Monday, 3 May 2010

Reigate Fort

This morning I went on a guided tour of Reigate Fort on the top of Reigate Hill. Although called a 'Fort' it was never meant to be what we think of as a fort. It was originally called a Mobilisation Centre, as its main role was to supply tools and ammunition to enable soldiers, volunteers and contractors to dig entrenched positions along the North Downs to protect London from the French.

This picture shows the entrance.

The idea for a chain of military stores along the North Downs was first put forward in the mid-nineteenth century although due to lack of money and the usual government dithering progress was very slow. The final impetus to complete it came with the Fashoda Incident of 1888 (all those of you who studied ‘O’ Level history - 1870 to 1945 will no doubt recall this as the climax of imperial territorial disputes between the UK and France in East Africa). It was finally finished in 1898 but was then de-commissioned in 1907 as the British navy considered itself so powerful that no further line of defence was required.

Three buildings have been restored by the National Trust, The Tool Store, The Casemate and The Magazine. The Tool Store is a brick building, the flat roof of which in the distance. The earth mound over the Magazine can be seen next and finally the mound over the Casemate with the air vents, is in the foreground.

The Tool Store contained spades and pickaxes for digging the trenches and saws and axes for clearing trees from the firing lines. It had a flat filler joist type roof which required extensive renovation including the large steel beams. The original joists are the thin black beams – these were infilled with a relatively weak concrete mix.

The Magazine stored ammunition fuses and shells. It was covered with earth to prevent damage from enemy shelling.

The Casemate, like the Tool Store,
stored various entrenching tools. In the event of invasion, this underground building would have offered some protection from enemy shells. The roof is a strong relatively flat brick arch spanning between steel joists

The following site has many more photographs and a more detailed description of the Fort.

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