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Fort Burgoyne

Research to determine the decorative history of the Casemates (1868 – 2006)

Background & Brief
Fort Burgoyne was built between 1862 and 1868. It is a Scheduled Ancient Monument located 1.5 Km from the north-east of Dover on the hill overlooking the town. between the former Ministry of Defence Connaught Barracks and Burgoyne Heights, a local housing estate. The military establishment was vacated in 2006 and sold to the Homes and Communities Agency. In 2011 Capita Symonds produced a Conservation Management Plan for the fort.

The Conservation and Management Plan aimed to provide a flexible framework for future action, ensuring that the special architectural and historic interest of the site is preserved and, where possible, enhanced. It provides an assessment of the Fort’s historical development and records significant features to inform future decisions regarding future programmes of repair and restoration. It identifies parts of the building/s vulnerable to change and makes an assessment of the significance of the site.

One of the key aims of the Fort Burgoyne Conservation and Management Plan is to find ways of invigorating interest in the Fort in a sustainable manner to ensure its long term future. Whilst localised intervention and loss of historic fabric may be an inevitable requirement to ensure the long term future of the Fort, any such intervention should be kept to a minimum to ensure the significance of the Monument is not compromised for present and future generations. The Conservation and Management Plan makes a record of the fort’s history from the time from its completion in 1868 to the present day.

Fort Burgoyne may be considered to be of National Importance as it is one of finest and most complete 19th century Royal Commission forts in the country and embodies design responses to rapid advances in artillery technology and attack/siege tactics since the 1860s. It retains evidence of social and military attitudes to enlisted men and officers in the 19th century. In places it retains evidence of decorations applied in the 1930s and 1940s which are extremely evocative of these periods.


Investigation of representative interiors of Fort Burgoyne has established their decorative history. The standard casemate barracks which were designed to house 14 men were simply decorated c.1868. The un-plastered interiors were painted with white lime-wash with the joinery (doors, dado rail and skirting bead) decorated in cream coloured oil paint. The metal shelving was decorated in a dark iron oxide red. Lime-wash was a cheap utilitarian hygienic paint finish which could have been readily renewed. The use of white and cream coloured paints would have made these dark tunnel-like interiors much lighter. The rear corridor was also decorated in white lime-wash with cream skirting bead.
In contrast the Officers’ Casemates were plastered and painted in a dark pink distemper and fitted with panelled doors, shuttered sash windows, wooden friezes and high skirting boards. The joinery,like that in the soldiers casemates, was painted in cream coloured oil paint. The basement Servants’ Quarters of No. 4 had plastered walls and was originally decorated in a yellow distemper. But later the room was decorated in the same white lime-wash applied to the walls of soldiers’ casemates. The rear corridor of the Officers’ Casemates were plastered – but decorated in lime-wash. It was fitted with high moulded skirting boards again originally painted cream.
The original decorative schemes were repeated. At some date, probably in the early 20th century, the joinery was painted in a dark red/brown coloured oil paint. This was repeated 4/5 times and some areas elements retain this early finish.
When Connaught Barracks were built 1912/13 the role of Fort Burgoyne changed. The casemates were used for storage, work-shop, schoolrooms and officers. This transition was probably gradual. Sometime during the 1930s the casemates were renovated, replacing the original semi-panelled front elevations with brick in-fills and sash windows. It is probable that some of the sash windows were salvaged for elsewhere and some were made new. The decoration applied to the inner face of these windows (a red/brown oil paint) has not been over-painted. It is assumed that the original chimneys were blocked at this time and stoves were fitted to provide heating. After this date some of the casemates were decorated in ad hoc schemes which clearly attempted to ‘brighten up’ the interiors. The decoration of Casemate 12 – one of the three casemates used as schoolrooms – includes depictions of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck which may be dated to the late 1930s. Although the paintings are quite amateurish, they are evocative of the period and will be of interest to Disney historians.
There is no evidence of any organised decoration of the casemates after the 1930s.