Reigate Hill Fort
Words and images by William Dartnall
Reigate Fort is positioned on Reigate Hill overlooking the South Downs and was part of a series of 13 mobilisation centres which were built between 1890 and 1903 to protect London from any potential invasion.
These mobilisation centres form a defensive line for 72 miles along the North Downs and Reigate Fort overlooks the towns of Reigate and Redhill.
It was used in World War I for ammunition storage and in World War II Canadian troops were stationed there. Reigate Fort has been looked after by the National Trust since 1932, and was fully restored in 2000.
Reigate Fort was designed purely as a local defensive structure. There is an underground Magazine for the safe storage of ammunition, and two underground structures called Casemates. One of these Casemates has since been filled in.
The Magazine contains two rooms, a cartridge store and a shell store with passages joining them. These rooms were used to house the ammunition. The Casemates were originally built to house the tools required for digging trenches and clearing ground in the event of an invasion.
Later they were used to house ammunition. In the event of an invasion these Casemates could be quickly emptied to become a shelter for defending soldiers or used as a local headquarters to coordinate the defence of London.
There is also a store room built above ground which was designed to store extra ammunition for the garrison based at the fort in the event of enemy troops landing on the South Coast, so they could adequately prepare their weaponry to repel the invaders.
The fort was decommissioned in 1906 and sold off before being designated as a Scheduled Ancient Monument in 1972 by English Heritage. The National Trust acquired the 149 acre hill, including the fort, over a period of time, from 1912 onwards.
The position of Reigate Fort would have been an important part of the defensive line if this country had ever faced an armed invasion from Europe and its continued preservation gives us a valuable insight into the thinking behind those defending our capital in the past, especially at times of national emergency.
THE TRAGIC WARTIME CRASH
On the 19th March 1945, a Flying Fortress from the US 384th Bomber Group stationed in Northamptonshire, crashed into the hill, close to the Fort. All nine aircrew lost their lives, and are now remembered by a memorial bench.
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last updated: 19/11/2008 at 16:09