Now a used-car lot on the Delce Road in Rochester, the original defensive military brickwork can still be seen. A few years ago at the end of Rochester Avenue, where it leads into the Delce, the road collapsed – allegedly because the tunnel system beneath had given way.
I made a healfhearted essay to the sealed tunnel entrance opposite Fort Clarence on the Borstal Road, but the collapsed wooden fence that had been so easy to climb over has been replaced by vandal-proof metal secuity fencing. My heart wasn’t in the job and I walked back to the road. I was caught up by a bloke I had taken for a street-drinker, hailing me as his long-lost firend Kev. When he realised his error he apologised in the over effusive manner of the underdog, practically bowing his apologies to me. We started talking as we walked back towards Rochester and I told him what I’d been up to. He told me that the new fencing has been erected after kids’ fires down there had begun to get out of hand, setting fire to garden fences and sheds backing onto the wastlground.
He then told me a story of a building site he’d worked on down this way. When a human leg bone was disinterred in the foundations the dig had to stop while an archaeologist was called in. It was dated as Anglo-Saxon and the downtime cost the developer £1500. So when a week later a human arm bone was dug up they were instructed to slop on the concrete as quickly as possible and bury it. Shades of the Tudor Wall demolition at Restoration House, and probably the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the shady destruction of our past.
He told me of the “hundreds of miles” of tunnels under the Medway Towns that him and his mates used to play in as kids – all now inaccessible and blocked up. Some of this might refer to the Shorts Tunnels or maybe earlier Napoleonic tunnels connecting the Medway forts.