Significant archaeological finds have been made accessible to local residents for the first time in nearly 300 years thanks to a £2.2 million heritage project.
As part of the 'Command of the Heights' project, the former Riverside One building next to Chatham Library was demolished to make way for a new public space with seating and information boards.
The building sat within the walls of the Barrier Ditch, which was built during the Seven Years War (1754-1763) and ran up into Fort Amherst. It was a critical part of the defences - an un-scalable ditch and embankment which divided the military and civilian areas of Chatham.
During the work, builders discovered significant archaeological finds including the buried wall of the ditch itself and three casemates, which would have been used to defend the Barrier Ditch with guns from invaders attacking from the river.
The area has now been opened up, and, for the first time in 257 years, residents can visit the riverside to walk and sit amongst the casemates, highlighting the history of the site and its links to Fort Amherst and the Historic Dockyard Chatham.
"This has helped bring the area’s history to life."
Leader of Medway Council, Cllr Alan Jarrett, said: “Medway is steeped in rich military history and it is incredibly important that we remember our military roots.
"Command of the Heights has been a very exciting project and I am pleased that we have been able to showcase the discovered casemates, as this has helped bring the area’s history to life."
The Command of the Heights is a joint project between Medway Council and the Fort Amherst Trust, supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, which aimed to reconnect Chatham with its military roots.
Work started at Fort Amherst in October 2018 to create a new pedestrian entrance to the fort from Chatham town centre via Barrier Road and to transform the Spur Battery into an amphitheatre.
The Spur Battery is the highest part of Fort Amherst and was used for siege warfare training, troop encampments and military punishments. It's now an outdoor amphitheatre with seating for more than 200 visitors.
Chairman of the Fort Amherst Heritage Trust, Bill Fowler, said the reuniting of the upper and lower sections of the Barrier Ditch was an exciting phase in the ongoing restoration of Medway’s Napoleonic defences.
He said: “Once again people will be able to pass over the bridges above the vast ditch as they enter the heart of the military and naval enclaves of Medway.
"Command of the Heights has also seen the extensive and hitherto closed Spur Battery of Fort Amherst opened to the public, revealing more fascinating insights to the life of the Chatham garrison.
"One particularly intriguing element of the project has been the recreation of the Victorian military allotments next to Spur Battery on which soldiers at one time grew vegetables to supplement their meagre diet. These are now being cultivated by a mix of community groups and local residents.”
The large heritage regeneration project secured £1.78 million from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, and was supported by £400,000 from Medway Council.
The project was successful in securing a grant increase from The National Lottery Heritage Fund to incorporate the casemate finds into the project.