by Janis on 6th September 2017 / 0 comments

Upnor Castle, defending the River Medway

Kent, in the south-east of England, certainly has its fair share of history. The little known Upnor Castle on the banks of the River Medway once faced an onslaught from its Dutch seafaring neighbours. Now the charming castle welcomes its visitors with open arms.

Upnor Castle often goes unnoticed as a prominent landmark in Medway. As Chatham across the river has the incredibly fascinating Historic Dockyard, rich in naval history. You may even recognise scenes filmed here for ‘Call the Midwife’.
 
Then an arrow throws away is the picturesque town of Rochester. Home to a 12th-century Norman Castle, a Cathedral and tales of Charles Dickens, with all this ancient history Upnor just may get overshadowed.

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Where is Upnor Castle?

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Just a short hop to Upnor Castle

Discover Upnor's beautiful High Street en-route

In my honest opinion, the quaint little village of Upnor and its castle is an English Heritage treat.
 
To access Upnor Castle on the riverfront, you get the pleasure of strolling down through the picturesque High Street of Upnor’s lovely village.

The cobbled high street, lined with historic brick-built houses, leading towards the River Medway on a sunny day.
Upnor High Street
Looking up the cobbled high street of Upnor, the traditional Shepperd Neame Pub, the Tudor Rose, on the right-hand side.
Looking up Upnor Hight Street

You pass by lovingly maintained pretty clapboard homes and tiny stores along the cobbled road,
all in just a 200-metre walk.
 
What’s even better is that you also wander by two traditional English pubs, serving local food and ales. The King’s Arms at the top of the street and The Tudor Rose a Shepherd Neame inn a local brewery from Faversham, Kent.

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A visit to Upnor Castle

Built by order of Queen Elizabeth I
On entering Upnor Castle, your first impressions may be that this English Heritage fortification is on the small side. However, that may be the case, but it certainly makes up for it in its history.
The stone facade of Upnor castle from a courtyard on the riverside
The front of Upnor Castle
A cast-iron cannon, peering through a gap in a short stone wall to the River Medway beyond
Trained on the Dutch
Upnor Castle was built by order of Queen Elizabeth I, between 1559 and 1567 as an artillery fort. It was constructed to protect the Royal Naval fleet at Chatham Dockyard and the ships anchored in the River Medway.

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Then came the Dutch to Upnor Castle

The “Battle of Medway” in 1667
However, 100 years later, it didn’t quite go to plan.
The brick & stone clock tower above the entrance to Upnor Castle
The entrance to Upnor Castle
A row of cast-iron cannons, and barrels of gunpowder in a stone room that house the Battle of Medway exhibition
The Battle of Medway exhibition
Our visit to Upnor Castle coincided with the 350th anniversary of the “Battle of Medway” in 1667. Whereby the Dutch invaded the English and kicked our backsides. So, unfortunately, Upnor Castle didn’t quite live up to its supposed expectations.
Looking up the wooden spiral staircase, built between white plastered walls, in Upnor Castle
The spiral staircase
The brick-built tunnels, with regular doorways, that sit under Upnor Castle
The tunnels under Upnor Castle
When we have since visited The Netherlands, we have occasionally asked the locals, young and old, if they are aware of the Battle of Medway. Strangely more said that they hadn’t heard of it, than those that had.

If you're intrigued by Kent's weird and wonderful history, or all unusual stories around the county, then take a peek at "Kent's Strangest Tales".

You won't be able to put it down, you can pick it up for your Kindle or in good old paperback.

Upnor Castle’s new role

England’s largest Magazine
Following the attack on the neglected Upnor Castle, it no longer survived as a fortress. New forts and garrisons were built further along the River Medway during the late 1800s.
The stone wall that surrounds Upnor Castle from the land side, with the tower above the entrance, and another on the riverside edge.
Upnor Castle
However, it didn’t put an end to Upnor Castle; it soon became converted into a “Magazine”. A storage and depot for munitions of guns, gun carriages, gun powder & muskets.
5 wooden barrels of gun powder, designed to hold 100 pounds in weight, stacked against a wall in a storeroom in Upnor Castle
Powder Barrels

By 1691 it had come into its own, it was now England’s largest Magazine by far and outshining Tower of London, the next largest Magazine.

With Upnor Castle’s location being so close to Chatham Dockyard it was the primary source of supply to the Royal Navy warships, arriving at the dockyard for replenishment.

A couple of iron cannons, some iron shot, and barrels in an exhibition room in Upnor Castle
The firepower at Upnor Castle

Our Kent road trips

If you’ve fallen in love with the county of Kent, we’ve created a few road trips around the “Garden of England” that we believe you will enjoy too.

The River Medway

A view of maritime Kent

Once you’ve discovered the internal aspects of Upnor Castle, step outside as you are in for a treat.
 
Head out onto the triangular gun platform overlooking the River Medway, the view is superb. It’s incredibly difficult to comprehend how it would have looked with the English and Dutch naval ships in an intense battle.

A view over the River Medway, at low tide, as it bends around Chatham with yachts moored up.
The River Medway from Upnor Castle
We were even lucky with the good old British weather. So, there was only one thing we could do, and that was to enjoy a sneaky half in the garden of The Tudor Rose.
Two cast-iron cannons, placed behind a short stone wall, to the River Medway beyond
Cannons in place at Upnor Castle

Where to stay near Upnor

- The Royal Victoria & Bull Hotel – Located within the heart of historic Rochester. Easy walking distance to the Castle, Cathedral, the River Medway and a great selection of restaurants.
- The Gordon House Hotel – This traditional, comfortable hotel is located along the Dickensian High Street in Rochester. Just a short stroll to the Castle and Cathedral.

Would you like a little more?

We have created a little YouTube video of Upnor - why not check it out?

Also, why not subscribe to our YouTube channel and get the latest clips as we post them?

Map, guides and more

When you’re nurturing the seed of a road trip, plotting your destinations across a paper map just brings the adventure to life. Whether it’s the touchy-feely aspect of the map or the rustling sound of mastering the art of origami while trying to fold it away, I’m not too sure. Nonetheless, the good old Ordnance Survey guys and gals always come up trumps.

Take a look at the vast array of maps you can choose from.

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