The Watch Tower

A bit of History

Dungeness Nuclear Power Station

See http://www.edfenergy.com/energy/education/visitor-centres

The following is mostly from their website:

Our visitor centre sits in the middle of the Dungeness National Nature Reserve, a Special Protection Area (SPA) and a Special Area of Conservation (SAC). It’s a diverse landscape, home to many unique plants, animals and birds.

The visitor centre has an interactive exhibition to help visitors understand more about nuclear power generation at Dungeness B and allow people to ask questions to our trained guides. We have a fantastic classroom facility and you can also pre-book a tour of the power station.  A minimum of three weeks' notice is required for security clearance.

Tour information

The tour takes approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes

You will be accompanied by a trained station guide

The tour includes the reactor viewing gallery, the turbine hall and the cooling water intake

Opening hours

Monday to Friday, 09.00 to 16.00

Contact details

If you have any questions about the visitor centre or about taking a tour, please contact our visitor centre co-ordinator, June.

Email: dungenessbtours@edf-energy.com

Telephone: 01797343728

The central part of the Watch Tower was a lookout post against Napoleon (useful too in WWII) constructed from poured concrete made using the immediate shingle beach.  It was manned by the coastguards next door in the five Coastguard Cottages.  We do not know its original name but by 1931 it had become The Watch House and by 1971 The Watch Tower.  A couple, Jim and Eileen Bates, purchased it in 1985, developed and extended round it.  A later owner added the conservatory and garage.  Prior to the Bates, a couple lived in the original “tower” without the extensions.


Eileen Bates ran the Light Railway Café on a franchise.  Derek Jarman mentions her in his diaries, for example recording that he asked her opinion on his costume before he was “sainted”.


Dungeness is not on Romney Marsh but is a four-mile shingle spit starting where the Marsh ends and sticking out into the Channel.  Despite popular myth, it is not classified as a desert.  It is relatively new, accumulating over approximately the last 3,000 years.  It consists of flint pebbles deposited at the end of the last Ice Age being carried up the Channel by long-shore drift.  It is built up a bit more every year on the east side of the spit.  Correspondingly it is worn away a bit more every year on the west side and, because a Military Range and nuclear power stations have been built or are situated on the eroding side of the Ness, shingle has to be taken round from the east side in lorries (and other places) to shore up the west side, particularly at Camber and Jury’s Gap.  The vast landscape of Dungeness has over 600 shingle ridges naturally formed by the sea as it deposited (and deposits) more shingle on the Ness every year.  Southern Railways owned land on the Point which has been extensively quarried for the shingle since the 1920s and this land, which is behind the houses, is a couple of metres lower than the original level of the shingle.  Trees are able to colonise this land as it is closer to the water table and, when the grazing sheep and goats were taken off the Ness in the 1940s and 1950s, this created an opportunity for the willow bushes to grow.


The sea used to come much nearer to the Watch Tower.  Note the Watering House, the red-brick building on the right-hand side of the road (going towards the Point) at the open White Gates.  This has a natural well and this is where ships moored and drew water.  People can still remember the sea being nearer – and the area without vegetation.  Another example of the sea being nearer, and the shingle building up on the east side of the Ness, is at the sea end of the Boardwalk by the New Lighthouse.  You will find a depth marker and in 2000 or thereabout that is where the sea came up to.


The Watch Tower is within a Conservation Area, is a SSSI, managed by Natural England, and is protected under European wildlife and habitats law.


Romney is a Roman name; we have Old Romney and New Romney on the Marsh.