The guardian of Essex – with Haunted Houses Events
In a small, but full of historical information, coastal town in the top eastern corner of Essex, overlooking the estuary and facing the enormous Landguard Fort stands a small circular structure known as Harwich Redoubt.
If you can imagine an invading force in the 19th century trying to find a way into England, the more vulnerable areas of Kent and Essex provided a comparatively easy route into the country. This Achilles heel, made my home county of Essex an incredibly important part of any military strategy.
Now, before we start, I am going to admit to a particular bugbear of mine relating to the redoubt at Harwich. Are you ready? Have you taken cover? Please please stop calling it Harwich Redoubt Fort…a redoubt is a type of fort, there is actually a place called The Redoubt Fort which is on the Isle of Wight, but you can call our small 250 man 1810 fortification simply Harwich Redoubt.
We ok? Good…
As we know, war with France never materialised and the fort at Harwich was taken off alert, that was until 1861 when concerns started to re-ignite, and the Palmerston forts were developed. Some names you may have heard of, Fort Horsted, Fort Borstal, Coalhouse Fort to name but three. It was during this time that Harwich had a facelift, being armed with more modern guns, but science and warfare marches on and within ten years, those weapons were now obsolete and rather than move them away, they were heaved over the wall into the dry moat beneath – where they were to lie until one was discovered in 1969. What is interesting is that many people report a feeling of disorientation in this area (this writer included), and there is a strong belief that there is another huge gun still buried beneath.
Fast forward another twenty five years or so, and Harwich is once again in the thick of it, but this time fending off aerial bombardment from German airships, but the fort was also a prison for Conscientious Objectors. There were two types of “conchies”, those who refused to fight but were happy to tend to the injured and undertake supporting roles in the field of battle, and then those who wanted no part of war in any shape or form, they were known as Absolutists.
The way these men were treated was nothing short of inhumane. They would be herded into cells, twelve at a time, rations would be bread and water and if they refused to drill? Hours in irons as punishment. Many of them were shipped off to France – in chains if needed – and if they refused to obey any orders given to them, they faced a court martial. Whilst there were many different methods of field punishments, a court martial could mean the ultimate penalty, being shot by a firing squad.
For hundreds of years – in 1543 Henry VIII had chosen Harwich as a royal port, in the 1600s hundreds of ships took refuge there due to fear of the privateers of Dunkirk and even the mooring of a knackered old frigate called HMS Winchester in 1745 to act as a floating battery should it be required – Harwich has been pivotal in the defence of the Island that so many of us call home.
Is it any wonder then that this stone built cylinder holds so many stories? If you want to read more, grab a copy of my new book, A Haunted Experiment, as I cover Harwich Redoubt in a lot more depth.
If you are intered in visiting Harwich Fort Redoubt for an intriguing ghost hunt – Visit our dedicated page HERE