The Redoubt Napolionic Fort
Up a track off the Main Road, is the moated circular Redoubt Fort built in 1808 to defend the harbour against the threatened invasion of Napoleonic forces. It mounted ten 24-pounders and housed a regiment of soldiers with sufficient food and stores to withstay a lengthy siege. Fortunately it was never called upon to demonstrate its powers.
It should be remembered that at the time the Redoubt was built (1808), Harwich stopped at the High Lighthouse, while Dovercourt was about a mile up the road, the London Road. There was always a natural hill where the Redoubt now stands. Originally it was surmounted by a house, Hill House, which was purchased and demolished to make way for the Redoubt. There was also a conspicuous elm tree on the hill, known as Paine's Tree, which was marked on old charts as a landmark for mariners. It was of great age and enormous girth and was so hollowed that it could be used as a shelter. It was removed to the Storekeeper's garden at Ordnance Buildings where it served as a summer house for at least half a century. The tree was probably named after the man who owned Hill House.
The London Road also came over the hill, and this had to be diverted to its present position (Main Road) except that at this time it was called New London Road. After this site clearance, The Redoubt was then built on top of the hill. A retaining wall was subsequently built in a circle outside the fort, thus forming a dry moat between the two. Earth was brought by pannier donkeys from the nearby low lying area (now known as Bathside) and tipped around the outside of the retaining wall to form the earthworks, which are now covered by allotments.
This excavation at Bathside had repercussions in the 1953 floods as the area was then below sea level. The water came in through a breach in the sea wall and stayed in. Eight lives were lost.
The Redoubt earthworks form an integral part of the fort's defences. It meant that only a very small portion of the fort was presented as a target, and cannon balls, which were aimed too low, lost themselves harmlessly in the earthworks.
The building was completed in three years, which was an extremely quick time when one remembers that everything had to be done by hand. There is a local legend that French prisoners of war helped with the construction. The cost of the Redoubt was £55000 an enormous sum for those days.
The Redoubt is being restored by the Harwich Society. It is believed to be the largest ancient monument in the country being restored by a private group. The fort is open to the public daily during the summer season 1st May 30th September. It is also open on Sunday throughout the year. The entrance is opposite 42a Main Rd.
The Redoubt houses a fine display of large guns, military uniforms, local artefacts and displays. An audio-visual display is also available.
Artists impression of a 24 lb cannon mounting on the Redoubt
Details of events can be found on the "forthcoming events" link on the Home Page
Or further details of these events can be found in the Harwich Town Diary. CLICK HERE