Site Records

SiteName: Grain Fort

East of Green Lane
Grain, Kent
OS Grid Ref: TQ891767

Sub Brit site visit 11.6.1999

[Source: Nick Catford]

Grain Fort was one of a number of forts built to defend the Thames Estuary. It was built between 1861 and 1868 and consisted of a polygonal earthwork around a central semi-circular keep. There was an outer ditch with four caponiers and a second inner ditch between the earthwork and the keep defended by a further five caponiers. The main magazine was located beneath the keep with tunnels linking to the caponiers and the ammunition lift to the gun emplacements above.

The only surviving ammunition lift at Grain
Photo:The only surviving ammunition lift at Grain
Photo by Nick Catford

The fort remained operational throughout WW1 and WW2 and was finally abandoned in 1956. The keep and all other surface buildings were demolished during the 1960's and the whole area was in-filled with soil and rubble as were the emplacements on the terreplein. Apart from the earthwork itself there is now little evidence of the fort to the untrained eye other than two brick retaining walls at either end of the earth work and remnants of the in-filled emplacements. The network of underground tunnels and magazines must, however, remain intact beneath the ground.

When inspected in 1998, the truncated end of one of the outer caponiers was visible in the ditch and a small hole in the concrete proved beyond doubt that at least one tunnel still existed although the size of the hole, a mere 3 inches across, left little scope for further exploration.

Pan of the accessible underground features
Plan of the accessible underground features
Surveyed and drawn by Nick Catford

Since that date the hole has got progressively larger, no doubt the children from the local council estate have spent many hours chipping away at the concrete and when inspected again in June 1999 it was found to be man sized. On the 11th of June 1999 a party from Subterranea Britannica, Kent Underground Research Group and the Kent Defence Research Group entered the tunnels.

The drawbridge in Caponier 2
Photo:The drawbridge in Caponier 2
Photo by Nick Catford

The hole was in the top of the wall sealing the butchered end of Caponier No. 2 (As labeled by RCHME [now part of English Heritage] in their 1998 survey of the fort). The passage entered was of brick arched construction and painted white. After a few yards the demolished section of the caponier has been backfilled into the passage but it is possible to clamber over the large blocks of rubble and past 24 metres there is a pit in the floor, 1.8 metres deep. It is dry and contains a little rubble and is bridged by a sturdy wooden plank. This was the site of a chicane or small drawbridge, a remnant of the wooden decking still remains in place and the pivot and counter balances are inset into either wall and are not accessible. Examples can still be seen in the Detached Bastion at Western Heights in Dover and at Fort Purbrook. There is a metal grill in the arching above the chicane. At this point the passage narrows from 2.5 metres to 1.5 meters, turning to the north west and sloping gently upwards.

The junction with Caponier No 2 and the passage around the magazine
Photo:The junction with Caponier No 2 and the passage around the magazine
Photo by Nick Catford

After 19 metres a junction in reached. Turning left there is a doorway on the left after 10 metres leading into what is described in an 1895 plan of the underground elements of the fort as a 'shell store', but the shape and size of the room doesn't match the plan so this store may have been at another level. This is a small room measuring 3 metres by 3 metres. There is a hand cranked cartridge lift for the 10 inch H.P.B.L. (installed around 1895) still in situ but the shaft is capped about 20 feet above. The room has three small recesses in the wall. The remains of three metal beds are leaning against the wall.

Further information and pictures about this site continues here

[Source: Nick Catford]

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