The Raid on the Medway

The Raid on the Medway, sometimes called the Battle of Medway or the Battle of Chatham, was a successful Dutch attack on the largest English naval ships, laid up in the dockyards of their main naval base Chatham, that took place in June 1667 during the Second Anglo-Dutch War. The Dutch, under nominal command of Lieutenant-Admiral Michiel de Ruyter, bombarded and captured Sheerness, went up the River Thames to Gravesend, then up the River Medway to Chatham, where they burnt three capital ships and ten lesser naval vessels and towed away the Unity and the Royal Charles, pride and normal flagship of the English fleet. It is generally considered the largest Dutch naval victory in history and the worst English naval defeat. The raid led to a quick end to the war and a favourable peace for the Dutch.

A more detailed description of the battle:



Lines History 16th Century - 1756

During the reign of Henry VIII, the mud banks of the river Medway near Chatham were used for careening ships. Elizabeth I founded the dockyard at Chatham in the late 16th century and Upnor Castle was built a short way downstream for its defence.

The dockyard at Chatham was used increasingly by the Royal Navy during the wars with Spain, and a chain was thrown across the river at Gillingham to provide additional defence. In the 1620s, the dockyard was greatly enlarged, and a wall was built around it. Although this wall had some bastions, it was never really expected to face a full-scale landward attack. The wall was designed more to keep the prying eyes of enemy agents out of the dockyard and to prevent the sailors from deserting.

The importance of Chatham grew steadily during the 17th century, partly thanks to the wars with the Dutch, which put Chatham on the front line. The Dutch raid in 1667 highlighted the lack of defences at Chatham. At this time, two shore batteries (Cockham Wood Battery and Gillingham Battery) were built by de Gomme to defend the dockyard. In the beginning of the 18th century, the role of Chatham changed to being that of a shipwright, and various ships of the line were built there, including HMS Victory.

Wars with the French in the 18th century led to concerns about the vulnerability of Chatham. The events of 1667 had led to the fortification of the Medway against naval incursions, but there were no landward defences at Chatham. From 1700, there were various plans to fortify Chatham, but all were refused.In 1715 a survey of Defence requirements was ordered to be prepared by the Duke of Marlborough.


Eventually in 1756 (due to a French Invasion scare of the seven years war 1856-63) work started on fortifying Chatham according to plans drawn up by the Dutch engineer Hugh de-Beigg. There was to be a line of bastioned fortification around the dockyard of Chatham and the town of Brompton, nearly 2 kilometres in length. Two square redoubts, the Townsend Redoubt in the north and the Amherst Redoubt in the south, formed strong points in the defences.

The lines designed by de-Breigg took advantage of the high ground on the landward side of Chatham.They were un-lined earthern ditches that only had a  shallow ditch of 27 feet wide and 8 feet deep with a 9 feet Parapet.they also possibly had pointed timbers projecting out from the ramparts as an obstruction.

The Lines were rather long and required a large garrison and over 1000 cannon to defend them.

however,neglect took it's toll on them and 10 years later a report on the lines stated they were"greatly destroyed and rendered  almost defenceless by Cattle grazing thereon."

Lines History 1770 -

In 1770 attention was given to the Cumberland Lines as they needed to be upgraded.

Based on a Plan laid down by Lt. General Skinner,the North-West extension of the lines would now take the Fortifications to St Marys Creek.

The Chatham end was also remodeled with an addition of a Redoubt Complex that would become known as Fort Amherst.

The Soldiers that dug the Ditches and embankments frequently uncovered decaying bones,rusting swords and the ocassional coin showing the face of a Roman Emperor.

Unfortunatly while building the lines the Army was desecrating an area of Historic importance,the whole of the lines seemingly covered with countless Barrows and leveled graves,most of them belonging to Anglo-Saxon settlers of the 5th and 6th Centuries.

Captain James Douglas and Excavations

In 1779 a Captain James Douglas was ordered to join the staff of Lt-Colonel Debbeig (now Chief Engineer)

Douglas had a considerable interest in the past and was clearly excited by the various articles found.

He remembers a massive collection of Bones,teeth and tusks that had been discovered durring the digging of foundations for a Storehouse,it was at first assumed they belonged to an Elephant bought to Britain by Emperor Hadrian,Douglas suggested they belonged to a Hippopotamus and proposed that such animals once roamed freely on the river bed of Ancient Chatham.

He was however wrong,but from detailed drawings he made it was later possibly to suggest the bones belonged to a mammoth.

Over the following decade or so Douglas was to supervise over a Hundred excavations in the Chatham area.

Of particular importance was the uncovering in 1782 of a Roman Building durring the construction of Amherst Redoubt.

The Building  measured 12 foot by 18ft and contained several small rooms.

It was possibly an Army outpost designed to give protection for the Medway crossing.

A similar building was found on the far side of the river.

Also a Roman Villa was uncovered,the site of which is now adjacent to the Reservoir Wall to the right of the Hornwork Casemate.

Lines History 1803 -

When the Napoleanic War broke out the Lines Armament was increased with vast amounts of money being spent on improving the Fortifications.These included lining of all the Ditches in Brick and constructing new Magazines.

The majority of the work was carried out between 1803 and 1811.

Before the war some of the guns were put into storage at the Gun Wharf in Chatham and the Carriages were stored in a specially built Shed in Fort Amherst.These were re-installed at Fort Amherst in 1803 as well as other Artillary that came from Woolwich.

The Napoleonic Wars ended following Napoleon's final defeat at Waterloo in 1815 and the Lines itself never saw action.

Improvements to the Lines were carried out into the 1820's but due to the lack of secuity importance of the Lines the majority of Guns were withdrawn.

 However,Annual Siege Operation Exercises now took place on the Lines which drew large crowds.

In 1860 the Royal Commision for the defence of the United Kingdom decalred that the Lines were Obselete and new Fortifications were built on the Thames or South of the Medway Towns.

In 1878 The Drawbridges at the Lines Gates were demolished along with theirGuard Towers because of mounting traffic.They were replaced with fixed Bridges and then later the adjacent sections of ditch were back filled.

Late in the 19th Century the section of Lines from St Marys Creek to the Redan was demolished when the Victorian Extension of the Dockyard was built. 

Next Page: 19th Century Map

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