Upnor CastleUpnor Castle was constructed under the orders of Elizabeth I who wished to protect her interests anchored in the Medway. It was completed in 1567 under the supervision of Richard Watts who borrowed stonework from Rochester Castle to speed the works along. Although Upnor Castle provided an important link in the protection of the Medway, it was not maintained. When the Dutch sailed up the Medway and attacked the British Fleet, Upnor Castle proved ineffective despite the best efforts of the garrison within Upnor's Walls. In 1668, Upnor Castle became a magazine for Ordnance stores and at one time held more gunpowder than the Tower of London.
It was at the end of the Second Dutch War that Upnor Castle saw action (1665-1667). The Royal Navy won a resounding victory in July 1666 over the Dutch at the Battle of Orfordness (North Foreland). However, a disastrous mistake would have dire consequences. During peace negotiations in 1667 the government decided to lay up the fleet and depend upon the coastal defences for protection. In June, contrary to general expectations Admiral de Rutyer led a Dutch squadron to the Thames estuary. Having reached Gravesend, Rutyer changed course and headed for the Medway. A new but incomplete fort at Sheerness was sacked and burned while a chain hastily strung across the river between Gillingham and Hoo Ness proved ineffective. The Dutch sailed up the river capturing the Royal Charles and burning the Royal James, the London and the Oake at their moorings. At Upnor Castle, the Dutch finally met with heavy resistance. They were attacked with fierce fire from both heavy guns and small arms until these too were silenced due to a simple lack of ammunition. Abandoning plans to attack the Chatham Dockyard, the Dutch sailed calmly back down the river with their war trophies.
Upnor Castle is now a far more tranquil place. On your visit, you can climb to the top and stand in Pepys' footsteps who noted in his diary, "Thence to Upnor Castle and there went up to the top, where there is a fine prospect, but of very small force." The picturesque architecture of Upnor is best enjoyed from across the Medway in a vista that was once captured by J.M.W. Turner. Within the grounds of Upnor Castle, you'll be able to see canons recovered from boats which sank during the battle while your audio guide details the events in a graphic manner. Your tour of Upnor Castle includes an exhibition gallery detailing how gunpowder was handled and stored within a typical magazine of the period.
Address: Upper Upnor
Postcode: ME2 4XG
Town/city or near: Rochester
Open daily from 25th to 31st of March between 10am and 4pm and from 1st April to 30th September between 10am and 6pm. In October Upnor Castle is open between 10am and 4pm.