Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF)

 Command of the Heights – press release

 Chatham will soon be at the centre of archaeological exploration and heritage regeneration project following a cash injection of almost £1.8million from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), thanks to National Lottery players.

Medway Council together with Fort Amherst Heritage Trust, have been successful in securing the funding to help the area reconnect with its military roots and discover secrets from the past.

 This is the second round of HLF funding the project, named Command of the Heights, has received. In June 2015, £214,000 was awarded to develop the project plans which can now be turned into reality thanks to the latest grant.

The huge project will include the careful demolition of Riverside One, which sits within the walls of the historically important Barrier Ditch. The Ditch was built during the Seven Years War (1754-1763) and it ran from where Riverside One currently stands and across into Fort Amherst. It was a critical part of the defences - an un-scalable ditch and embankment which dramatically divided the military and civilian areas of Chatham. During the restoration process, it is expected that cannons and other military items could be discovered buried beneath the surface.

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 - the highest part of Chatham within Fort Amherst once used for troop encampments, siege warfare training and military punishment. This will be transformed into an amphitheatre with seating to allow for outdoor performances, and the restoration of this area will also open up even more public green space at Great Lines Heritage Park.

Throughout the project there will be many opportunities to learn about the heritage of Chatham including the history behind Gun Wharf (Medway Council HQ), which was the original location of the Tudor Dockyard. A busy programme of activities will encourage the public to get involved in events such as community archaeology, cataloguing of the large ordnance collection, performances in the amphitheatre and much more.

Stuart McLeod, Head of HLF South East, said: “Thanks to National Lottery players, this exciting new project will restore Fort Amherst, reconnect it with the waterfront, and help join the dots for locals and visitors alike on the unique story of Chatham’s significant military heritage.”

Works will begin in January 2018 and are expected to be complete by June 2020. Command of the Heights will extend and complement the HLF funded Command of the Oceans programme running at the Historic Dockyard, Chatham.

Medway Council’s Portfolio Holder for Inward Investment, Strategic Regeneration and Partnerships Cllr Rodney Chambers 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.

“This project also ties in nicely to our Battle of Medway commemorations taking place in June. Fort Amherst was built to defend Chatham and the river following the Battle of Medway in 1667 when the Dutch launched a daring and successful assault on the British upon the River Medway. We’ll be commemorating 350 year since that embarrassing defeat in a big way, it’s a dark and often forgotten time in Medway’s naval history.”

Les Snowdon, Chair of the Fort Amherst Heritage Trust said: “This grant will enable the Trust to realise a long held ambition to open the Spur Battery to the public and at the same time provide for the people of the Medway towns an exciting new outdoor performing arts arena.

“Our trustees, staff and volunteers are looking forward to the opportunities that this brings to the Fort, as reconnecting the barrier ditch to the River Medway restores both physically and historically our close relationship to both the river and the dockyard that the Fort was built to protect.

“We hope that many local people will be as excited by this announcement as we are and will want to become involved with the project. As a volunteer run organisation the Fort is always pleased to hear from potential volunteers who would be interested in joining our team maintaining the site, working in events or in our busy on site cafe. We are also keen to hear from people that may be interested in joining our board of trustees to help us deliver the Command of the Heights programme.’

Notes to editors:

About the Heritage Lottery Fund

Thanks to National Lottery players, we invest money to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about - from the archaeology under our feet to the historic parks and buildings we love, from precious memories and collections to rare wildlife. www.hlf.org.uk. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and use #HLFsupported.