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GES260 - No.1 The Thames

Built in 1855, the Grain Battery Tower was built to protect the dockyards of Chatham, Sheerness, and of course The Thames. It's design is based on the Martello Towers, built to defend the country from Napolean. The tower had a vertical extension during WWI, where two 4.7" guns were attached to the tower, and a mechanized artillery lift was fitted, to raise ammunition to the cannons on top of the fort. A boom was also laid between the Grain Fort and the Grain Battery (now demolished) at Sheerness. The only remainder being the huge chain wrapped around the fort's base. The tower lay dormant until World War II, when 3 modern twin 6 pounder Quick Firing artillery guns were placed on the roof, and 60 servicemen were lodged here in a newly built brick extension. In the 1950s with modern artillery improving in it's destructive abilities, the fort was no longer of use, and abandoned. The property has been up for sale for decades, with various plans as to what purpose it might serve. They can be seen here.

The fort sits around 800m off the coast, and it's causeway footpath has seen better days. I arrived with my pregnant partner, who only had trainers on. I had military boots and hoped they'd keep my feet dry. The walk was a mish mash of solid stone path and dancing over pools of mud and sea water. On arrival an aluminium ladder provided a way up to the buildings. The original Tower can be seen here, with the WWI vertical extension on top, and the WWII dark brick extension on the side.

Looking from the extension across to the keystone in the Fort's original base.

I set about getting to the roof for some panoramic pics. It was here I became aware of the darkening skies. Barely visible below, GE070 and her friend coming across to the Fort. We had originally arranged to have a picnic on the roof. However the weather had turned since the sun that morning.

The Thames and Medway estuary, the Fort sits in the middle of both estuaries.

Looking across The Medway river estuary to Sheerness Docks.

The 1940 extension to house 60 troops who were stationed here. Oddly 'Frank' was the nickname my wife and I had given to our unborn child.

The artillery lift on the roof, built for the first World War. No evidence suggests the fort was ever actually used.

A former placement for one of the artillery guns, protecting the Thames.

Decaying artillery gun placement, with Sheerness across the Medway in the background.

Inside the original Grain Fort, with it's massively thick walls. Now defenceless against modern artillery.

From below, the artillery lift to the roof.

The structural supports slowly falling apart in the WWII extension.

The rain had become continuous at this point. What should have been a happy trip, had turned sour. The rain wasn't the main problem, the thunderstorm that had fired up was! Equally the tide had started to return as well. As can be seen on the left in the pic above. My wife wasn't happy as the coast is exposed with few places to take shelter. Eventually there was nothing to it, but to run back across the causeway. GE070 and friend were a little less concerned, and started back at a less speedy pace. In my mind were thoughts that I might never see my child, zapped by lightening on the exposed causeway. Silly maybe, but it happens all the time to golfers and hikers. Thankfully I made it back, and after ducking and diving, we made it back to a small shipyard, with a building full of smoking and boozing eastern europeans. My wife stood outside under the overhang of the roof. When GE070 turned up, she had no hesitation but to mingle with those inside. Thankfully after half an hour, the storm died down a bit, and we ran back to the car. All four of us retiring to the local pub for a well earned pint and to dry out!


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