Published: Thursday, 31st January 2019

Work has begun to reconnect Chatham with its military roots as part of a large heritage project.

 
The Command of the Heights is a joint project between Medway Council and the Fort Amherst Heritage Trust which aims to reconnect Chatham with its military roots.
 
The significant heritage regeneration project has secured £1.78 million from the National Lottery Heritage Fund. The council is also contributing £400,000.
 
Work began at Fort Amherst in Chatham in October 2018 to create a new entrance to the fort from Chatham town centre and to transform the Spur Battery. The Spur Battery is the highest part of Chatham within Fort Amherst and was once used for troop encampments, siege warfare training and military punishment. It will be transformed into an amphitheatre with seating for more than 200 visitors for outdoor performances. The restoration will also open up more green space at Great Lines Heritage Park. 
 
Work has now begun to carefully demolish Riverside One which sits within the walls of the historically important Barrier Ditch. The ditch was built during the Seven Years War (1754-1763) and ran from where Riverside One stands across into Fort Amherst. It was a critical part of the defences - an un-scalable ditch and embankment which dramatically divided the military and civilian areas of Chatham. During the restoration process cannons and other military items could be discovered buried beneath the surface. The area will be opened up as greenspace and, through landscaping design and signage, highlight the history of the site and its links to Fort Amherst and the Historic Dockyard Chatham. 
 
The construction works are due to be completed later on this year. 

Rich military history

 
Leader of Medway Council, Cllr Alan Jarrett, said: “We are extremely proud of Medway’s rich military history and the Command of the Heights project is in a fantastic location – just along the river from the Historic Dockyard Chatham. 
“This is a very exciting time for Chatham. Our Chatham Placemaking Project is nearing completion and we have heavily invested in Chatham, Medway’s city centre, which is attracting new businesses, such as shops and restaurants to the area. 
“I would encourage residents to find out more about the Command of the Heights project and to support their local town centres.” 

'Major step towards complete restoration'

 
Keith Gulvin, Trustee of the Fort Amherst Heritage Trust, said: “Fort Amherst Heritage Trust sees this exiting project as a major step towards the complete restoration and interpretation of the Fort, which is a unique element of our local heritage. Three important long term  goals will have been achieved.  The historical views up the Barrier Ditch will be re-established, reconnecting the Fort to the town of Chatham. It will now be possible for visitors to enter the Fort via the original front door, via Barrier Road and the Gate House for the first time in over a century. Most importantly Spur Battery and its planned events amphitheatre will be fully assessable making all parts of the Fort available to visitors for the first time ever.”

'Exciting development for Chatham'

 

Stuart McLeod, Head of the National Lottery Heritage Fund South East, said: “This is an exciting development for Chatham, which, thanks to National Lottery players, will soon see the unique heritage of Fort Amherst restored to its former glory and transformed into an open events space that everyone will be proud of.”
 
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