Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Statutory Address:


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Statutory Address:

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Medway (Unitary Authority)
Frindsbury Extra
National Grid Reference:
TQ 75894 70774

Reasons for Designation

A particularly fione magazine building of the 1850s, distinguished by its historicist style (it adjoins Upnor Castle Castle) and catenary vaulting.



1797/0/10009 UPNOR ROAD 17-APR-09 Upnor (West side) Building LU001 (former B Magazine), Up nor Depot

GV II* Magazine. 1856-7, by Lt Col Savage, the Commanding Royal Engineer at Chatham. English bond brick with stone-coped gables and corrugated asbestos roof. Rectangular plan. 2 storeys, 8-bay W front facing the Medway. Each bay has segmental brick drip moulding above segmental brick arches, to first-floor 2-light casements with glazing bars set in deep reveals and double-leaf plank doors. Similar rear elevation.

INTERIOR: each bay spanned by a catenary arch

HISTORY: This fine magazine building comprises the most impressive example of a magazine using the catenary arch system, which was previously employed by the Royal Engineers in the Drop Redoubt and Napoleonic Tunnels at Dover (Scheduled Ancient Monuments) and at Weedon Depot in Northamptonshire (listed grade II*). Part of the catenary arch system survives at Tipner, Portsmouth (grade II), the similar 1810 magazine at Upnor having been demolished some years ago. This magazine is also significant in view of the fact that the gabled facades and use of Tudor Gothic detail has resulted in a strongly 'architectural' 19th century magazine, possibly in response to its prominent location on the Medway and close to the Castle. The result is a structure of major interest within the context of structural engineering, as well as one that comprises an exceptionally fine example of the Royal Engineers' renowned ability as designers. It also relates to the World Heritage Site at Chatham Dockyard, which lies across the Medway and which this ordnance yard served.

The castle at Upnor on the Medway, built between 1559 and 1567 to the designs of the military engineer Sir Richard Lee, has after the Tower of London a longer history of association with the storage of explosives than any other site. Built in order to protect naval shipping anchored in the Medway, its importance as a fort declined after the Dutch raid of 1667 and the recasting of the nation's defences. In the following year it was ordered to be converted into 'a Place of Stores and Magazine'1, a function which continued until 1913. The Castle was adapted for this role, some laboratory facilities being provided in the south tower, while other portions were made to serve as cooperage and shifting house. After 1827 buildings in the water bastion were lowered to form a new Laboratory building, the Magazine in the castle being converted into a Laboratory storehouse.

Plans were drawn up to replace Upnor Castle by a modern magazine by 1806, and in 1808 the construction of one 10,000 barrels capacity was decided upon. The site was quarried out of a rocky hillside to provide natural traverses. The CRE, Colonel D'Arcy settled on catenary instead of rounded vaults, to give greater height within: these had already been used within the casemates at Dover Castle. 3,500 barrels continued to be stored in the castle, but this was proposed to be discontinued. Restoving on this site was out of the question and that operation was performed at Faversham. The Crimean War brought the inadequacies of storage provision on the site to a head, a situation compounded by the fact that filled shells could not be kept in the same magazine as gunpowder: shells were carried through the Laboratory, where gunpowder was being examined and filled into cartridges, and then hoisted 20 feet into an adjacent chamber. In 1856 the decision was made to build a new shell store and magazine, the latter with a capacity of 23,000 barrels. These were completed in 1857. An additional shell store was built in 1860-1. In 1877, space for expansion on the site for bulk Store Magazines being non-existent, a new site was acquired inland for five such magazines at Chattenden: this served as a Deposit Magazine to serve Upnor, to which it was linked by railway. The Upnor site, however, continued to expand eastwards along the Medway in the late 19th century, with storage for wet and dry guncotton in 1895-6 - the main explosive in mines and torpedo warheads - and shell filling facilities in 1906-7: the latter (demolished, only the traverses remaining) were built much later than at Priddy's Hard and Bull Point, this function having been previously carried out at Woolwich.

(David Evans, The Medway Magazines (report for Listing Team, English Heritage), 2000)

! 1 Andrew Saunders, Upnor Castle, English Heritage guide, 1967, p. 15. New material uncovered in the course of this project (see the Medway Magazines report) should be integrated into a future edition.


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

Legacy System number:
Legacy System:


Evans, D, The Medway Magazines (Report for Listing Team- English Heritage), (2000)


This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

End of official listing

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