During the Second World War, a gun battery was constructed at Fan Bay, along with an associated deep shelter, providing a safe haven for the gunners stationed on the cliff top. Two exit tunnels link the sound mirrors to the deep shelter behind. Directly in front of the mirrors at the exit of these tunnels, two lavatory buildings were constructed. The sound mirrors and all entrances to the deep shelter were covered over in the 1970s, as part of an effort to remove any evidence of obsolete military installations in Kent. They remained in this state until the land was purchased by the National Trust in 2012. The mirrors and deep shelter were subsequently excavated in 2014 and are now open to the public as a visitor attraction, as of 2015. Two of the three 6" gun emplacements were excavated during 2022-23.
Identification Images (4)
- COASTAL BATTERY (Mid 20th C - 1932 AD to 1966 AD)
The development of radar detection systems, alongside increasing aircraft speed, meant that acoustic early warning systems, such as that at Fan Bay, quickly became obsolete. Fan Hole, however, remained strategically important and between 1940 and 1941 a new gun battery was constructed on the ridge above Fan Bay. The battery was equipped with three 6 inch gun positions, each with its own underground magazine. The three 6 inch guns at Fan Bay were high angle guns, giving them increased range. Searchlight positions were located below the battery on the cliff edge, powered from an on-site generator. A surface accommodation camp was provided adjacent to the battery.
In addition to the surface accommodation a deep shelter was excavated into the chalk cliffs beneath Fan Hole. The deep shelter provided accommodation for the crew of approximately 184 men and 4 officers during hostile bombardments. The tunnels at Fan Hole had three entrances – a main entrance to the east of No. 3 gun position and two seaward entrances located adjacent to the earlier sound mirrors. It is possible that these two lower entrances made use of existing tunnels excavated behind the sound mirrors which had provided storage and a space to isolate the operators from external noise. In World War II, latrines were built outside, in front of the sound mirrors, for the use of the men within the shelter. In front of the tunnel entrances, and partly in front of the existing sound mirrors, thick blast walls were built to protect the tunnels from shock waves or debris from any potential explosions outside the tunnel mouths.
This area includes the gun positions and associated magazines of Fan Bay Battery, as well as the site of a structure associated with the sound mirrors (the latter now demolished, but with the potential for surviving buried remains). The guns themselves were removed when the military withdrew from the site in 1958. The empty brick gun emplacements remained intact until 1973, when they were demolished as part of the County Council’s ‘Operation Eyesore’, which the saw the demolition or burial of many of the area’s Second World War structures. Evaluation trenching as part of Wanstone Rediscovered in 2022 established that the brick-built upper parts of these encasements had been collapsed into the concrete sub-structures. The entrances to the underground magazines had been buried, though that to the magazine of No.3 gun has been opened and capped with a steel hatch by the National Trust. All three magazines are known to survive intact below ground, with the potential for surviving fixtures and fittings (such as ventilation equipment). The concrete aprons at the front of each gun position are known to survive beneath a shallow layer of topsoil and vegetation. Two gun emplacements have now been excavated (2023).
- SNA69096 - National Trust Report: National Trust. 2011. Archaeological Assessment of coastland from Langdon Hole to South Foreland Lighthouse.
- SNA69097 - National Trust Report: Kent Underground Research Group. 2012. Fan Bay Deep Shelter Assessment, Dover, Kent.
- SNA69098 - National Trust Report: MJC Associates. 2013. Graffiti survey at Fan Bay Deep Shelter, Dover, Kent.
- SNA69099 - National Trust Report: Dover Archaeological Group. 2014. Watching brief at Fan Hole Deep Shelter, St. Margaret’s-at-Cliffe, Dover, Kent.
Other Statuses and References
- Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty: KENT DOWNS
- Heritage Coast: SOUTH FORELAND
- ENA10116 - Heritage Assessment, Archaeological Assessment of coastland from Langdon Hole to South Foreland Lighthouse, 2011
- ENA10117 - Field Survey, Fan Bay Deep Shelter Assessment, Dover, Kent, 2012
- ENA10118 - Field Survey, Graffiti Survey: Fan Bay Deep Shelter, Dover, Kent, 2013
- ENA10119 - Archaeological Intervention, Watching brief at Fan Hole Deep Shelter, St. Margaret’s-at-Cliffe, Dover, Kent, 2014
- ENA10869 - Archaeological Intervention, Wanstone Rediscovered, 2022-2025