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Queenborough Lines

List Entry Summary

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 Culture, Media and Sport.

Name: Queenborough Lines

List entry Number: 1404499


SE of Sheerness running across the NW tip of the Isle of Sheppey between Queenborough to the W and Barton's Point to the E.

The monument may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Kent

District: Swale

District Type: District Authority

Parish: Non Civil Parish

National Park: Not applicable to this List entry.

Grade: Not applicable to this List entry.

Date first scheduled: 22-Jun-2012

Date of most recent amendment: Not applicable to this List entry.

Asset Groupings

This list entry does not comprise part of an Asset Grouping. Asset Groupings are not part of the official record but are added later for information.

List entry Description

Summary of Monument

Fortified lines. Royal Commission fortifications protecting Sheerness dockyard from land attack, built 1863-1868 with additional defences and air-raid shelters constructed during World War II.

Reasons for Designation

The Queenborough Lines is scheduled for the following principal reasons: * Documentation (historic): as an unusual example of the extensive and historically significant fortifications resulting from the Royal Commission on the Defences of the United Kingdom of 1860; * Period and rarity: the Queenborough Lines is additionally significant as the last earthwork defensive line constructed in the country, remaining in use until the end of World War II and retaining evidence of this period of its use also; * Survival: despite some damage and levelling since World War II, the Lines remains a prominent and striking example of military engineering, largely defining the southern extent of Sheerness; * Documentation (archaeological): archaeological survey by English Heritage in 2001 has considerably enhanced our understanding of the form and survival of the monument; * Group value: as the final stage in a series of defences for the naval dockyards at Sheerness and the town. Other defences here are also scheduled: the Sheerness Defences at Garrison Point Fort (NHLE 1005145).


The Queenborough Lines was built on the recommendation of the 1859 Royal Commission on the Defences of the United Kingdom to defend the Royal Naval dockyard at Sheerness from landward attack. It had originally been intended to achieve this by the construction of three new redoubts situated on hills about two miles from the dockyard but, as an economy measure, it was decided to build a simple earthwork defensive line across the Sheerness peninsula 1km south-east of the earlier bastion-trace defences of the Sheerness Lines. By 1863 the works were well advanced and by 1868 were virtually complete, except for the intended supporting batteries at Queenborough and Cheney Rock at either end of the Lines. These batteries were never built and Barton’s Point Battery, built between 1889 and 1891 at the northern end of the Lines, housed heavy coastal artillery ranged seaward rather than for the protection of the Lines. Two magazines, positioned at either end of the central re-entrant (a withdrawn section of ramparts allowing fire to be directed along it from the flanks) were, however, constructed by 1868. These were probably to provide a small reserve of ammunition for the infantry and mobile artillery, despatched from Sheerness or elsewhere, who would have manned the Lines only in time of emergency. By 1906 the eastern magazine was disused. There is some evidence that the Lines was manned during World War I as part of the coastal defences established along the coast of east and south-east England. During World War II the causeway through the Lines was protected by a defended position and several air-raid shelters were built into the rampart.

The Royal Commission fortifications is a group of related sites established in response to the 1859 Royal Commission report on the defence of the United Kingdom. This had been set up following an invasion scare caused by the strengthening of the French Navy. There were eventually some 70 forts and batteries in England which were due wholly or in part to the Royal Commission. These constitute a well-defined group with common design characteristics, armament and defensive provisions. Whether re-used or not during the C20 century, they are the most visible core of Britain's coastal defence systems and are known colloquially as 'Palmerston's Follies' after Lord Palmerston (1784-1865), who was Prime Minister at the time.

The Queenborough Lines is atypical of the Royal Commission fortifications since continuous earthwork defences were generally considered obsolete by this date, and the Queenborough Lines represents the last example of this type of fortification in the country. The Lines bears a closer resemblance to the Napoleonic period Royal Military Canal (Sussex and Kent) than to the majority of the Royal Commission fortifications. The reasons were partly due to cost, and partly in response to local conditions where a continuous line of defences, cutting off access to the dockyards and town of Sheerness, was feasible by building the Lines straight across the north-west tip of the Isle of Sheppey

The site was the subject of an archaeological survey by English Heritage in 2001.


The Queenborough Lines consists of a simple earthern rampart with a wide ditch in front (infilled at the south-western end), a military road or covered way behind the rampart, and two narrow catchwater ditches (inner and outer), the former behind the military road and the latter on the far side of the ditch. The Lines runs from south-west to north-east across the marshes south of Sheerness for approximately 3.5km, divided into five main sections, generally in a straight line but with a central re-entrant and small sections at either end at Queenborough and Barton’s Point where it originally curved south around the proposed site of Barton’s Point Battery.

The rampart is constructed of earth and shingle and measures 15.5m to 17m wide and between 1.9m and 2.5m high. It was pierced near the centre of the lines by the Halfway House Road (now the A250) which was carried over the ditch on a causeway and the Sittingbourne to Sheerness railway west of this. Additional breaches in the rampart have since been created at the infilled western end by the insertion of a playing field, removing nearly 100m of the rampart, and Edenbridge Drive, the access road to a housing estate on the far side of the infilled ditch, built sometime between 1951 and 1973. At the far west end the lorry park immediately west of the Sittingbourne to Sheerness railway has effaced almost all surface remains of the Lines, except for a short section of rampart close to the track itself. At the eastern end all traces of the rampart where it originally swung round the south of Barton’s Point Battery have been removed but the ditch remains.

Cut into the rear face of the rampart is a fire step for infantry, originally present along the length of the rampart but its profile has now been effaced in places. No permanent artillery batteries were ever constructed along the Lines but two intended positions are marked by magazines at the flanking positions which enfilade (allowing fire to be directed along the foot of the rampart) the central re-entrant section. The eastern magazine is well preserved although it is now sealed and forms the southern side of a small fenced play area. It is constructed of brick and concrete with (according to the English Heritage survey report) twin barrel vaults entered from the north via two round arches of seven concentric header courses. The magazine has a concrete and earth bomb-proof covering and is partly set into the rampart. The western magazine was destroyed between 1953 and 1963 although its foundations can be traced. The walls survive to a maximum height of 1.85m on the southern side including the springing of the vaulting. It appears to have been identical to its eastern counterpart.

During World War II, several concrete air-raid shelters were inserted into the rampart, their roofs flush with the rampart top. All have been sealed but they originally had entrances to the rear and hatches on top. There is a group of four near the A250 causeway and several more spaced along the rampart. Other World War II additions include defensive structures around the causeway. These include a concrete block with a socket for securing a roadblock barrier on the western side of the causeway. On the eastern verge are several anti-tank blocks. On the rampart east of the causeway is a cylindrical concrete mounting block, either for a light weapon or a searchlight, and a variety of ferrous mounting plates of unknown function.

Approximately 75% of the wet ditch survives. The inner face of the ditch follows the course of the rampart so that it is at its broadest in the central section, between 32m and 61m width, thereafter conforming to its original specification of 75ft (23m). At the eastern end of the Lines the ditch curves south round Barton’s Point Battery, where it has a width of approximately 43m, ending in a weir where it meets the coast. The outer face of the ditch east of the A250 has a faced stone and concrete block revetment. This is not found elsewhere along the ditch and is likely to been constructed at a later date to prevent erosion. Between 1973 and 1978 the ditch was breached at a point some 160m south-west of the Sea Cadets HQ to enlarge a boating lake created as a focal point of the Barton’s Point Coastal Park. At the extreme west of the Line, beyond the railway line, the ditch had been infilled by 1942 and the infilling continued east of the railway during the early 1950s to a point approximately 160m east of the Western Magazine. Approximately 370m west of the A250 causeway are fragments of a modern causeway composed of deposited concrete blocks. A modern footbridge spans the ditch 108m west of the Sea Cadet headquarters.

The inner and outer catchwater ditches were used to define the boundaries of the Lines and help regulate the level of water in the main wet ditch to which they were linked by a series of sluices or weirs; brick manhole chambers with dressed stone cappings survive at several points along the Lines. The southern catchwater ditch which runs parallel to the outer face of the wet ditch, between 2m and 3.5m away and on average 2m wide, survives for much of its length although indistinct and badly overgrown. The northern catchwater ditch to the rear of the covered way is of a similar width but only survives in sections. The covered way similarly survives intact in sections, especially east of the causeway, but has been metalled in places to create a road (Southview Gardens) and has had a series of garages built on it just to the west of the causeway. In the summer of 2011 a cycle route was laid out along the length of the monument.

Extent of Scheduling The scheduling comprises a single area of protection running the length of the monument and including the causeway across the ditch. The area of protection includes the inner and outer catchwater ditches, the rampart and covered way and the main ditch except the boating lake to the south of the ditch (and its channel from the ditch) and the easternmost section of the ditch to the south and east of Barton’s Point Battery. The scheduled area boundary follows property boundaries wherever possible. Starting in the south-west corner of the monument where it adjoins the railway track the northern scheduled area boundary continues in a general north-easterly direction. It follows the property boundary of the gardens to the houses on Linden Drive, Queen’s Way and Hawthorn Avenue incorporating the inner catchwater ditch. Crossing Edenbridge Road, the boundary follows the property boundary of the gardens on Davie Close, the adjoining sports ground and gardens on Wheatsheaf Gardens. Passing south of the garages at the western end of South View Gardens the boundary follows the south side of the road and garages at the eastern end before crossing the High Street at the corner of No. 325 and continuing along the property boundaries of the gardens to the rear of Park Road. It then follows the boundary of the allotments to the south of Nursery Close and the adjoining sports fields. The boundary then continues along the property boundaries of the gardens of the houses on Beckley Road and the adjoining sports ground (incorporating the catchwater ditch) before reaching its north-easternmost point at the boundary to the Catamaran Yacht Club. It then follows this boundary south where it crosses the ditch to the north-eastern corner of the Sea Cadets Headquarters and continues south-west along the southern edge of the ditch, crossing the channel to the boating lake and continuing along the southern edge of the outer catchwater ditch until it reaches Halfway Road at the southern end of the causeway. The scheduled area boundary crosses Halfway Road and continues along the southern edge of the catchwater ditch as far as the corner of the northernmost house on Chilham Close. Here it passes along the southern edge of the children’s playground and continues in a straight line across Edenbridge Road before rejoining the outer edge of the catchwater ditch which it follows to the boundary with the railway line where it turns north to complete the scheduled area.

Exclusions All road surfaces and pavements, cycle ways, metalled footpaths and concrete steps, hard standings for children’s play areas and benches, fences, lamp posts, sign posts and information boards, goal posts, play apparatus, electricity sub stations and footings for the wooden bridge over the ditch towards its north-east end, are excluded from the scheduling although the ground beneath all these features is included.

Selected Sources

Books and journals
Probert, S, Pattison, P, The Queenborough Lines, Sheerness, Medway, Kent: a later 19th-century defence line, (2001)
Saunders, A, Smith, V, Kent's Defence Heritage, (2001), Site KD 70

National Grid Reference: TQ9231474063


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