Reigate Fort: a London mobilisation centre


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1019245

Date first listed: 21-Jun-1973

Date of most recent amendment: 24-Nov-2000


Ordnance survey map of Reigate Fort: a London mobilisation centre
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Surrey

District: Reigate and Banstead (District Authority)

National Grid Reference: TQ 25676 52059


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

Reasons for Designation

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.

Reigate Fort has remained largely free of alteration or renovation and survives comparatively well. It will retain evidence relating to the construction and use of mobilisation centres, including the unusual internal tool store and flint revetted parapet.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


The monument includes the main compound of Reigate Fort London mobilisation centre, situated on the southern crest of Reigate Hill. This location enjoys commanding views across the landscape to the south. The east-west aligned, elongated compound is defined by a large earthen rampart, roughly `D'-shaped in plan. A deep, unrevetted outer ditch completely encloses the compound, creating a straight channel around 200m long at the rear, or gorge, of the installation. The ditch is in turn encircled by a hollow, designed to have been filled with barbed wire entanglements on mobilisation. In the east the hollow contains a steel palisade fence which enclosed the eastern half of the compound. Access to the interior parade is through loopholed steel gates, with flanking concrete piers, in the rampart at the eastern end of the gorge. The entrance is reached by a causeway across the ditch. Access onto the causeway was controlled by a gate in a section of tall spiked railings, known as a Dacoit fence, parts of which remain on the outer edge of the ditch. Inside the entrance is an almost entirely subterranean magazine block, consisting of two main chambers, and covered by an earthen blast mound. To minimise the risk of explosion, the magazine passage contained a shifting lobby, where personnel changed into protective and non-spark producing clothes before entering the cartridge store. Many original features survive, including the notices labelling various components of the magazine. On the southern side of the parade, below ground level, are two rectangular casemates set into the rear of the rampart. Each casemate was served by its own water tank, connected to the mains supply outside the centre. Sunk into the ground on the opposite side of the parade is a concrete rainwater collection cistern, fed by stone-lined drainage channels around the parade, to supplement the mains water supply. Although not essentially designed as a fort, the mobilisation centre did possess a self-defence capability and was intended to deploy artillery in the event of a successful enemy advance. Concrete steps at each end of the casemates provided access onto the rampart, which would function as a firing step in response to enemy bombardment. Traces of a flint retaining wall survive along the inside edge of the parapet. Two additional earthworks at the western end of the parade are believed to be an additional firing platform and an earthen traverse, designed to block enfilade fire from the west. A mobilisation tool store with a pitched, slate roof was usually located outside the perimeter ditch. Unusually, a large brick-built tool store with a flat concrete roof was constructed inside the main compound at Reigate Fort, close to the entrance at the eastern end of the parade. The centre was sold in 1907, but was recommissioned during World War II and used by Canadian troops. Additional steps onto the southern rampart at its eastern end and traces of building foundations nearby are thought to belong to this period. Associated with the main compound are the original semi-detached pair of caretakers cottages, situated south of the north eastern approach road, outside the perimeter ditch. The cottages 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 include all modern fences and gates, animal troughs, all modern materials and equipment stored within the tool store, and all modern fixtures and fittings; however, the ground beneath these features is included.

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


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number: 32273

Legacy System: RSM


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
Beanse, A and Gill, R, Unpublished gazetteer of London mobilisation centres, 1999,

End of official listing