Promise to Love You Forevermore
Visiting a key site of Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson’s defences may seem a little disloyal straight after enjoying a three day Napoléonic extravaganza (admittedly for Napoléon III not his uncle) but when in Chatham it’s impossible to resist a private tour of Fort Amherst. The tunnels to be precise. The tunnels – riddled with ghosts – to be even more precise. Initials and dates of long gone occupants are carved into the walls. Listed graffiti.
Garrison soldiers expanded the natural chalk caves in the 1790s, adding brick arched tunnels and gun positions to defend Fort Amherst. After British victory at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, technology moved on from the gun ranges of Fort Amherst, but the fortifications continued to be used by the army as a training ground. Staged practice sieges became a popular tourist attraction in Victorian times: Charles Dickens describes such events in The Pickwick Papers.
The tunnels were adapted for civil defence and brought back to life as an Air Raid Precautions Base of Operations in World War II. They provided shelter from bombardment, storage for ammunition and even secret access between the lower and upper works of the fort. The fourth and latest chapter of the story of Fort Amherst is a return to tourism. Fort Amherst Heritage Trust host tours and events throughout the year. All are welcome, even Bonapartists.