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Six Sections of Boundary Wall, Medway

Description: Six Sections of Boundary Wall

Grade: II
Date Listed: 22 April 2013
Building ID: 1411051

OS Grid Reference: TQ7597068687
OS Grid Coordinates: 575886, 168710
Latitude/Longitude: 51.3902, 0.5266

Locality: Medway
County: Medway
Postcode: ME4 4XQ

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Listing Text


Six sections of boundary wall relating to Chatham Infantry Barracks (now Kitchener Barracks), built 1757. These sections are composed of both original mid-C18 fabric, and later mid-C19 fabric. Certain parts of this mid-C19 fabric form both part of the boundary, and elevations of upstanding buildings; the buildings with which those sections of wall are associated are not of special architectural or historic interest, but the boundary of which they form part, is.

Reason for Listing

Six sections of the boundary wall at Kitchener Barracks, built in 1757–c1860 are designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Historic interest: these sections of wall delineate part of the distinctive rectangular boundary of the original mid-C18 Chatham Infantry Barracks (later known as Kitchener Barracks), which is of national significance not only as a site built to serve the army at an important point in British history, but also as an early, and particularly large, example of the type of purpose-built barracks which marked a key change in the way troops were housed;
* Rarity: of the three sets of barracks built nationally in this period, it is only at Kitchener that vestiges of the site survive;
* Architectural interest: the imposing character of the walls reflects the transition from the historic tradition of billeting men amongst the community, to providing troops with distinct and separate accommodation through which integration with civilian life could be controlled; the mid-C19 sections also represent the significant change of approach to barrack-building resulting from the barracks reform agenda, most notably the ground-floor facade of the Soldiers' Institute, the first building of its kind nationally;
* Group value and local context: the walls are significant as an early element in the militarised landscape of Chatham which now, with its surviving C18 dockyard and contemporary fortifications, and collection of historic barracks, is unique in Britain.


Chatham Infantry Barracks (as Kitchener Barracks was originally known) was constructed to house a permanent garrison responsible for manning the newly created defences for Chatham Dockyard: the Chatham Lines. The Chatham Lines were created during the earlier part of the Seven Years War (1756 - 1763) in response to the British fear that her strategically important dockyards might face a landward invasion by the French. Defensive lines and associated barracks were also built at Portsmouth and Plymouth dockyards; only at Chatham however were the new barracks built on such a remarkable scale. The site was intended to hold 1,800 men, roughly the equivalent of two regiments, and was one of the largest set of barracks yet built. The proximity of the barracks to Gravesend and the Thames, from where soldiers embarked for overseas duty; the scale of the site; its high boundary wall, guarded on four sides, and the fact that it is known to have been used for recruitment from 1766, all lend weight to the theory that it had been built from the outset not only to house a permanent garrison, but also with a recruitment function in mind.

Nationally, the tradition of billeting troops of the standing army with inns and taverns prevailed through much of the C18; ideological and political anxiety about the existence of a full-time, professional army was sufficient to override the clear logistical, training and discipline benefits that permanent quarters would bring. Consequently, barracks within England (as opposed to the 'trouble spots' of Scotland and Ireland) tended to be small – housing no more than a few hundred men at forts or dockyard towns. It was only with Britain's involvement in a series of major international conflicts, which brought the need for a bigger, better trained army, as well as the necessary political will and financial resource, that this policy began to change; Chatham Infantry Barracks is a primary example of this shift. The scale and formality of the site is reflected in the regular rectangular boundary and high brick wall which originally enclosed the barracks with a guarded gate on each side. The walls ensured separation between military and civilian society, deterred desertion (something of particular relevance to Chatham as a recruiting base), and prevented unauthorised local people from entering the barracks (such as those unlawfully selling alcohol).

Kitchener Barracks has gone through several phases of development; one of the most significant is the changes which took place in the mid C19 as a result of the barracks reform agenda. This national programme to improve the appalling living conditions within barracks saw a number of new buildings, and building types, shoe-horned into the barracks, and the elevations of some of these buildings now form part of the boundary wall of the site. To the west of the north entrance gate the boundary wall is mid C19 and is a legible expression of the major changes which came about as a result of the barrack reform agenda. The outer walls of the straw shed, cells, and racquet courts, which make up this part of the boundary, reflect three key elements of barracks reform: improvements in living conditions (illustrated here in the provision of a dry and sanitary place to store bedding materials), a change in attitude to discipline (using incarceration over corporal punishment), and the encouragement of physical improvement through the provision of sports facilities. The north-west corner of the boundary, and the northern section of the west boundary, incorporates the ground floor elevation of the Soldiers Institute and lecture hall. The Soldiers Institute was intended for the use of all troops garrisoned at Chatham; it offered recreation and refreshment rooms, and a wholesome environment in which to spend leisure time. The building was much reported on and praised in the popular press at the time of its construction. Dating from the early 1860s, it was the first purpose-built example of its type and can be seen as the forerunner to the Navy Army and Air Force Institute (NAAFI), a building later to be found in barracks across the country.


Part of the north boundary wall, running for approximately 55m to the west of the north entry gate, this is a stretch of original mid-C18 barrack wall. This section is of red brick construction, laid in Flemish bond, with regular piers and a heavy pyramidal brick coping; the brickwork follows the downward slope of the land, east to west. The coping has been removed in places and additional courses have been added above; these have been laid in level courses, lifting the height of the wall and creating a stepped head. The height of the wall varies, but is approximately 2.5m.

Part of the east boundary wall, running for approximately 70m to the north of Amherst Hill, these two sections form a stretch of original mid-C18 barrack wall, separated by a later opening. The sections are of red brick construction, laid in Flemish bond, with regular piers and a heavy pyramidal brick coping in parts, and a flat coping in other parts. Both sections are approximately 3m in height, although part of section 2 raises to approximately 4.5 m in height, and here has been buttressed with additional brickwork.

Part of the east boundary wall, running for approximately 20m to the south of Amherst Hill, near the south-east corner of the barracks site. Although heavily covered in undergrowth, some sections of the red brickwork with shallow piers can be seen. The section of garden wall adjoining this section of boundary wall to the west, is associated with the garden of the Commanding Officer's house which was situated in this part of the barracks, and is not included in this listing.

Part of the south boundary wall, to the east of where the original south gate stood, this is a section of original mid-C18 boundary wall which runs for approximately 70m. This section is heavily covered in undergrowth; however some sections of the red brickwork laid in Flemish bond can be seen. As with the section of original wall to the north, the lower courses which are visible follow the slope of the ground, rather than having levelled courses. This stretch of wall stops approximately 30m short of where the south-east corner of the site would have been.

This section forms the north-west corner of the barracks site.

The north boundary wall, running from the west of the north gate to the north-west corner, is c1860, of yellow stock brick construction, laid in level courses in English bond. The exterior face of the wall is completely blank for the first 20m: this was the back wall of the straw shed, as shown on a plan of the barracks in 1864. The remainder of the shed is now replaced with a later building (not of special interest) built against the inside of the wall. Beyond this the boundary wall has seven small high-level windows, reflecting the seven cells which survive on the inside of the wall (and which are not of special interest). To the west of this the wall has piers, marking the location on the inside of a pair of racquet courts, now in use as garages (which are also not of special interest). There is a single blocked doorway with a flat gauged brick head.

The north-west corner of the boundary wall is curved, and formed part of the 1872 theatre extension to the Soldiers' Institute. It is built in a style matching that of the Institute; the front elevation of which forms the most northerly section of the west boundary.

The Soldiers Institute was a two-storey Italianate building; only the ground floor front elevation remains. This is built in a cream gault-type brick laid in English bond. It is seven bays wide with rusticated pilasters separating the window openings, and a brick modillion course which runs below a parapet. The window openings (now bricked up) have gauged flat arches with stone sills and brick modillions below. There is a central rusticated porch with a pediment, the tympanum of which bears a carved laurel wreath and the intertwined initials VR. A rendered dwarf wall runs just in front of the elevation, along the line of the original boundary wall.

To the south of the Institute facade for approximately 50m, the wall is red brick laid in Flemish bond, with shallow piers. There are a number of window openings (now bricked up) which are later insertions. This stretch of wall is part of the original mid-C18 boundary.

Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.