Fort Horsted is at the southern end of Maidstone Road ,Chatham and off City Way near Rochester Airport. It was the largest of the five forts built to defend the Eastern approach to chatham Dockyard,where the new Iron-clad warships were to be constructed at the end of the 19th century. The other forts being Fort Borstal,Fort Bridgewoods,Fort Luton and Fort Darland.
Fort Horsted is about 3 miles from Chatham Dockyard and at the time any invading enemy would of had to get past the forts to attack the Dockyard.
Fort Horsted was first started in 1880,then after some delay finally finished in 1889. It was named after "Horsa" who had been a Saxon King.
The shape of the fort is like a six sided arrowhead and would have housed a Garrison of about 400. Although it was never permanently armed,in a time of invasion it would have been armed with:
8x8" Howitzers on recoilless Carriages.
12x20 Pounder RBL (Rifled Breech Loading) guns.
13x64 Pounder RML (Rifled Muzzle Loading) guns.
12x32 Pounder Smooth Bore BL (Breech Loading) guns.
The two front and two side dry ditches around the fort,were defended by Counterscarp galleries,which were accesable by steps and tunnels down and under the ditches. It was first intended Smooth bore Cannon would be used for this purpose but by 1890 Machine guns would of been used. There is one Counterscarp gallery on the left and one on the right,and in the centre there are double counterscarp galleries. Also in the counterscarp galleries are open gaps in the walls,which in the event of an attack and a suspected mine (tunnel) being dug by the enemy,this opening could be dug out from to meet the enemies mine and explosives used to blow up the enemies tunnel.
At the rear of the fort would have been a movable entrance drawbridge (now a fixed bridge). The rear ditches were defended from flanking fire from embrassures in the main fort.
The fort also has large Reservoirs which are header tanks to supply water via pipes for Fort Luton and Fort Bridgewoods. "The forts were not linked together by tunnels though"
Inside the entrance to the fort is a wide long tunnel that leads through the centre of the fort. Just inside the entrance are some Casemates that would of been a Guardroom,Quartermaster's Store and main ablutions and also access to the Casemates that defended the rear ditches.
Two tunnels lead off Left and Right at the junction of the main tunnel,these lead to six Casemates on the left and seven on the right,these Casemates were Barrack accomodation. In front of the junction on the main tunnel on the left,are three Main Magazines with lighting passages.
There was ten Expense Magazines in the fort connected by a tunnel that ran in a semi-circle around the fort. The Expense Magazines provided Shells to serving rooms directly above them using a hoist.
At the front of the fort are some more Casmates which would of been used for living accomodation for the gun crews. There are tunnels at the back of these Casemates which lead to the Counterscarp galleries,and to some of the expense magazines.
The fort was used by a small Garrison from the Royal Ordnance Corps and later the Royal Artillery,although much of their activeties was covered by the official secrets act it is known that the fort was used in the manufacture and storage of ammunition.
In WWII a light Anti-Aircraft emplacement of 3.7" and Bofors guns were installed. Also the fort was used as a Depot for Ammunition.
In the early 60's the fort was no longer needed by the Military and sold for £10,000 to a development company in 1963.
Over the following years the fort was owned by various owners and in 1972 an application was made to demolish the fort and build new homes,Luckily after a two day public enquiry Geoffrey Rippon,Secretary of state for the enviroment stated the fort was an ancient monument of great local importance,and the application was denied.
By 1976 the fort was owned by a tyre company and the dry ditches were completely filled by tyres,as were much of the tunnels. On July 7th 1976 a huge fire broke out and at it's height 50 firefighters were in attendance.
Over the next years the site was used by car breaking businesses but the fort fell into disrepair. English Heritage and the Enviroment agency tried to make the owners remove all the tyres and clear up the site,but the owners decided to put the fort up for auction instead.
1n 1997 the fort was bought and all the tyres were removed and the site was cleaned up. The new owners then started to develop the site for business units,staying within the guidelines for the restoration and renovation of Historic sites,but they were allowed to make some modern developments.
By 2005 ten Casemates had been renovated and equiped with modern energy efficent systems and were let out to businesses. Also there is a new building in the fort and the construction of another one for use by businesses.
2007 was the official launch of "Fort Horsted Business Centre" and it runs workshops and other products and sevices from the fort.
Many Thanks to Paul and Matt from Fort Horsted for guiding us around the fort, and well done on all their hard work on the restoration work they have carried out.
Also Cheers to Barry of Underground Kent for arranging this visit.
Please Note: The Fort is on Private Property.
Main Magazines on the left.
Renovated Magasines now used as Business units,originally for Barrack Accomodation.
Steps leading down to under the ditch and up to the Counterscarp Galleries.
Loopholes inside the Counterscarp Gallery.
Part of the dry ditch.
Counterscarp Galleries as seen from the ditch.