Started in 1805,Fort Pitt was built on the high ground that over looks the River Medway. From it's high poisition it could protect the flank of Fort Amherst and deny any invading army it's high vantage point. Also from the fort it was possible to control access to Rochester Bridge which was an important link across the River. To the West was Fort Clarence which was built about the same time as Fort Pitt. The forts would help protect Chatham and it's important Dockyard from an invasion,at the time we were at war with France and Napolean's army.
Fort Pitt's construction was not completed untill about 1812,seven years after it was first started. The reason for the delay was possibly because Fort Amherst may have been given priority in building work and remodeling taking place at Amherst at the time. Original plans show Fort Pitt was to be a classical Bastioned fort surounded by revetted ditches. later on a Ravelin,which was an angled outwork,was added to the rear for advanced infantry position,also a tower was built in the centre of the fort which gave better protection for the rear of the fort. At the front of the fort on the river side was a large Casemated Blockhouse,which contained Barrack accomodation and embrasure's for artillary.
On the left and right flanks of the fort,set away from the fort,were two defensive towers,Delce and Gibralter. Both towers have since been demolished,but a few lower parts of Delce Tower remain in Delce Road, including part of the ditch wall and a Caponier which has had it's loop holed wall knocked through,and is now used by a car sales company.
The Royal Marine Artillary occupied the fort from 1814 to 1815. Then wounded troops returning from the battle of Waterloo were looked after at the fort,which was to be the start of the fort's long life as a Military Hospital which was to last untill 1919. In 1828 the fort became a depot for Invalid Soldiers. New Hospital building construction began in 1832 and a Lunatic Asylum was added in 1847. The central tower was demolished at this time to make way for the new buildings.
Crimea Block,part of the former Hospital.
Former Lunatic Asylum building.
Old water pump in the fort's grounds.
Queen Victoria and Prince Albert visited the Hospital at the fort three times during the Crimean War.
On her first visit,the Queen met George Hayward who was a 90+ year old patient,he had been bedridden for over 30 years.
It was later discovered that George had mutilated himself to get out of fighting at Waterloo by cutting off one of his feet. The story goes that the Surgeon at the Hospital on hearing this,then cut off his other foot,thus making him completely bedridden.
Queen Victoria may have found out about this as she didn't visit George on her next two visits to the Hospital,George was said to be most upset by this.George Hayward's Bedstead was kept as an exhibit in the Hospital for many years after his death.
Florence Nightingale established the first Army Medical School at the fort,this came to an end in 1863 when it was moved to a new establishment at Netley in Hampshire.
A Military Cemetery attached to the Hospital was opened south of Fort Pitt,off City Way.
Memorial in the Cemetery.
WWI was a very busy period for the fort when it had a large number of out-stations. Many soldiers who died there were buried at the nearby Military Cemetery.
The Hospital finaly closed in 1919 when it had become run down and was shut as a post-war economy measure. Part of the fort's ditch was filled in to provide work for the local unemployed after WWI.
1927 saw the fort's begining as a School when it was purchased by the local Educational Board. It became a Girl's Technical High School and was opened in September 1929,today the same site is still occupied by Fort Pitt Grammar School. The Blockhouse was demolished in the early 1930's and now the building used by the University for the Creative Arts stands on the Blockhouse site. In WWII some of the underground works of the fort were used as an air-raid shelter for the school.
Today,both of the Eastern Bastion walls and connecting Curtain wall with fire step walls behind remain intact next to the playing field. Also one of the Counterscarp walls of the Blockhouse ditch and bricked up Guardhouse in the ditch remain visable. A number of Hospital buildings still survive to,which are now used by the school. Inside a corridor in the school are some interesting pictures and finds connected to the forts past.
Curtain wall between the Bastion walls.
Counterscarp wall next to the University for the Creative Arts Building where the Fort Pitt Blockhouse was located.
Bricked up Guardhouse in the remaining Counterscarp wall.
Fort Pitt Grammer School is open to the public once a year for the annual Heritage open days in September. The School is otherwise not generally open to visitors not connected to the school.