Reasons for Designation
The use of fixed artillery to protect the coast from hostile ships is one of the oldest practices in the history of England's defences. From the 15th century until the second half of the 20th century, coastal artillery provided home security as well as protecting communications and trade networks across Britain's empire. During this time batteries of fixed guns formed the first line of defence for the navy's anchorages and the larger commercial ports. Apart from a brief period early in World War II, when improvised batteries formed a continuous cordon around the coast, England's modern stock of coast artillery sites was dominated by positions originating before 1900. Coast artillery was finally stood down in 1956.
The term battery refers to any place where artillery is positioned to allow guns to cover a particular area such as a line of communication or the approaches to a defended location. Although often contained within artillery forts designed to withstand sieges, typically including resident garrisons, many batteries were lightly defended and only manned at fighting strength in times of emergency. Battery design evolved over time with developments in artillery. In the 18th century, traversing guns using carriages mounted on pivots were increasingly employed. By the late 19th century, barbette positions became the usual practice and, as the century progressed, guns were mounted in increasingly sophisticated emplacements, normally built in concrete with integrated magazines. All batteries where enough survives to interpret the original form and function will be considered of national importance. Other examples, of early date or where rare components are preserved, may be considered nationally important even where overall survival is comparatively poor.
Despite the loss of some of its original equipment, Admiralty Pier Turret survives well. It demonstrates improvements in coastal artillery in the 19th century, following concerns over the development of armoured shipping. The battery includes many of the original fixtures and fittings, including the Armstrong RML guns. The guns are of historic significance as the only steam powered guns ever possessed by the coastal artillery in Britain. They are the only example of their type in the United Kingdom still on their original carriages and in their original settings.
The monument includes a late 19th century coastal artillery battery surviving as upstanding and below-ground remains. It is situated mid-way along Admiralty Pier at Dover Harbour and overlooks the Dover Straits.
The battery is sub-rectangular in plan and is faced in ashlar over brick. At the centre is a circular cast-iron gun turret with a brick and stone parapet. It is 11m in diameter and 3m high. Access to the guns in the interior is via a door in one of the two original gun ports. The turret is armed with two guns, which are bedded in a later wooden deck. These are Armstrong 16-inch Rifled Muzzle Loading (RML) guns, each weighing 81 tons. There is a chamber below the turret, accessible from quay level, where the turret traversing ring and iron framework can still be seen. According to a 19th century catalogue of Thames Iron Works and Shipbuilding Company Ltd, involved in the construction of the battery, the turret has a frame of wrought iron, clad with three layers of 7-inch armour with 2-inch layers of wood and iron between. In one wall of the chamber beneath the turret are two narrow iron doors with an iron ladder leading to the basement. The steam engine and boilers, originally situated below the turret, are no longer present. However the shell lifts are still in place.
Admiralty Pier was initially constructed between about 1847 and 1872, to form the western arm of Dover Harbour. During the 1870s the Admiralty had been developing a new naval gun with armour piercing capabilities. The new RML Armstrong gun was about 8m long and fired a 1,700 pound (771kg) shell nearly seven miles. In 1877, the decision was taken to mount two of these guns at the end of Admiralty Pier. The pier head was modified, at a cost of £60,000, to house the magazine with an engine room below it and the turret above. It was completed, with the guns in position at a total cost of £90,000. The engine room in the heart of the pier head and below the high water mark, housed two steam engines to rotate the turret, one to work the ammunition hoists, loading gear and to run the guns in and out, one to operate a dynamo giving 33 volts for lighting and a steam pump to provide water under pressure for hosing out the guns between rounds. They were the second largest Armstrong guns ever made and the only steam powered guns ever possessed by the coastal artillery in Britain. The guns were transported from Woolwich to Dover by ship and installed in the turret using block and tackle. They were tested in 1883 and again in 1886 before being handed over on 21st April. However this was the last time in which they were fired. In 1902, following the advent of breech loading guns, they were declared obsolete. In 1909 two 6-inch breech loading Mk. VII guns were mounted either side of the turret before the battery was decommissioned in 1956.
Sources: Kent HER TR 33 NW 1. NMR TR 33 NW 1, TR 33 NW 59, TR 34 SW 504. PastScape 467374, 1422663, 1335981. LBS 507158.
Kent OS Maps (1:2500): 1898, 1907 and 1938.
Palmerston Forts Society, Plans of the Admiralty Pier Fort (Dover Turret) retrieved from http://www.palmerstonforts.org.uk/map/turret.htm on 15th April 2010