Homelessness Kent Mar 2016

Project in Progress: Digging for Clues in Dover

Emmaus Dover is a self-supporting homelessness charity which opened 20 years ago becoming the second Emmaus community in the UK. As with all Emmaus communities, Dover offers meaningful work and a place within a community to support each Companion’s, as the former homeless people are called, needs.

The need

Situated on the historical site of Archcliffe Fort, Companions are able to stay in the community as long as they wish but they must sign off all benefits except for Housing Benefit which helps towards the cost of their accommodation. In return they are asked to work in the community in a range of roles according to their skills, ability and interests for example renovating furniture which has been donated by local residents.


We are a bit like the furniture that arrives here – battered, bruised and broken. But overtime we are restored, renovated and brought back to life.

Companion at Emmaus Dover

On the clifftop overlooking the harbour of Dover, the community comprises of several buildings set on a large Scheduled Monument site dating back to the 1370’s. This may well sounds idyllic, however, taking on a site of historical significance especially one so exposed to the elements comes with many expensive challenges.

In the last 12 years ago there has been no new development on the site and maintenance has generally followed a ‘make do and mend’ approach as finances were limited. As a result much of the fabric is tired and the design not best suited for today’s community, retail and business needs.

The solution

Emmaus Dover Trustees approached CRASH for urgent help to develop the site including their warehouse and shop which are vital for their retail enterprise as well as creating additional accommodation to enable them to take in more Companions.

Liz Waller Chair of Emmaus Dover Trustees explains:

“There is no separation between the warehouse and the shop. As the warehouse needs to have large roll down shutter doors open for most of the day as it receives and dispatches furniture and goods, it means that particularly during the colder and windier months the shop floor is cold and draughty, and an unpleasant work and shopping environment. Due to the nature of restrictions on a Scheduled Monument we are unable to install double glazed windows or other energy saving features and our heating and energy bills are correspondingly large. The design and construction of the warehouse and shop leave the environment cold and draughty for many months of the year.”

Liz Waller

Chair of Emmaus Dover Trustees

How our patrons helped

After an initial visit to the project with Patrons Argent and Arcadis, BAM Design Architects and Engineers then undertook a full site survey and, amongst other issues, identified substantial cracks in the existing masonry walls and piers of the warehouse.

CRASH awarded grant of £30,000 to help make the warehouse structurally sound and adding a new shop frontage.

To ascertain the extent of the structural work needed a few bricks were removed which revealed severely corroded steel columns imbedded into the walls and need for more intrusive investigations.

Because this is a Scheduled Monument site, the investigations not only needed approval from Historic England, an archaeologist needed to be present when the works were undertaken.

Canterbury Archaeological Trust’s Field Officer Keith Parfitt was asked to attend on the day of the digging and proved to be a great source of historical information as well as seasoned professional in the science of excavations.

The excavations have enabled BAM Design’s Engineers to create a series of reparation recommendations for Emmaus Dover.

The social impact

Archcliffe Fort stands on a headland overlooking the harbour, known as Archcliffe Point. In 1370 a watchtower, surrounded by a chalk bank and ditch was built on the site of the present Archcliffe Fort. This fortification remained substantially unchanged until 1539 when Henry VIII ordered that a substantial ‘bulwark’ be constructed. Later when the Spanish Armada threatened the south coast, this fort had to be strengthened.

Again, in the reign of James I, it became necessary to spend more money on the repair of the fort. This was in 1624 during the war in the Netherlands, when an army of 12,000 men was brought to Dover and embarked for Holland. After the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660, the fort was fully manned with a captain, a lieutenant, an ensign, a sergeant, two corporals, sixty soldiers, one drummer, one gunner and two matrosses (assistant gunners).

As soon as it became evident Charles II was safely established on the throne, an order was issued in June 1661 reducing the manning levels at the fort to a captain, lieutenant and four gunners.

In the 1750s work was carried out on the fort, building two new guard houses, raising a parapet and constructing new barracks. In 1780, with war against France raging, £1,200 was spent bringing the fort up to date. During the Napoleonic Wars additional money was spent on the fort, despite it being considered obsolete. The military considered the expense worthwhile until the developments on the Western Heights became operational.

On 7 February 1844 the South Eastern Railway opened its line to Dover from Folkestone. The company’s station was reached by means of two short tunnels under the south west corner of the fort.

The fort was not upgraded during the First World War other than the mounting of some small calibre, quick firing guns to prevent landing parties taking advantage of the shelter of the cliff face. In the early 1920s the railway’s demand for more tracks resulted in parliamentary permission being given for the removal of the southern half of the fort.

Little used during the Second World War, by 1956 the Ministry of Defence no longer considered it a military installation. In 1979 it was transferred to the hands of the Department of the Environment and scheduled as an Ancient Monument.

During the construction of the new A20, in the 1990s, part of the entrance and the dry moat had to be destroyed.

In 1995 work started to convert the fort for use by Emmaus, a group working to help homeless people by providing accommodation and work for them.

We’re so pleased that our support can help to preserve the rich history of this site and also support Emmaus Dover in the incredible work that they’re doing for the homeless.

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