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Gravesham has a fascinating cluster of historic defences that have been a feature of the Lower Thames and its estuary since the Iron Age. Each of the sites listed sheds a fascinating light on how Britain’s protected its shores over the centuries.


Take the Crossfire Trail between New Tavern Fort and Tilbury Fort to appreciate the thinking that lay behind these defences – a walk through the different technologies and approaches put in place for an enemy attack, that more often than not, never came.

Gravesend’s Tudor Blockhouse

This artillery fortification was built on the orders of King Henry VIII in response to fear of invasion from European rivals of the time. Operational by 1540, the two storey D-shaped gun tower complemented Tilbury Fort across the river. It was repaired in 1588 the year of the Spanish Armada, , and again in 1667 when the Dutch navy raided the Thames.


New Tavern and Shornemead Forts

These defences were constructed against the threat of foreign invasion and to protect the river route to London.

New Tavern Fort, Gravesend was built during the American War of Independence. There were fears at the time of the potential for attacks by France and Spain in support of the United States. While no invasion took place, it retained an active defensive role until the Second World War.

Shornemead Fort was built in the 1860s to guard the entrance to the Thames from the French, during a time of high tension. Its strategic location provided long views up and down the river. Decommissioned in the 1950s, only the casemates and magazines survive thanks to the site being used to hone the demolition skills of the Royal Engineers.


Nuclear protection

The Cold War bunker in Woodlands Park, Gravesend is a compelling example of the steps taken in the middle of the 20th Century when the fear of nuclear war was at its height.

The underground command post, built in 1954, would have co-ordinated civil defence in the event of a nuclear attack. Tours of the facility can be booked throughout the year, with the bunker refurbished and re-equipped to look as it would have done when it first opened.

Visit Gravesend
Visit Gravesend
Gravesham Borough Council
Civic Centre, Windmill Street
DA12 1AU
01474 337600