Upnor Castle is an Elizabethan artillery fort located in the village of Upnor.
Its purpose was to defend ships moored on the River Medway outside Chatham dockyards. The River Medway was used to build and repair warships, and to moor them ‘in ordinary’, that is with the rigging sails removed. To protect this fleet, Queen Elizabeth and her Privy Council ordered, in 1559, that a bulwark be built on the river at Upnor in the parish of Frindsbury. Six 'indifferent persons' selected a site opposite St Mary's Creek and 6 acres of land was purchased for £25 from Mr Thomas Devinisshe of Frindsbury. The bulwark was designed by Sir Richard Lee, but the building was supervised by Humphrey Locke and Richard Watts. The building cost £3621. Stage one was finished in 1564. A further £728 was immediately spent on lead for the roof. In 1564 twenty three ships of the Queen largest ships were moored in Bridge Reach. The castle is fronted by a water bastion jutting out into the River Medway.
The fort was poorly maintained and proved unsuccessful when the Dutch, led by Admiral de Ruyter, sailed up the Medway to attack the dockyard in June 1667. The Dutch met very little opposition, and when they left two days later they had destroyed and captured a great number of the Royal Navy ships anchored at Chatham. The attack led to a rethink of the defences of the Medway estuary, and in 1668 Upnor was downgraded to be used as a magazine, supplying powder and shot to warships anchored in the river. In 1718 barracks were built. Life followed a regular uneventful pattern for the two officers and 64 soldiers. The Magazine closed in 1827 and by 1840 there was no gunpowder left. It then became an Ordnance Laboratory. New magazines were built at Chattenden away from the river, and in 1872 a Military railway was laid connecting Chattenden and the river.
In 1891 the Castle was handed over from the War Office to the Admiralty. It continued in service until 1945 when it became a museum.
High Street, Upper Upnor, Rochester, KentME2 4XG
Tel: 01634 718742 or 01634 338110 when castle is closed.
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Last Updated: 28 Apr 2015