In late 18th century and early 19th century, Napoleon Bonaparte with his armies was on the march in Europe, invading many countries and expanding his empire. People in Britain were fearful of Napoleon invading us and then Prime Minister, William Pitt, and the local General Moore knew that something had to be done to protect our shores.
Romney Marsh was particularly vulnerable, given its closeness of Romney Marsh to the continent, its flat shores and hinterland and easy accessible beaches. In view of these Pitt set about building a serious of Martello Towers, - six in Dymchurch and 2 in St Mary's bay- two Redoubts and the Royal Military Canal to defend us against the French.
The Dymchurch Redoubt was one of three that were constructed at Harwich, Dymchurch and Eastbourne to act as supply depots for the smaller Martello Towers, as well as being powerful fortifications in their own right. The redoubt was built between 1798 and 1809 to support a chain of 21 Martello Towers that stretched between Hythe in Kent and Rye in Sussex, and to act as a supply depot for them.
Location of the Dymchurch Martellos and Redoubt
The Dymchurch Redoubt is located on the south (seaward) side of the A259 main road roughly half-way between Dymchurch and Hythe.
Dymchurch Redoubt is circular in form and built of brick with granite and sandstone dressings, measuring up to 68 metres in diameter and stands 12 metres above the floor of its 9 metre-wide dry moat. Beyond the moat, an earth bank or glacis helped to protect the masonry from artillery fire.
Built on two stories, the upper floor had open emplacements for ten 24 pounder guns mounted on wooden traversing platforms. The lower floor featured twenty four vaulted barrack and storage casemates, which opened onto a circular parade ground. They were designed to accommodate 350 officers and men. Entry was originally via a wooden footbridge supported by stilts, which could be collapsed in an emergency.
The redoubt specifically protected the sluices that were the key to the drainage of Romney Marsh. By the time it was finished, the invasion threat was over.
Dymchurch Redoubt viewed from the south
During World War I, it was used for troop accommodation, although there was a question in Parliament about the damp conditions. In Second World War, the south coast was again at risk of invasion, and the redoubt was reconstructed for use as an emergency coastal battery. It was operational by 1942 and mounted two 6 inch breech-loading guns were mounted in casemates built over the original gun emplacements.
A prominent battery observation post was built and pillboxes were sited on the parapet in order to repel an infantry attack. It was fully operational by 1942 as an Emergency Coastal Battery.
After the war, the observation post was used as a Coastguard lookout and radar was installed to monitor shipping in the English Channel. The army constructed a mock-up of a street of buildings in the interior, for training in urban warfare. .
Inside Dymchurch Redoubt
The redoubt is now disused except as a store and remains the property of the Ministry of Defence
It is a Scheduled Monument and is listed by English Heritage as a Building At Risk, although a conservation plan has been agreed.
The Redoubt is not open to the public, but walking along the sea wall allows a close approach on the south, Dymchurch, side. Further access may be restricted when there is firing on Hythe Ranges. When so, prominent red flags are flown, supplemented by red lights during night time firing practice. Due to the risk of ricochet during firing, a Range Safety Boat is present to prevent seaward incursion into the danger area by the public.
Find out more Dymchurch Redoubt at the Historic England website entry and at www.subterraneanhistory.co.uk/2007/11/dymchurch-redoubt
Inside Dymchurch Redoubt (Ack.50)
The Ground Plan of the Redoubt - see more detail right)
Plan of Dymchurch Redoubt (National Archives)