The Explorers

Dover Arts Development have been appointed to work with Charles Holland Architects on the development of future uses for the West Wing Battery in Dover. The West Wing is part of the wider Fort Burgoyne complex, a remarkable military site originally built in the 1860s to defend Dover from invasion and in permanent military use until 2006. The Land Trust and Pioneering Places have recently commissioned a team to develop these sites for future public use and enjoyment as well as to stabilise and conserve the historic structures as they stand.

From January to April 2019, DAD and CHA will conduct a series of engagement exercises for the West Wing that will reimagine the site and build community ownership of a space which has largely been out of bounds since its construction. Titled The Explorers, this community engagement programme will draw on the skills, knowledge and ideas of Dover people.

The Explorers programme

‘The Explorers’ is a programme of Sunday walks exploring Dover’s West Wing Battery at Fort Burgoyne. The programme will take the popular format of the Sunday Walk, a familiar way to explore new places and discover sites, and use it as the basis for speculations and community consultation on the future of the West Wing Battery.

There will be four walks during February and March 2019, each accompanied by Charles Holland and Joanna Jones and led by a local expert who will bring their particular knowledge to both the site and an exploration of its role within the wider context of Dover. Each walk will be designed and led by the expert, starting from a point of their choosing but always ending up at the West Wing itself where participants will be asked for their thoughts and ideas as to possible future uses of the site. We aim for 15 – 20 people drawn from both our and the expert’s communities to accompany them on the walk. There will also be a fifth walk with young people from Guston Primary School.

All walk participants will carry an all weather field notebook to record observations and makes notes, do drawings and collect thoughts. Information from the notebooks will form the basis of the Westwing community engagement consultancy in the form of a huge drawing brought together by Charles Holland in April 2019. The notebooks will be returned to their owners once the information in them has been noted. The huge drawing will be used to inform future developments at the Fort including the artists brief for a new art work at the West Wing Battery with the call-out for artists going out in Summer 2019.

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The Walks & The Walk Leaders

WALK1 Sunday February 24th  An Architect’s Walk with Philip Hutton and Christopher Lumgair
Dover could be described as a town of two halves. As extensive Napoleonic defences grew hidden in the surrounding landscape so did hundreds of elegant Georgian and Victorian houses and pleasure gardens. The walk begins at Castle Hill House and proceeds up the centuries old coaching turnpike to the base of Dover Castle. Many of the historic houses along the turnpike were occupied by those employed at the Garrison. The walk concludes at the West Wing Battery of Fort Burgoyne.

WALK2 Sunday March 3rd      An Historian’s Walk with Andy Rayner
For my walk I shall be focussing on the Victorian Forts in Dover, describing the various structures, and explaining why they were built. I shall also be talking about the part-time Volunteer soldiers in Dover during the Victorian years, the Rifle Volunteers and the Yeomanry Cavalry and pointing out the various buildings that they were associated with, and even some of the houses where they lived. As we approach Fort Burgoyne, the two stories will converge as we retrace the footsteps of the Volunteers.

WALK3 Sunday March 17th       An Artist’s Walk with Simon Bill
This will be a bit more like an exploratory ramble than an organised ‘walk’ really. But there is a plan. Beginning at the main entrance of Connaught Park, our approach to the West Wing Battery will be unusual, both literally and metaphorically. Leaving the formal park we will enter its neighbouring woodland, climb to the outer perimeter of the West Wing Battery, and circumnavigate the site from the outside, looking down into its overgrown defensive ditch through the security fencing. Emerging from the open parkland on to the Dover Road, we will cross to gain a view of the much larger ditch of the main part of Fort Burgoyne, and the WW2 brutalist concrete structures that surround it. We will walk back up the Dover Road, and then, before we enter the West Wing Battery itself, we will spend some time clambering through the ivy and ferns of its half-forgotten ditch. From there we will pass through the gate and in to the ruins of the Western Battery itself…  

WALK4 Sunday March 31st     An Ordinary Walk with Karuna Gurung & Amanda Jayne
Karuna comes from an environment in which walking up and down hills has been a part of everyday life for centuries and now, living as part of the Gurkha community adjacent to Fort Burgoyne, continues to use walking up and down hill to Dover town and back as part of her daily routine. Karuna will lead the group assisted by Amanda Jayne at a pleasurable pace up from Dover’s Market Square, along Laureston Place and Victoria Park  ascending by the main road until the first of the new kissing gates that the land trust have installed approaching the West Wing Battery  from the Connaught park side entrance. The route is one that a visitor to Dover might take in the future who wanted to visit the re-imagined site of the West Wing Battery.

There was also  a fifth walk with young people from Guston Primary School.

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What we learnt  from the Walks

Each of the walks has led us to the West Wing Battery via a different route, seen through a particular set of eyes. They have mapped the West Wing and its relationship to Dover through the lens of military and architectural history as well as lived and day-today experience. Collectively they have allowed us to place the West Wing within the historical and contemporary context of Dover and have generated ideas about its future use. These ideas will become part of the visioning for the West Wing Battery as a space to be used by the existing community as well as the new community that will arrive once the new houses adjacent to the site and on the former barracks land at Fort Burgoyne are built. The immediate context for the West Wing will thus be a new one. The Explorers will help shape that new relationship. 

The Explorers programme is part of Pioneering Places East Kent: Dover developed by Dover Arts Development and Charles Holland Architects to support the conservation and opening up of the West Wing Battery of Fort Burgoyne through art led community engagement

Pioneering Places is part of the national Great Place Scheme, an ambitious project that will make East Kent an even better place to live, work and visit by exploring heritage, developing civic pride and connecting artists and communities. Four projects in Canterbury, Dover, Folkestone and Ramsgate are being led by cultural organisations to encourage local people to get involved and shape the place where they live. Supported through Arts Council England and the National Lottery Heritage Fund, with Historic England and Artswork, the South East Bridge.

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Charles Holland’s Big Drawing

During the Explorers engagement programme ideas and suggestions for future uses for The West Wing Battery were collected from the 4 walks from the green notebooks that each participant was [...]