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Woldingham Fort: a London mobilisation centre 500m south of Whistlers Wood Farm

A Scheduled Monument in Woldingham, Surrey

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Coordinates

Latitude: 51.275 / 51°16'29"N

Longitude: -0.0235 / 0°1'24"W

OS Eastings: 537960.8769

OS Northings: 154724.207445

OS Grid: TQ379547

Mapcode National: GBR KK0.T18

Mapcode Global: VHGS6.J6XY

Entry Name: Woldingham Fort: a London mobilisation centre 500m south of Whistlers Wood Farm

Scheduled Date: 3 April 2001

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1019287

English Heritage Legacy ID: 32275

County: Surrey

Civil Parish: Woldingham

Built-Up Area: The Ridge, nr Woldingham

Traditional County: Surrey

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Surrey

Church of England Parish: Woldingham St Paul and St Agatha

Church of England Diocese: Southwark

Details

The monument includes the main compound of a London mobilisation centre,
situated on a ridge of the North Downs, on the southern outskirts of
Woldingham.
The north west-south east aligned, hexagonal compound is defined by a low,
earthen bank around 5m wide and 1.3m high, which has been levelled on its
southern side, and which was originally completely enclosed behind spiked
metal railings, sections of which survive at various points around the
circuit. Access to the interior is through a gap in the north western corner
of the earthwork, originally closed by a gate in the outer railings which
survives but which is no longer operable. Contained within the compound are
two rectangular magazine blocks, comprising a shell store, partly sunk below
ground level in the northern part of the compound, and a cartridge store,
constructed almost entirely below the level of the surrounding ground surface,
on the southern edge of the compound. The two roomed, brick-built structures,
which appear to have undergone later subdivision by the addition of further
internal walls, are enclosed, on three sides, by concrete walls and a flat,
concrete roof. In the event of an explosion, the concrete shell around the
magazine, would have helped to contain the blast. To minimise the risk of
explosion, the magazine chambers were lit by lamps, set in recesses behind
panes of glass. The lamps are accessed from a passage, which surrounds each
magazine, between the brick chambers and the outer, concrete walls. Entry to
the magazines, and lamp passage, is from an open corridor in front of the
chambers, which is reached from the ground level above, by steps at its
western end. Two small, subterranean rooms, designed for the storage of
lamps and fuses, are also accessible from the corridor in the southern,
cartridge magazine. The magazines retain many of their original features,
including lamp recess casements and part of the hoist mechanism for the
cartridge store, designed to lift ammunition to ground level for collection.
Following abandonment of the London Defence Positions, the site at Woldingham
was sold in around 1909. Cartographic evidence suggests that small rectangular
enclosures, attached to the southern side of the shell store, represent the
concrete bases of two glasshouses constructed during subsequent reuse of the
compound in the early 20th century. The northern chamber was later converted
for use as a garage, by the addition of double doors on its northern side, and
the outer concrete wall was pierced for access. A house was also constructed
on top of the cartridge store during the later part of the 20th century, and
the chambers incorporated as basement rooms.
The house, and its basement rooms, remain occupied as a private residence and
are therefore totally excluded from the scheduling, although the surrounding
area, including the sunken magazine passage, is included within the
scheduling.
Associated with the main compound are the original semi-detached pair of
caretakers' cottages and the mobilisation tool store, situated on the western
approach road, around 30m outside the perimeter fence. These have been
altered, and are now occupied as private residences, and are therefore not
included in the scheduling.
A number of features within the area of the monument are excluded from the
scheduling. These are: all modern paving and the surfaces of modern paths and
steps; all modern fixtures and fittings, including the components of the
modern plumbing and electricity systems, as well as all modern materials
stored within the mobilisation centre. The ground beneath these items is
included in the scheduling, together with the structures and surfaces related
to the military use of the site, to which some of these features are attached.

MAP EXTRACT
The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

The 15 London mobilisation centres, constructed during the 1890s, formed part
of a comprehensive military scheme known as the London Defence Positions,
drawn up in 1888 to protect the capital in the event of enemy invasion. The
scheme was a response to the rapid progress made in warship production by
France and Russia during the early 1880s, which had led to official doubts
about the Royal Navy's defence capability. Essentially a contingency plan, it
provided for the establishment of a 72 mile long, entrenched stop-line divided
into ten tactical sectors and supported by artillery batteries and redoubts.
The planned stop-line ran from the southern edge of the Surrey and Kent Downs,
up the western side of the Darenth Valley to the Thames, and then north
westwards through Essex from Tilbury Fort to Epping. Although the stop-line
and main defence positions were not to be established until an invasion was
imminent, it was thought prudent to build a series of mobilisation centres, 13
on new sites, along the projected course, either for artillery deployment or
where troops could assemble and collect tools and supplies. By 1905, official
confidence in the Royal Navy had been restored, and the now obsolete
mobilisation centres were abandoned and gradually sold off.
No two mobilisation centres are exactly alike, and a broad distinction can be
drawn between the four centres purpose built for artillery deployment, and
eight which functioned as infantry positions. However, in general terms there
are close similarities: each, for example, was typically enclosed by a
rampart, ditch and spiked fence, containing a partly earth-sheltered,
reinforced concrete and brick built magazine and stores. Beyond the main
compound were associated buildings of a standard type, including a brick
caretakers lodge and a large, barn-like tool store. Most mobilisation centres
have been the subject of subsequent alteration and/or reuse. As a short-lived
and rare monument type, all mobilisation centres with surviving remains
sufficient to give a clear impression of their original form and function are
considered to be nationally important.

Despite some later additions, the mobilisation centre at Woldingham remains
largely free of alteration or renovation and will retain evidence for the
construction and use of the compound. It is unlike most of the other surviving
mobilisation centres in having no outer ditch and little defensive capability,
and will therefore contribute towards our understanding of the different
functions of each centre, and its role in the strategic defence of the
capital, at the dawn of the 20th century.

Source: Historic England

Sources

Books and journals
Smith, V, 'Post-Medieval Archaeology' in Chatham and London: The Changing Face of English Land Fortification 1870-1918, , Vol. 19, (1985), 105-149
Other
Beanse, A and Gill, R, The London Mobilisation Centres - unpublished gazetteer, 1999,

Source: Historic England

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