Original article from Kent Live
The old war prison lying derelict on the banks of the River Stour is an eerie place.
Publicly available information on it is few and far between.
In some ways, that makes you more curious about what might have gone on inside those crumbling walls.
Especially when you see the mysterious German words carved into them.
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During the First World War, a secret "Q" port was built in the area, the starting point of a ferry service for troops and munitions to France and Flanders.
Apparently up to 20,000 personnel would have been there at one time, creating the need for a relatively small detention centre with 10 cells, a central corridor and guard rooms.
But as witnessed when we visited, the building's mysterious wall carvings suggest it might not have only held natives.
On one wall was the depiction of a building, with "Amtshaus" just about discernible below.
Apparently, the word in German describes a state administration facility.
The archaeological group Citizan believes they may have found the exact building in Lower Saxony the cell occupant was trying to portray.
It suggests there were Germans held there – which, given general detention practices at the time, means the building may have had a more sinister past.
It would certainly accord with the general feel of the place, where graffiti, rubble, barred windows and crumbling, brutalist walls create a haunting setting.
It's also somewhat off the beaten track, standing alone on a field near the river.
First you have to go as far as you can along Castle Road near Richborough.
Then head down a track that takes you, without an admission fee, within ten metres of the incredible 'lost city' Roman Fort.
Eventually you'll reach a private garden, where a sign permits you to follow the public footpath through the middle.
Then you have to go across the train tracks crossing, subject to safety measures.
Finally, it's through a couple of gates and onto the footpath that runs directly next to the river.
A little further down on your left, you get the first glimpse of the old concrete building in the distance.
With only grass, sheep, and the river anywhere else around, abandoned is the right word for it.
As you step inside, the sudden wind protection brings an eerie silence, broken only by the crunch of rubble that comes with each step.
The cell rooms were small, very small – but most striking were the wall carvings, which seemed to cover every surface.
Some was clearly new graffiti, but there were other examples where the image had seemed to have been scratched into the concrete seemingly quite a long time ago.
One has the name of HMS Marlborough and the Jutland ‘batell’, possibly made by someone who served on the ship and took part in the famous naval battle of 1916.
Another is an artistic sketch of a woman’s leg in a stocking.
Another is the German word referenced previously.
All were no doubt the work of people with time on their hands.
It would be nice to know a more about this curious little building which housed the artists of these wall carvings, and the reasons for their internment.
Perhaps they are so sinister as to have been kept a closely guarded secret, now lost to the annals of history.
Either way, it's still a fascinating place in terms of local history.
With a glorious walk along the riverbank to get there, it's also a particularly nice one to visit.
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