Tuesday, 24 July 2012

I have been to ... New Tavern Fort, Gravesend

I decided to take a break from visiting my father and to give myself some ‘me’ time. Having me out of the house also gave my wife some time to herself … something that is also important. I had wanted to visit New Tavern Fort in Gravesend for some time, and as it is only 30 minutes or so drive from my house, I decided that it was going to be my destination.

The Fort was originally built in the 1780s as part of the anti-invasion defences along the Thames. It was located very close to the position occupied by the earlier Gravesend Blockhouse that Henry VIII ordered to be built in 1539. New Tavern Fort was remodelled in 1848 and extensively rebuilt between 1868 and 1872 as part of the Royal Commission Scheme. It was also rearmed with ten 9-inch and one 12-inch RML (Rifled Muzzle-Loading) Guns. It is worth noting that during this period Colonel (later General) Charles Gordon was in command of the Royal Engineers in Gravesend and supervised the work being carried out.

The fort was again re-modelled and re-armed in 1904. The main armament of the Fort was now two 6-inch BL (Breech Loading) Guns, located so that they commanded the bend in the River Thames in both directions.

Today the Fort is owned and maintained by Gravesham Council. The area around the Fort is used as a recreational park, and it has a nearby car park, the foot entrance to which is located in the aptly named Khartoum Place.

An aerial view of New Tavern Fort.

A plan of New Tavern Fort. The plan is orientated with the east to the top and the north (i.e. the river-facing side of the Fort) to the left.

The entrance to the Fort has been landscaped. On the left-hand side there is little evidence of the Fort's defences ...

... but on the right-hand side several of the old muzzle-loading guns that formed part of the Fort's Victorian armament have been remounted on replica traversing carriages.

The main brick-built part of the Victorian Fort lines the wall facing the River Thames.

Gravesham Council have mounted a plaque in the gardens that commemorates General Gordon's association with Gravesend in general and New Tavern Fort in particular.

The Victorian Fort was modernised in the early years of the twentieth century and the Victorian artillery was replaced by two 6-inch BL Guns that were mounted on the Fort's water-side parapet.

One part of the Victorian Fort that appears to remain very much as it was built is the chapel.

The left-hand 6-inch BL Gun.

This photograph gives some idea how the New Tavern Fort's position allows it to cover the River Thames. The 6-inch guns would have done serious damage to any warship trying to pass up (or down) river.

The right-hand 6-inch gun. As befits any relic of Britain's history, someone has felt the need to 'personalise' it with graffiti. The breech has been caged in to prevent anyone putting their hand in the mechanism and having an accident.

The following photograph shows how little of either of the 6-inch guns is visible from outside the Fort. The gun shields, the masonry, and the earth bank would have made them difficult to knock out during an artillery duel with passing warships.

The Fort also contains a variety of twentieth century artillery pieces including a static 3.7-inch anti-aircraft gun, ...

... two different 40mm Bofors Guns, and a 25-pounder Gun/Howitzer.

There are also some older artillery pieces including a small muzzle-loading cannon mounted on some form of garrison mounting, ...

... a replica 9-inch 12-ton RML Gun on a traversing carriage within an armoured casemate, ...

... a replica 9-inch 12-ton RML Gun on a traversing carriage behind the brick and earth parapet on the eastern side of the Fort, ...

... and an earlier smooth-bore, muzzle-loading gun (possibly a 24-pounder?) that is also mounted on a traversing carriage behind the east-facing brick and earth parapet.

I enjoyed my visit to New Tavern Fort, and on what was the hottest day of 2012 the cool breeze off the River Thames made my visit all the more bearable ... as did the drink I had in the small café located on the waterfront below the Fort.


  1. Fascinating post
    Thanks Bob :)

    PS "Me" time is ultra important
    Best Wishes

  2. Good use of your 'me' time Bob!

    An interesting collection of guns and fortifications, and only 30 minutes from your house.

    I must have a think and then have a look about my local area. I know that there is Mons Meg at Edinburgh Castle as well as the One O'Clock gun and some smoothbores. There are bound to be others in the area.


  3. Geordie an Exiled FoG,

    New Tavern Fort is a very interesting place, and is worth an hour of anyone's time to visit.

    I should have visited it years ago ... but I kept telling myself 'it is not that far, so I can go anytime'. In the end it proved to be an excellent place for me to have some 'me' time, which - as you write - is very important, especially when life is a bit hectic and uncertain.

    All the best,


  4. Jim Duncan,

    It was a very restful thing to do (both the visit and writing up the blog entry), and gave me time to think about something other than my father's current situation.

    There are actually quite a lot of places to visit within a realatively short distance of where I live ... and I am sure that same is true of most places within the UK.

    Had one plan gone ahead, I would actually be living right next to a large Victorian fortress. They were going to build London's last line of defence on top of Shooters Hill (it would have defended the Dover to London road AKA Watling Street) ... but then the UK and France became friends and it was never built.

    All the best,


  5. Pat G,

    It was my pleasure to share them with you.

    All the best,


  6. Les,

    You are to all intents and purposes absolutely correct. Along with Tilbury and Coalhouse Fort, this stretch of the Thames was heavily fortified.

    All the best,