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
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
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
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,
This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
End of official listing