Harwich Redoubt Fort
Harwich Redoubt Fort
A massive circular fort, 180 feet in diameter, built in 1808 to defend against a feared Napoleonic invasion. A museum is housed in one part of the fort; on the battlements are eleven guns. Battle reinactments and other events are held here in summer.
In 1808 the Napoleonic Wars were at their height, and the threat of a French invasion was very high. To counter the threat a series of 29 defensive Martello towers were built along a stretch of coast from Norfolk to Essex. The Harwich Redoubt is one of these Martello Towers. The fort is thought to have been constructed using French prisoners of war for labourers.

It was built to a circular plan, and is about 200 feet across. In the centre is a parade ground about 85 feet diameter. There were gun emplacements atop the battlements, with a system of hoists to lift shells to the gun crews. The fort was armed with ten 24-pounder guns, and housed up to 300 troops in 18 casements arranged around the parade ground.

In 1861 a fresh threat loomed, so the Redoubt was remodelled to take heavier 68-pound cannon, and the defences strengthened with granite facings to take the brunt of enemy fire. In 1872 a trio of 12 ton muzzle loading guns replaced 3 earlier cannon. Then in 1903 3 more 12 pounder guns replaced older models.

Though the defences kept being upgraded as threats looms, the Redoubt never saw action. It was allowed to fall into decay in the early 20th century, then briefly used as a detention centre by the military in WWII, holding soldiers awaiting trial. Some of the soldiers scratched graffiti in their cells, which can be seen by visitors.

Restoration began in 1969 and the Redoubt Fort is the largest historic monument in Britain being restored and managed by a volunteer group.

Visitors can see some of the original guns, including a 12 ton RML gun discovered in the moat, where it had been pushed after it became obsolete. Chambers around the parade ground have been restored to show how they would have looked when the fort was on active duty, and some are used to hold exhibits on Harwich and its history. Special events, including battle re-enactments, are held regularly.

The location might at first seem odd, for the site is now hemmed in by modern housing, but in the early 19th century it stood alone atop a hill with 360 degree views.