inch gun retained its importance in British coastal defence for more than fifty years until the mid-C20. However, by the early 1950s the decision was made that aircraft and guided missiles were more effective in addressing an invasion, or long-range attacks. Fletcher Battery was disarmed in 1953 and all guns removed a year later. In the later part of the C20 the site became a static caravan park. The south-west ammunition store is no longer extant and the caravan site clubhouse now stands on its base. Some metal fixtures and fittings have been removed from the gun emplacements, and the Second World War example has been temporarily converted to a garage by the addition of a late-C20 wall and timber roof. The eastern ammunition store has had its earth covering removed, exposing the concrete construction and access shafts.

Reasons for Listing

Fletcher Battery, a First World War Coastal Gun Battery built in 1917 and extended during the Second World War, is listed at Grade II, for the following principal reasons:
Historic interest:
* whilst a number of defence positions were updated for the First World War, Fletcher Battery is a rare survivor of a 9.2 inch battery that was designed and built specifically for this conflict;
* *as an evolutionary site that furthers our understanding of early-C20 coastal defences. It is also a reminder that during the First World War, the concept of attack on the home-front, by air and sea became a reality.
Group Value:
* the Battery is historically linked with the defences of Sheerness Dockyard and the wider Thames Estuary.

Architectural interest:
* although there have been some losses and alterations, examples of all the main components survive and the lay-out of the site is still legible, allowing both the First and Second World phases to be understood;


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