Remains of Shorncliffe Battery on the Royal Military Canal 243m WSW of Sandgate House.
Reasons for Designation
Shorncliffe Battery is a late 18th to early 19th century artillery battery, which originally protected the eastern flank of the Royal Military Canal. 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. Batteries not contained within forts or castles were either open, with some approaches left undefended, or enclosed, often with a loopholed wall, ditch and/or fence designed to repel small scale attacks. Battery design evolved over time with developments in artillery. More permanent batteries, normally those on the coast, were faced in stone. The guns and gunners were typically protected by a raised parapet with guns firing through embrasures, or breaks in the wall, or over the parapet. The gun carriages were supported on timber or stone platforms known as barbettes, often ramped to limit gun recoil. 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.
The Royal Military Canal was a massive coastal defence work constructed between 1804 and 1809. Its purpose was to separate the expected landing and deployment of Napoleon's troops upon the coast of Romney Marsh and Walland Marsh from the interior of the country. The Government initially considered flooding the marsh but favoured the canal, which was the idea of Lt. Col. Brown, the Assistant Quartermaster-General. He carried out a survey and work commenced in 1804 at the height of the invasion scare, with John Rennie as consulting engineer (until 1805). The canal ran a total of about 28 miles from Shorncliffe Camp via Hythe inland to Appledore, to join the Eastern River Rother at Iden lock, from where it became part of first the Rother and then the River Brede, turning into a canal again from Winchelsea to Cliff End on the coast. By the time the canal was completed in 1809, the threat of invasion had passed, following Napoleon’s defeat at the Battle of Trafalgar, and it was to some extent obsolete. The Royal Military Canal was an important element in the Napoleonic defences of south-east England and is the only military canal in the country. It is a unique defensive work that bears significant testament to a period when modern Britain faced the most serious threat of invasion prior to the major conflicts of the 20th century.
Despite later damage and disturbance, the remains of Shorncliffe Battery survive comparatively well with much of the original wall intact. Shorncliffe Battery was an integral part of the eastern end of the Royal Military Canal. It is a significant part of the canal terminal, involving the incorporation of an existing battery into the scheme for the protection of the canal's eastern flank. It will contain archaeological information relating to its construction and use.
This record was the subject of a minor enhancement on 12 August 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 late 18th to early 19th century artillery battery surviving as upstanding and buried remains. It is situated on a south-facing slope at the north-east end of the Royal Military Canal near Hythe.
The remains include the battery wall and the gun emplacements positioned behind it. The wall is broadly V-shaped in plan and is built into the steeply sloping ground above the seafront. It is constructed of stone blocks and is approximately 280m long. To the west is an extension of the battery wall, which is included in the scheduling. It is separated from the main wall by a modern road. Behind the wall, on the inland side, are remains of contemporary gun emplacements.
Shorncliffe Battery was built between about 1793 and 1804, prior to the construction of the Royal Military Canal. It protected the eastern flank of the canal at Hythe and was set below Shorncliffe Camp, an army garrison. The battery wall is thought to have originally been over 5m high. At the top of the wall was a parapet behind which artillery would have been positioned. Shorncliffe Battery was originally armed with ten 24-pounder guns. The battery was incorporated into the design of the defences of the eastern end of the canal, with its guns intended to cover the sluice at the end of the canal, to provide cross-fire with the guns of the canal redoubt to the west, and to cover the beach and eastern approaches as well. Shorncliffe Battery was ordered to be dismantled in 1817, but in 1854 it was planned to arm it with twelve 24-pounder guns on traversing platforms. By 1870, it was described as an incomplete earthwork, with incomplete revetments of a bastioned trace.
Partial excavation in 1998 and 2004 recorded part of the battery wall and gun emplacements along it.