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Kent Archaeological Review extract

Tudor Blockhouse at Gravesend.
by Victor Smith.

KAR Number 30 announced the intention to excavate in the Gordon Pleasure Gardens, Gravesend to try to locate the site of a Tudor blockhouse built in 1540 for the artillery defence of the river Thames. In the event, the excavations in the Pleasure Gardens produced a negative result but further investigation some 20m away from the eastern boundary of the Gardens in a grassy area surrounding the adjacent Canal Basin discovered substantial foundations. This was reported in KAR Number 33, and with the kind permission of the Gravesend Corporation, during October-December 1973 the Kent Defence Research Group carried out further excavations to recover the plan of the blockhouse. Unfortunately part of the foundations were found to underlie a road at the side of the Canal Basin. However the accessible foundations were selectively exposed at intervals and the indications are that the blockhouse does not depart in any major way from the basic outline of two of the other Thames block- houses of which plans are in existence; that is, D-shaped in plan with the curve of the D facing the river. It seems to be a little smaller though. The photograph shows the chalk foundations of the rear right hand corner.

PHOTO: The rear right hand 
corner of the chalk foundation of a 
Tudor blockhouse.

The rear right hand corner of the chalk foundation of a Tudor blockhouse.

The structure of the blockhouse seems to have been placed on top of a chalk raft, necessary because of the marshy nature of the ground. What in fact remains of the structure is the substantial chalk base-core of the foundations of the walls built directly on this raft. The building had a brick superstructure but this had been demolished after the blockhouse fell into disuse. Nothing remains of the superstructure except an enormous scatter of brick and mortar rubble in which not one brick was found to be whole. The area within the building had been raised by some 70 centimetres of clayey material. Some parallel horizontal holes were found in the rubble where it overlay the clayey make-up and in one of the holes a nail with a piece of wood adhering to it was discovered. The possibilities arising from this are being considered.

Although none of the brick superstructure had survived, at the bottom of a deep trench dug to investigate a break in the foundation of the curved front some in situ brickwork was found. Unfortunately, a proper examination of this had to be abandoned because water from the Canal Basin had penetrated the trench.

It is planned to carry out further excavations at weekends in September and October (one week continuously 1-7th September). The excavations will be to complete the investigation of the curved front where the platforms for the artillery would have been placed. It is hoped that a pump will be available so that the investigations can be as full as possible. Anyone who is interested in taking part in what will be the final phase of the excavation is welcome. Letters to me at 65 Stonebridge Road., Northfleet, Kent for details and map showing location of site.

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