Fort Gilkicker

 

 

 

The sea marks Gilkicker and Kickergill

 

 

Robert Rich, 5th Earl of Warwick,

As Parliamentary Admiral to Charles the First (1625-1649), The Earl of Warwick set up two sea marks to help assist sailors entering Portsmouth Harbour. The date of construction is often quoted as 1669 but in 'Chronicle History of Portsmouth' by Henry Slight written in 1835 the inscription that was displayed on the Gilkicker sea mark reported is as follows:

This sea mark was erected by Robert, Earl of Warwick, Admiral of the seas - Captain Richard Blith Sen. his captain in the Prince Royal and W. Cooke, master of attendant his master. A coat of arms was placed below the inscription. There is no record of an inscription on the Kickergill.

 

This inscription seems to date the Gillkicker to before 1658 as Robert Rich, Earl of Warwick lived I587-I658. 1643 is the only year that Robert, Earl of Warwick commanded the same ship ' Prince Royal' on which Blith Senior appears as Captain.

Detailed explanation here: Gosport History Luncheon Club

 

The earlier date seems to be confirmed as in June 1690 Thomas Wilshaw, resident commissioner at Portsmouth, informed the Navy Board that there had been complaints that the Gilkicker had 'grown dark and dull... it not having been refreshed these 40 years as Sir John Tippets (Surveyor of the Navy) believes'. Tippets reports that the Gilkicker had been 'refreshed by directions of the Committee of Parliament .. for affairs of the Admiralty and Navy.

 

Grenville Collins described the Gilkicker in 'Great Britain's Coasting Pilot' as 'a white tower'. This Portsmouth master mason said that it was of plaster and 124 feet long (considerable larger that its back marker, the Kickergill) on its south-eastern side, the side that faced the sea and had become dull. Gill-Kicker presented a rectangular front, with its other two sides sloping downwards so that the rear point of the triangle was lower (Grose & Astle 1784), whereas Kicker-Gill was of even height on all three sides, until a triangular pediment was added on top of the front in later years (Pevsner & Lloyd 1967)

 

By lining up both sea marks sailors could find the safe water channel and avoid the shallow Warner and Norman Sands. One was on the site of Hasilworth Castle and was known as the Gill-Kicker, the other was at the end of Clayhall Road at Alverstoke and was known as the Kicker-Gill. (there are variations of spelling for both which include 'kickergill' 'gilkicker')

 

...sea mark stood on the side of Hasleworth Castle until the building of Fort Monckton in the late C18 when it was demolished. - Anon

 

Gilkicker Tower 1729 map of 1711
Gilkicker Tower 1729 Section of map circa 1711 with sea marks at Q.

 

The origins of the names are obscure but the point at 'Hasilworth' seems to have changed to Gilkicker Point after the erection of these marks. Daniel Defoe, writing in 1724 mentions "...the point of land on the side of Gosport which they call Gilkicker and where also they have two batteries". Did Gilkicker Point gain its name from the sea mark or was it the other way round?

Slight refers to 'Near the point of land called the Kicker..' Could it have been boot shaped?

 

K.T.Grant writing in an article exploring the derivation of Kicker Rock in 'Journal of Science and Conservation in the Galapagos Islands', surmises that the name may have been related to the two 'kickers' at Portsmouth. He explains:

There is no certain explanation why the seamarks in England were called Gill-Kicker and Kicker-Gill. However, a possible answer lies in the etymology of the words gill and kicker. The place-name “gill” means a stream or small wooded glen, and Gill-Kicker, the first seamark to be constructed, was backed by a marshy creek (now dammed and known as Gilkicker Lake), while Kicker-Gill stood above a wooded slope by Alverstoke creek (now Stoke Lake). The surname “Kicker” derives from the Middle English word “kiken”, meaning “to watch or spy” (Reaney & Wilson 2006). From the same root come English and Scots dialect “keeker” and Dutch “kijker”, all meaning “watcher” and from which the 17th-century application of the word Kicker to the seamarks could have derived. In a sense they were “watching” (facing) the sea, were “watching over” sailors (assisting in safe navigation) and were themselves objects that sailors “watched for”.

 

In architectural terms a 'kicker' is a stub or foundation of a column on which the latter sits. A gill is 'a small ravine, a wooded glen, a brook. (Old Norse = Gil)'. So perhaps the 'Gill Kicker' was so named because of its type of construction and location, close to the valley of the River Alver, with its partner merely a reversal of the name.

 

Map of 1716

A map of 1716 showing the two sea marks

 

 

 

 

A chart of the Sea Coasts from Arundel to St Albans, by Joseph Avery, 1721

explains how the two sea marks were used to sail into Spithead and into Portsmouth Harbour.

Keep Sandown [Fort] touching with Culver [Cliffe] to clear you of Bembridge Ledge, until the Kickers are in one, and, Ashedown mark touching, you have 3 Fathom Water, then keeping those marks on until Bembridge Point and Dun Nose is in one you'll have 7 Fathom. then the mark kept on you'll have from Do. to 9, 12, 15, 18 Fathom a Mile to the Eastward of the Warner Buoy, the which will near continue until the Chalkhole upon Post-down be on South Sea Castle. which kept on until the Castle near Gosport be on Blockhouse Point the mark to run into the Harbour. You may Anchor at Spit Head in about 12 or 14 Fathom the Kicker being about 1/4 Mile distant bearing N.W.

 

 

Taylor's map of 1759

Taylor's map of 1759 showing the two sea marks.

 

 

map of 1766

A map of 1766 which refers to the sea marks as Upper and Lower 'Gilkiker'.

Stokes Bay: A Chart of 1783: To sail into or out of Spithead between the Horsesand and the Warner and No Mans, keep Kickergill Tower on with the Magazine at Fort Monckton

A chart of 1783 showing the function of the sea marks

 

Both marks were triangular in plan and were constructed as columns of stone. They were heightened in the 1800s with the addition of a brick topping.

 

...Gilkicker tower built in 1669 and heightened in the C18, the original part in stone, the later additions in brick ending in an oddly placed pediment brought out in several delicate orders of moulding. The intermediate part was a most attractive medley of dark red brick and silver stone. The tower was wantonly destroyed in 1965.

(Taken from Hampshire and the Isle of Wight by Pevsner and Lloyd 1967)

 

The site of the Kickergill tower in 2009, with the Brodrick Memorial Hall
The site of the Kickergill tower in 2009 with the Brodrick Memorial Hall.

 

 

An Admiralty chart of 1890 indicates that the Kickergill was constructed with bands of red and white. In modern times this led to some locals refering to the monumnet as 'bread and jam'. The Gilkicker was removed when Fort Monckton was constructed under the recommendations of an engineer, John Archer, who was tasked with reporting on the strength of the Gosport defences as part of the overall defence of Portsmouth Harbour. Archer reported that the mark at Gilkicker should be removed when an attack was imminent and a replacement in wood added so as to lure the enemy ships, using it as a guide, onto the shallows. The tower was removed in 1779 because it stood on the site for the new fort, but not replaced. Luckily Fort Monckton was visible enough from the Solent to be used in conjunction with the remaining sea mark to provide the required safe passage.

Milne's map of 1791 showing Kickergill being used in conjunction with Fort Monckton as an aid to navigation. Sheringham's chart of 1848 showing 'Kickergill in one with the Centre of Fort Monckton N.N.W. leads up to Spithead.'
Milne's map of 1791 showing Kickergill being used in conjunction with Fort Monckton as an aid to navigation. Sheringham's chart of 1848 showing 'Kickergill in one with the Centre of Fort Monckton N.N.W. leads up to Spithead.'

 

 

Admiralty charts of 1898 show the Kickergill in use with a line bisecting Fort Monckton using the Measured Mile Marker erected on the Glacis in 1866 in place of the Gilkicker.

 

Admiralty chart dated 1898 showing how the measured mile marker at Fort Monckton was used together with the Kickergill as a navigation aid for ships enteriing the harbour.
Admiralty chart dated 1898 showing how the measured mile marker at Fort Monckton was used together with the Kickergill as a navigation aid for ships enteriing the harbour.

 

 

 

In 1791 John Hamilton Moore explains:

..if I am obliged to into Spithead, I may turn the kickergill on each side of Fort Monckton, and come no nearer the Warner than 12 fathoms, nor to the Dean than 9 or 10 fathoms, nor to Nomans' Land than 16 or 18 fathoms...

 

This is substantiated in a chart surveyed by Captain Sheringham, published by the Admiralty Hydrographic Office in 1848 where notes state that :-

Kickergill in one with the Centre of Fort Monckton N.N.W. leads up to Spithead.

 

 

 

Map of 1890 showing the Kickergill as 'Landmark' in Clayhall Road, Gosport Map of 1880 showing the Kickergill as 'Landmark' in Clayhall Road, Gosport
Map of 1890 showing the Kickergill as 'Landmark' in Clayhall Road, Gosport Map of 1880 showing the Kickergill as 'Landmark' in Clayhall Road, Gosport

 

 

 

 

 

map of 1932

Map of 1932 showing the 'Landmark': By this time the Brodrick Memorial Hall and the Alverstoke National Children's home had been constructed.

 

Kickergill landmark wrongly labelled Gilkicker. A view of the Kickergill with the Brodrick Hall from across the lake.
The Kicker-gill landmark on a postcard, wrongly labelled Gilkicker. A view of the Kickergill with the Brodrick Hall from across the lake.

 

 

 

 

Kickergill seamark in Clayhall Road Kickergill seamark preparation for demolition Kickergill seamark Demolition day Kickergill seamark falling
Kickergill seamark in Clayhall Road Kickergill seamark preparation for demolition Kickergill seamark Demolition day Kickergill seamark falling

 

 

Kickergill from Anglesey Lake 1915 Kickergill with Brodrick Hall Postcard of Kickergill with Brodrick Hall Postcard of Kickergill with Brodrick Hall
Kickergill from Anglesey Lake 1915 Kickergill with Brodrick Hall Postcard of Kickergill with Brodrick Hall Postcard of Kickergill with Brodrick Hall

 

 

The site of Kickergill Beacon Tower transferred from Admiralty to GBC for demolition. The Kicker-gill was demolished by Gosport Council on June 26 1965 'to make way for road widening'.

No trace of it remains.

 

Recorded in the Gosport Council minutes:

1937/01/27 Roads and Works Committee: Site of Kickergill Beacon Tower transferred from Admiralty to GBC for demolition.
1965/03 Roads and Works Committee: p227 Demolition of Gilkicker Tower, Clayhall Road to allow road realignment due 1966-67; must be demolished before surveying etc can be done. Next year a pumping station to be built to restore Children's Home land to a playing field. Tower will be felled onto this land; Ministry of Public Buildings and Works say the tower is not worth scheduling. It was bought by GBC in 1938 and reprieved from demolition due to war. Ask specialists or Army to demolish.
1965/06 P&B p27 Minister of Housing & Local Government proposed additions to provisional list of Buildings of Architectural or Historic Merit: including Gilkicker (Kickergill) Tower. Tell them to remove from list as it to be demolished.
1965/09 GBC p127 contract with Bailey Bros to demolish Gilkicker Tower
.

 

Kickergill from Anglesey Lake 1915
An overlay of the site of the Kickergill on a modern aerial view. The pavement on the north side of the road now covers the site of the tower. Did this need to be done? The road with pavements at this point is now 13.86 metres wide. Could the pavement have been diverted around the tower leaving it in place?

 

 

 

 

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This work is licenced under a Creative Commons Licence
 
 

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