Upnor Castle, Kent…

Upnor Castle is an artillery fort located in the village of Upnor in Kent. Constructed between 1559 – 1567, it was constructed to a design by Sir Richard Lee to defend the Royal Navy dockyard at Chatham and ships anchored in the Medway. The castle was constructed on the orders of Elizabeth I (1558 – 1603) and consisted of a main block, water bastion and river frontage.

In 1599 – 1601, the castle was remodelled. Two riverside towers were rebuilt, a gatehouse, moat and curtain wall were added. The castle is constructed of ragstone faced with course ashlar blocks. Some red bricks were also used.

In June 1667, a Dutch squadron under the command of Michiel de Ruyter mounted a raid on the Medway, capturing two ships and burning others at anchor at Chatham. This defeat, was one of the worst in Royal Navy history and showed how inadequate the Medway defences were, including Upnor Castle. Though it should be noted that Upnor Castle had been neglected of investment, but acquitted itself better than some of the other Medway defences.

After the Dutch attack, the castle was retired from service as new and more advanced forts were built to protect the dockyard. Instead the castle was was used as a store and magazine. Works to the castle to make it fit for this purpose were undertaken, including the main building of the castle which had to be heightened and its floors reinforced.

In 1827, the castle ceased being used as a store and magazine, instead it was used as a ordnance laboratory.  Later, in 1891, the castle came under the control of the Admiralty, ending the relationship where the Admiralty had managed the site and the War Office had funded it.

After the First World War (1914 – 1918), the castle became a Royal Naval armaments depot. During this time, weapons and explosives were tested at the castle. From the 1920s onward, the castle was a museum, though during the Second World War (1939 – 1945) the castle was still in use as part of the Magazine Establishment, with the castle being bombed in 1941.

After the war in 1945, the castle was opened to the public as a departmental museum by the Admiralty. The castle was restored at this time.

Today, the castle is managed by Medway Council and is open to the public.

Upnor Castle Gatehouse
Upnor Castle Gatehouse
Upnor Castle Gatehouse
Upnor Castle Gatehouse
Upnor Castle
Upnor Castle
Upnor Castle
Upnor Castle

St Leonard’s Tower, Kent…

St Leonard’s Tower is located in the Kent town of West Malling and takes its name from a chapel that stood nearby.

It is not clear who built the tower, it is thought that it was either constructed by Bishop Gundulf between 1077 and 1108, or by Bishop Odo of Bayeux. Odo was the half brother of William I (the Conqueror) and held lands in West Malling. Odo was also Earl of Kent between 1067 and 1088.

Thought to have been constructed as a tower keep, the exact function of the building has also attracted some debate. It has been suggested that the tower is in fact the tower of the former St Leonard’s chapel that stood nearby.

St Leonard’s Tower is thought to stand to very nearly its original height to this very day. The tower originally had three floors, with two floors above the basement and the original entrance being on the first floor would have been accessed via a wooden staircase, as was common with tower keeps of the period. A later entrance was added at basement level.

Today St Leonard’s Tower is managed by English Heritage and is visitable during reasonable daylight hours.

St Leonard's Tower
St Leonard’s Tower