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Fort Amherst Heritage Trust and Medway Council get £1.8m from Heritage Lottery Fund for Command of the Heights

By Clare Freeman

Work to open up Fort Amherst, Chatham, to the public began in the 1980s and the final stage can now get under way thanks to the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Fort Amherst Heritage Trust and Medway Council have secured the money to help the area reconnect with its military roots and discover secrets from the past.

An archaeological dig in The Sunken Courtyard

An archaeological dig in The Sunken Courtyard

The archaeological exploration and regeneration project, named Command of the Heights, will create a new entrance to the fort, restore the Spur Battery, create a 250-seat amphitheatre, and demolish Riverside One to reveal the Barrier Ditch.

Trust chairman Les Snowdon said: “This grant will enable the trust to realise a long-held ambition to open the Spur Battery to the public and at the same time provide the people of the Medway Towns an exciting new outdoor performing arts arena.

“Our trustees, staff and volunteers are looking forward to the opportunities this brings to the fort, as reconnecting the barrier ditch to the River Medway restores physically and historically our close relationship to the river and the dockyard the fort was built to protect.

Les Snowdon, chairman of Fort Amherst Heritage Trust

Les Snowdon, chairman of Fort Amherst Heritage Trust

“We hope many people will be as excited by this announcement as we are and will want to become involved with the project.”

Riverside One sits inside the Barrier Ditch, which was built during the Seven Years War (1754-1763), and the unassailable ditch and embankment were a critical part of the defences, dividing the military and civilian areas of Chatham.

Buried beneath the surface are likely to be cannons and other military items.

The amphitheatre in the courtyard. Picture Medway Council

The amphitheatre in the courtyard. Picture: Medway Council

Plans include a play area. Picture Medway Council

Plans include a play area. Picture: Medway Council

The Spur Battery was once used for troop encampments, siege warfare training and military punishment. It is the final part of the fort to be restored.

Work will run from January 2018 to June 2020 and there will be lots of ways the public can get involved from archaeology digs to cataloguing the collection.

The money is the second round of Lottery funding for the project following a grant of £214,000 in June 2015 to develop the plans.

To find out how to get involved with the project, visit www.fortamherst.com

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