Woldingham Fort: a London mobilisation centre 500m south of Whistlers Wood Farm


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1019287

Date first listed: 03-Apr-2001


Ordnance survey map of Woldingham Fort: a London mobilisation centre 500m south of Whistlers Wood Farm
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Surrey

District: Tandridge (District Authority)

Parish: Woldingham

National Grid Reference: TQ 37958 54722


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.

Despite some later additions, the mobilisation centre at Woldingham remains largely free of alteration or renovation and will retain evidence for the construction and use of the compound. It is unlike most of the other surviving mobilisation centres in having no outer ditch and little defensive capability, and will therefore contribute towards our understanding of the different functions of each centre, and its role in the strategic defence of the capital, at the dawn of the 20th century.


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


The monument includes the main compound of a London mobilisation centre, situated on a ridge of the North Downs, on the southern outskirts of Woldingham. The north west-south east aligned, hexagonal compound is defined by a low, earthen bank around 5m wide and 1.3m high, which has been levelled on its southern side, and which was originally completely enclosed behind spiked metal railings, sections of which survive at various points around the circuit. Access to the interior is through a gap in the north western corner of the earthwork, originally closed by a gate in the outer railings which survives but which is no longer operable. Contained within the compound are two rectangular magazine blocks, comprising a shell store, partly sunk below ground level in the northern part of the compound, and a cartridge store, constructed almost entirely below the level of the surrounding ground surface, on the southern edge of the compound. The two roomed, brick-built structures, which appear to have undergone later subdivision by the addition of further internal walls, are enclosed, on three sides, by concrete walls and a flat, concrete roof. In the event of an explosion, the concrete shell around the magazine, would have helped to contain the blast. To minimise the risk of explosion, the magazine chambers were lit by lamps, set in recesses behind panes of glass. The lamps are accessed from a passage, which surrounds each magazine, between the brick chambers and the outer, concrete walls. Entry to the magazines, and lamp passage, is from an open corridor in front of the chambers, which is reached from the ground level above, by steps at its western end. Two small, subterranean rooms, designed for the storage of lamps and fuses, are also accessible from the corridor in the southern, cartridge magazine. The magazines retain many of their original features, including lamp recess casements and part of the hoist mechanism for the cartridge store, designed to lift ammunition to ground level for collection. Following abandonment of the London Defence Positions, the site at Woldingham was sold in around 1909. Cartographic evidence suggests that small rectangular enclosures, attached to the southern side of the shell store, represent the concrete bases of two glasshouses constructed during subsequent reuse of the compound in the early 20th century. The northern chamber was later converted for use as a garage, by the addition of double doors on its northern side, and the outer concrete wall was pierced for access. A house was also constructed on top of the cartridge store during the later part of the 20th century, and the chambers incorporated as basement rooms. The house, and its basement rooms, remain occupied as a private residence and are therefore totally excluded from the scheduling, although the surrounding area, including the sunken magazine passage, is included within the scheduling. Associated with the main compound are the original semi-detached pair of caretakers' cottages and the mobilisation tool store, situated on the western approach road, around 30m outside the perimeter fence. These have been altered, and 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 are: all modern paving and the surfaces of modern paths and steps; all modern fixtures and fittings, including the components of the modern plumbing and electricity systems, as well as all modern materials stored within the mobilisation centre. The ground beneath these items is included in the scheduling, together with the structures and surfaces related to the military use of the site, to which some of these features are attached.

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: 32275

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, The London Mobilisation Centres - unpublished gazetteer, 1999,

End of official listing