It started more than three decades ago, but now a project to restore one of Medway’s oldest military sites, is one step closer to completion thanks to a £200,000 grant.
Work to restore Fort Amherst began in the 1980s and a new project will help the fort and surrounding area reconnect with its military roots and uncover secrets from the past.
The Fort Amherst Heritage Trust and Medway Council have secured a £214,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to develop plans for the project, Command of the Heights.
Keith Gulvin, one of the fort’s original trustees, said: “This valuable funding represents the last major piece of a twenty acre jigsaw which will have taken over three decades to complete.
“The work will be the culmination of a project started in 1984 that has continued relentlessly thanks to the dedication of our trustees and volunteers who have donated their time, energy and skills to the project – all that has been missing is the financial support required for such expensive work, which this grant from HLF will now provide.”
The huge project will include the demolition of Riverside One, which sits within the walls of the historically important Barrier Ditch.
The Ditch, a critical part of the defences, was built during the Seven Years War (1754-1763) and ran from the Riverside One building across into the fort.
During the restoration process, cannons and other military items are expected to be discovered buried beneath the surface.
Cllr Rodney Chambers, who is in charge of investment and partnerships, said: “I am pleased we have been successful in securing funding for what is going to be an exciting project in Chatham.
“There is a lot to learn about the area’s military and naval history, and through Command of the Heights we hope to capture the imagination of Medway residents and those from further afield.”
Command of the Heights will also see the creation of a new entrance to Fort Amherst from Chatham town centre as well as the restoration of the Spur Battery which will be transformed into an amphitheatre.
Once the plans are complete, the council will apply for a further £2m from the HLF to complete the archaeological exploration and regeneration work. Restoration works are expected to run from early 2017 to late 2018.
Throughout the project there will be many opportunities for the public to be involved in events such as community archaeology and much more.
Stuart McLeod, Head of HLF South East, said: “We’re delighted to support this ambitious project which will create both a physical and learning gateway into a fascinating part of Chatham’s rich history.
“As well as restoring the remnants of the past, the involvement of the local community will ensure these stories are not forgotten. We look forward to seeing the plans develop.”
Command of the Heights is an extension of the HLF funded Command of the Oceans programme running at the Historic Dockyard, Chatham.
Facilities currently at Riverside One will relocate to Kingsley House, Gillingham, in July.