October 13 2020 – Upnor Castle, Kent.
I love a castle and this is the first opportunity I have had to visit one in quite some time, and not just due to Covid. After the disappointment of not being able to get to, let alone get in to, any forts yesterday I was quite excited when I found that Upnor Castle was actually open today, the second of my two day road trip around the Isles of Grain and Sheppey in Kent.
There were plenty of Covid restrictions in place; masks must be worn in all areas, some things were roped off so you could not touch them and there were crosses and arrows all round advising of the correct path to take around the castle and its grounds. I was the first visitor for the day, and for most of my visit had the place largely to myself. A situation I particularly enjoy.
I parked above the village and had a short, but nice walk down this cobbled street to the river front, more reminiscent of Devon and Cornwall than Kent.
The construction of Upnor Castle began in 1559 under the order of Queen Elizabeth I. It was built to help defend the Chatham Boatyards on the other side of the River Medway. As you would expect the fort has undergone many changes and expansions over the years, and was finally called into action in 1667 when the dastardly Dutch sailed up the Medway to attack Chatham and the English fleet that was sheltering in the river. The military action has been described as the worst naval defeat the English navy has ever experienced, with a large number of vessels being destroyed. Upnor Castle was one of the few highlights of the action and the Dutch were finally sent packing.
After the action the English government decided to build further and stronger forts along the coast out toward the North Sea and the castle ended up becoming a storage magazine for gunpowder and shells. It was owned by the military until the end of World War 2 when it became a museum and was opened to the public.
It is now run be English Heritage, and I was pleasantly surprised it was open on an autumn Wednesday.
This graffiti from 1596 was discovered during WW2 when a German bomb landed nearby, causing the plaster to fall off the wall revealing what was hidden behind.
One of the features I love in an English Heritage museum is the mock up.
The castle is pretty small and there is not a huge amount to see and neither is there a spectacular view from the ramparts. It looks out on blocks of flats and cranes on building sites for more blocks of flat on the other side of the river in Chatham, but I did enjoy the 30 minutes I spent walking around, all masked up.
I really liked this stairway, leading down to a lovely dank and mossy tunnel.