Coxheath Military Camp


O the Grand Old Duke of York

He had ten thousand men

He marched them up to the top of the hill

And he marched them down again.

And when they were up they were up

And when they were down they were down

And when they were only half way up

they were neither up nor down.


Who was this Duke of York? He was the second son of George the III and put into the army by his father. He was posted to Cocksheath Camp to oversee the training of thousands of men.


A camp was established there, at the start of the Seven Years War, in 1756. Cocksheath was an area of rough heathland 3 miles by 1 mile, 3 miles from Maidstone. The camp was established to train raw recruits. The Camp was seasonal. The soldiers moving to winter quarters in November. Clock House was built as the Head Quarters and The Officers Mess.


From 1778 with the threat of invasion by France. The Camp became very large. Soldiers from Hanover and Hess were brought over by the King to augment our army, to protect our country.  Coxheath was ideally placed to protect London. (There was a similar camp at Braintree Essex). Raw militia were trained to use weapons and drilled to work together as an army

As can be seen from the sketch, the tents were set out in rows separated by “streets”. 15,000 men were accommodated.  There were also more tents put up at the back of the camp for the women!


All the officers would have bought their commissions and be from the nobility.

The officers would have been well bred and educated, but not necessarily with the right skills to train and run an army!

The Duke of York was sent in to sort things out! Although put in the army by his father, he proved to be a good officer and was instrumental in modernizing the army.

The Duke and Duchess of Devonshire visited and apparently stayed in tented accommodation. Georgiana the Duchess           was very taken with the office’s uniforms and had a gown made emulating a uniform. As she was a trend setter, many of  her contemporaries copied her and a new fashion was l launched!

 The photo is of a costume, made for the film “The Cut”,  inspired by the dresses made for Georgiana.

Evidence of the military can still be seen in Coxheath. Have you ever wondered why Heath Road is so straight. No other country roads are so straight. It was built by the Army, while they were there! When the army arrived there would have just have been roads going North to South. An East-West road would have been necessary to get to all parts of the camp.


The Clock House is still there, now a farm house.


There is a replica beacon on the junction of Heath Road and Westerhill Road. Why? There was a chain of beacons from the coast to London, to warn of impending invasion.


So! Why the nursery rhyme? It is thought that the Duke of York drilled his soldiers, not only on the flat heathland, but up and down the hill. Was it Linton Hill, Westerhill or Vanity Lane?