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.

Email: dungenessbtours@edf-energy.com

Telephone: 01797343728

The central part of the building is circa 1810 and was originally a Watch House, a look-out for smugglers. It was constructed of poured concrete made from the beach. The five Coastguard Cottages next door were built towards the end of that century and the Watch House, manned by the coastguards, proved useful as a look-out in the two World Wars. We do not know if the building had a name back in 1810 but in a 1931 deed it is named as the Watch House and, by 1971, the Watch Tower. A couple, Jim and Eileen Bates, purchased it in 1985, and extended round it. A later owner added the conservatory and garage. Prior to the Bates, a couple lived here, with a lean-to for the kitchen. The conservatory was their granddad's workshop.


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


Dungeness is not on Romney Marsh but is a 4-mile shingle spit starting where the Marsh ends and sticking out into the Channel. Despite popular myth, it is not a desert. It is relatively new, building up over the last 10,000 years or so. It consists of flint pebbles deposited by the last Ice Age being carried up the Channel by long-shore drift. It builds up a bit more each year on the east side. 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, shingle has to be taken round from the east side (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 at the open White Gates. This has a natural well and 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, is at the sea end of the Boardwalk by the New Lighthouse. You will find a depth marker and in 2000 or thereabouts that is where the sea came up to. Derek Jarman mentions in his diaries that, in stormy weather, salt spray covered Prospect Cottage but he may have romanticised this!


The original buildings were all black fishermen's huts and then later some of the old Southern Railway carriages. It was an even emptier landscape. Imagine it at night before the power station! Empty and unlit and a perfect setting for the Dr Syn stories and also the Elusive Grasshopper - see book in conservatory.


The Watch Tower is within a Conservation Area, is a SSSI, an SPA, partly a RAMSAR, and is protected under European wildlife and habitats law.


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


Look up website http://www.dungeness.org.uk for lots more information and some great photos.