Ancient Monuments

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Gravesend blockhouse

A Scheduled Monument in Riverside, Kent

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Latitude: 51.4446 / 51°26'40"N

Longitude: 0.3728 / 0°22'22"E

OS Eastings: 564993.325493

OS Northings: 174409.159871

OS Grid: TQ649744

Mapcode National: GBR NMK.C36

Mapcode Global: VHJLC.DYYF

Entry Name: Gravesend blockhouse

Scheduled Date: 21 November 1979

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1005120

English Heritage Legacy ID: KE 379

County: Kent

Electoral Ward/Division: Riverside

Built-Up Area: Gravesend

Traditional County: Kent

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Kent

Church of England Parish: Gravesend St George

Church of England Diocese: Rochester


Remains of Gravesend Blockhouse, 31m north of Clarendon Royal Hotel.

Source: Historic England


This record was the subject of a minor enhancement on 30 July 2014. The record has been generated from an "old county number" (OCN) scheduling record. These are monuments that were not reviewed under the Monuments Protection Programme and are some of our oldest designation records.

The monument includes a 16th century artillery blockhouse surviving as upstanding and buried remains. It is situated on the south bank of the River Thames at Gravesend.

The blockhouse was originally D-shaped in plan. It had a curved front facing the river, two angled faces on the landward (south) side and a curved bastion on the west side. The western part of the semi-circular front wall survives as visible remains and has been consolidated following partial excavation. The blockhouse is constructed of brick and faced in ashlar blocks. The gunports are visible as blockings in the main brick wall. They include the iron retaining rings for the guns. Several walls within the interior of the blockhouse are likely to represent alterations following the conversion of the building into a storage magazine. Buried remains of the blockhouse also survive beneath a car park to the east and Royal Pier Road to the south which are included in the scheduling.

Gravesend Blockhouse was built for Henry VIII in 1539 as part of his chain of coastal defences in response to the threat of invasion. It was one of five artillery blockhouses built along this stretch of the River Thames to defend the approach to London and the dockyards at Woolwich and Deptford; the others being at Tilbury, Higham, Milton and East Tilbury. The Gravesend Blockhouse crossed its fire with Tilbury Blockhouse on the north bank of the river and also guarded the ferry crossing between Gravesend and Tilbury. The appearance of the blockhouse is known from a plan by John Romer made in 1715. There were earthen gun lines along the river bank on either side of the blockhouse, collectively armed with 21 guns. The small garrison consisted of a commander and eight others. Repairs were carried out to the blockhouse in 1588 and 1667. By 1665 quarters for the Duke of York as Lord High Admiral had been provided behind the blockhouse. This subsequently became the Ordnance Storekeepers Quarters and, much later, the Clarendon Royal Hotel. By the late 17th century the blockhouse had been converted into a storage magazine for gun powder, although the eastern arm of the gun lines was still armed. The gun lines were remodelled in the 1780s before being levelled in 1834. The blockhouse was partially demolished in 1844. In 1975-6 partial excavation revealed some of the footings of the blockhouse.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Blockhouses are defensive structures of widely varying design built specifically to house a small artillery garrison and to protect the gunners and ammunition from attack. Usually stone built, each structure was designed and built to protect a particular feature or area; typically they were located to command a river, harbour entrance or anchorage. The main components of blockhouses were a tower and bastions or gun platforms, although in some cases only the tower or the bastion was present. The earliest known blockhouse dates to 1398, but the majority were built in the first half of the 16th century by Henry VIII.

Distributed along the east, south and south west coasts, there are 27 examples which are known to survive in various states of repair, mostly now destroyed or incorporated into later military constructions. Surviving examples will illustrate the development of military defensive structures and of tactics and strategy during this period of rapid change following the introduction of firearms. They will also preserve something of the life and experience of the common soldier who was required to live and work within them. All examples with substantial archaeological remains are considered to be of national importance and will be worthy of protection.

Despite having been partially demolished in the past, substantial remains survive of Gravesend Blockhouse. These provide information as to the original function and layout of the blockhouse, as well as its 16th century construction. The blockhouse has group value as part of a chain of defences built by Henry VIII and forms a visual link to that of Tilbury Fort on the opposite side of the Thames. A large part of the blockhouse has not been excavated and retains potential for further investigation.

Source: Historic England


Gravesend Blockhouse, Thames Defence Heritage, accessed from
Kent HER TQ 67 SW 5. NMR TQ 67 SW 5. PastScape 413783,

Source: Historic England

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