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Staddon Heights Defences including Fort Staddon Fort, Brownhill Battery, Watch House Battery, Staddon Heights Battery, Staddon Battery and associated features and structures

A Scheduled Monument in Wembury, Devon

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Latitude: 50.3395 / 50°20'22"N

Longitude: -4.1177 / 4°7'3"W

OS Eastings: 249402.4415

OS Northings: 50987.2635

OS Grid: SX494509

Mapcode National: GBR NX.WXXB

Mapcode Global: FRA 2884.FNK

Entry Name: Staddon Heights Defences including Fort Staddon Fort, Brownhill Battery, Watch House Battery, Staddon Heights Battery, Staddon Battery and associated features and structures

Scheduled Date: 26 November 1969

Last Amended: 27 February 2014

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1002585

English Heritage Legacy ID: DV 720

County: Devon

Civil Parish: Wembury

Traditional County: Devon

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Devon


An integrated military landscape overlooking Plymouth Sound, dating from the late C18 and principally the mid-C19 and later, including Fort Staddon, Brownhill Battery, Frobisher Battery, Watch House Battery and ditch, Staddon Heights Battery and Staddon Battery, and the connecting military roads and banks.

Source: Historic England



Principal Features
A fort, built between 1861-69, designed by Captain Edmund Du Cane under the supervision of Lt.Col. William F.D. Jervois. It is located on the high point of Staddon Heights. The fort has a keep on its western side and is contained within a dry moat that is flanked by caponiers. The ground immediately outside has been cleared and profiled to form a glacis to the north, east and southern sides of the fort.

The fort is polygonal in plan with four faces and a gorge wall to the rear. It is enclosed by a dry rock-cut moat protected by a glacis and a covered way. The keep with two demi-bastions flanking the main gate projects beyond the line of the gorge. The interior of the fort is divided into an inner and outer parade by a large traverse that forms the eastern rampart of the keep. The fort is built using a mixture of dressed rubble limestone and brick. All internal rooms and passageways have brick-built, barrel-vaulted, bomb-proof (resistant to plunging fire and mortar bombs) roofs, reveted and covered with earth.

The main entrance is on the west side of the fort. Originally it would have been protected by a drop-pit and accessed via a drawbridge. The entrance is set within a large fortified gateway with a projecting limestone ashlar arch, which is chamfered, and with machicolations (loopholes cut in the floor above that permit vertical defence of the foot of the wall) carried on four engaged, rectangular, ashlar columns. The gateway is protected by flanking demi-bastions that project west of the fort and by a continuous parapet with splayed musketry loop-holes and gun embrasures, to provide close range defence. Unusually, there is no sign, insignia, or datestone on the recessed arch above the gate; however, blocked openings for the drawbridge chains and iron fittings do survive, including a lamp bracket and, within the brick vaulted entrance tunnel, the drawbridge pulley-wheels. On either side of the gateway are heated guardrooms with blocked rectangular windows with granite quoins. Beyond the main gate recesses, the height of the entrance tunnel is reduced and the arch is faced with rusticated voussiors.

The entrance tunnel passes through the earth rampart and emerges through an arch, with a clock housing above it, into the inner parade flanked by a pair of limestone retaining walls. The inner parade is a large open courtyard enclosed by the earthen ramparts of the keep on three sides, and the masonry wall of the traverse to the east. Six passageways in the earthen ramparts provide access to the barrack rooms, and musketry galleries within that form the keep and flank the moat to the rear. A flight of granite steps on the northern side of the main entrance and two ramps provide access to the terre-plein (level surface on top of a rampart on where the guns would be mounted). A loop-holed limestone parapet wall with brick-built chimneys rising at intervals along its length runs continuously from the southern demi-bastion to the northern intersection with the gorge. The loop-holed wall terminates at the southern demi-bastion and the south-west rampart of the keep has an earth parapet. Situated on the parade and set back into the south-west rampart is an octagonal plan access building for the water tanks, and a cast-iron manually operated hand pump and fly-wheel frame.

The east range of the keep is formed by a large earth traverse with a masonry frontage, capped by a low parapet wall, that contains brick-vaulted magazines, and a range of casemated barrack rooms, opening out onto the parade. The outer wall of the magazine projects slightly forward of the face of the traverse at the northern end. A wrought-iron swan-neck davit is attached to the wall above the entrance for handling ammunition. The magazine has two main brick-vaulted chambers, accessed via a shifting lobby and magazine passages. Ventilation and lighting passages run around the magazine rooms. The magazine has been given new uses which have involved some alterations to the plan and internal fittings, however, some original fittings remain, including an external rolling metal door. To the south of the magazine are eight casemated barrack rooms fronted by rusticated, stone-arched, external entrances. Some of these have been boarded up, however, a few have retained their recessed timber casemate windows resting on brick carrier walls. A passageway within the traverse to the rear of the casemates connects them to ablutions and latrines. The latrines can also be accessed from the outer parade. The slate backed urinal and the cast-iron framed latrine cubicles with timber doors and slate partitions remain extant. A couple of the barrack rooms retain some decorated painted walls dating from the Second World War and most of the doors are signposted. Some of the rooms have been subdivided with later timber-frame and metal clad partition walls. The ramparts above these ranges are accessed from the courtyard by a flight of stone steps flanking a gateway within the junction of the traverse and the south-west rampart, and by a flight of steps that rises from the inner parade over the magazines. The terre-plein of the traverse is bounded by raised earthen parapets and is pierced by eight limestone chimneys rising from the fireplaces in the casemates below. There are no gun emplacements or infantry positions on the traverse.

The outer parade is accessed via barrel-vaulted tunnels faced with rusticated limestone portals, situated in the angles at either end of the traverse. The inner face of the outer parade is a continuous earth rampart with stone steps and earth ramps set into it, which lead up to the terre-plein. The substantial battered scarp wall of the ramparts that faces out into the dry moat is built of coursed limestone surmounted by an ashlar cordon with a low parapet wall capped with flat coping stones and a banquette (musketry firing steps) to the rear. The ramparts have a profiled earthen parapet that contains a total of nine open gun emplacements of various dates (including two mass-concrete Moncrieff disappearing gun pits) and six single-gun Haxo casemates. The gun emplacements are interspersed with brick-vaulted expense magazines, and integral magazines served by wrought-iron swan-neck davits exist beneath each of the Haxo casemates. A group of five barrel-vaulted casemate barracks are set into the southern rampart, and a group of seven casemates are set centrally at the junction of the north-east and south-east ramparts. These casemates differ from those found in the inner parade in that the openings for the glazed casemate windows have been infilled by brick walling and natural lighting was provide by a pair of sash windows and a fanlight above the door. A flight of stairs situated immediately outside of the sixth casemate, descend to the access tunnel of the main caponier. Passageways to either side of these casemates lead to a vaulted seven-gun mortar battery with two small expense magazines. The battery was designed to enable the mortars to be fired from under cover through an arcade of arches that was screened by an earthen glacis. The eastern passageway also permits access to the banquettes to the rear of the scarp walls, and access to a sally port from the main caponier.

The moat and the four faces of the ramparts are protected by three two-storey caponiers; two single and one double, with flanking galleries in the scarp walls to their sides. The caponiers are accessed by three brick-vaulted underground tunnels that can be entered by descending flights of stairs both in the inner and outer parades. Most of the fittings and fixtures in the caponiers remain relatively intact, including timber doorframes, iron handrails, accoutrements and rifle racks.

The moat is between 12 and 15m wide and over 9m deep, it runs around the northern, eastern and southern faces of the fort and gradually reduced in depth along the flanks of the demi-bastions of the keep. It did not continue around the western face of the keep, but a drop-pit which has been infilled was crossed by the drawbridge at the main entrance. The moat has a stone reveted counter-scarp wall, which is topped by an earthen covered way on the two eastern faces on the far edge of the moat. The covered way on the far side of the moat was accessed by sally ports in the scarp wall and stairways at either end of the counter scarp. These stairways are interrupted and originally had removable timber sections as landings between the flights of steps that would have formed obstacles had the covered way been abandoned by the defenders. The covered way is profiled into the glacis and is protected from lateral enfilade fire at intervals by traverses and it could have acted as a Chimen de Rondes for troops gathering to mount a counter-attack. There are some brick and concrete military storage buildings of various dates which have been placed inside the ditch. Extensive landscaped glacis slopes, areas which were intentionally created to provide an unhindered view of the approaches to the fort, extend to the north, east and south. The steep slope to the north in particular shows evidence of a significant cut. The area to the east has been landscaped to provide a plateau in front of the fort, while the area to the south utilises the natural valley, which extends down to Bovisand.

Within the fort buildings, many of the original fittings survive; these include gun tackle loops, racer rails, glazing, fireplaces, stoves, musket racks, coat and hammock hooks and labels above the doors, as well as later C19 light fittings, bathrooms and furnishings. The caponiers in particular demonstrate a good survival of the above fittings, as well as timber casement glazed window, embrasure shutters and metal bars over the gun embrasures. Brick chimney stacks also survive above the barrack rooms across the site. Two Haxo casemates have been reused to house utility equipment, and a mid-C20 brick building has been built within the inner parade. A large water tank has been set into the south-west rampart of the keep.

All modern telecommunications equipment, including the services that supply it, and modern road surfaces are excluded from the scheduling but the ground beneath these features is included.


Principal Features
A series of 1860s embankments protecting the landward side of a military road from the south of Fort Staddon to Watch House Battery. The embankments lie between Watch House and Twelve Acre Brake Battery (later Frobisher Battery), between Twelve Acre Brake and Brownhill Battery, and between Brownhill and Fort Staddon. They were created to provide infantry with a means of protecting the curtain between the various forts and batteries should an enemy get through the heavy gun fire.

The route of the military road follows the modern road from Fort Staddon to the private road through the golf course to Brownhill Battery and Watch House Battery. Some parts of the embankment have been levelled to form golf tees by Brownhill. A gap at the north end of Brownhill truncates the embankment, and provided access to the Second World War radar installation. Part of the embankment has also been removed to the south-west of Brownhill to provide vehicular access to the field beyond. Most of the embankments are covered in undergrowth.

The modern road surfaces are excluded from the scheduling but the ground beneath these features is included.


Principal Features
A half-moon wing battery with a bank and ditch running around the north, east and south sides, and a masonry wall along the west side, positioned on a top of sloping ground.

The site is enclosed to the north, east and south by a five-sided earthwork rampart, fronted by a small ditch and an open area beyond to the east, serving as a glacis. Beyond the glacis is the 1860s ditch leading north to Fort Staddon, described above. The west side of the battery is enclosed by the embankment of the military road and a gorge wall with gun loops. The rampart contains a number of gun positions, although these are difficult to access and distinguish because of scrub. There is a least one magazine surviving intact on the rampart, to the north-east. There is also understood to be a larger magazine, with a cartridge store and shell-store with a davit above in the south west corner. The south corner appears to retain an intact observation post. Attached to the north end of the gorge wall, by a gap in the road embankment, is a rubble stone and brick structure forming an outshut facing east. This is probably a former guard house, and has a later low wall yard, constructed of breeze block. An area within the northern part of the battery interior has been used as a riding paddock which has involved the creation of low earthwork bank and some scarping to the rampart in this area. The remains of other structures and concrete bases within the battery enclosure date from the Second World War and later. To the north, a gap in the rampart leads to a Second World War radar installation, the survival of which is uncertain due to the overgrown scrub. The site is in agricultural use in the C21.

The C20 farm buildings within the battery are excluded from the scheduling but the ground beneath these features is included.


Principal Features
A battery of 1888-92, on the site of an earlier earthwork battery.

Heavily overgrown, the site appears to largely survive as buried features. The rear of the emplacement and the magazines were infilled in the late C20. The battery is set to the south of the military road embankment. To the north of the road is a small network of trenches, probably Second World War foxholes, some with corrugated iron revetments. They may have been constructed to protect the south end of the nearby rifle butt wall.


Principal Features
A battery of c.1901, replacing an earlier battery of 1869. Remaining extant structures include emplacements for two 6-inch breech-loading guns, magazines, shelters, a guard-house, artillery store and lamp-room. Outside the perimeter of battery are a direction range-finder to the north, a battery observation post/ range-finder position below the guns, and a position finder cell/ night direction post/ Officer Commanding Electric Lights (OCEL) post below that, on the west edge of the ditch below Watch House. Directly behind the rear entrance to the position finder cell is a tunnel giving access to the upper musketry gallery of the 1860s, which looks down Watch House Brake. Steps from the north lead down to the former covered way (now the South West Coastal Path) linking to the former position finder cells for Staddon Heights Battery, which have a Second World War battle observation post inserted between them.

The entrance to the battery is from the north, at the end of the embanked military road, enclosed by a modern steel palisade fence. The forecourt of the battery is covered in grass with a sunken single-storey concrete shelter to the right with three openings under a flat roof. To the south-west of the shelter is the main battery structure with two raised gun emplacements either side of another shelter that stands on the roof of the magazines. The emplacements are of standard concrete type with ammunition lockers and shell and cartridge lifts arranged around the exterior of the gun pit, some retaining doors. There are original railings above the gun pits, and the emplacements are accessed by concrete steps. To the south of the south emplacement, at lower level, is a further single-storey shelter. The shelter above the magazines has eight window openings facing east and doors at each end. A walkway runs in front of the shelter with guard rails; davits at each end provided an alternative means to lift shells and cartridges from the magazines. Steps at each end lead down to magazine level. Under the north steps is a red brick lamp room with bench seating and wall-mounted racks. The attached magazines have seven window openings and two door openings, all boarded. Two central iron chimney flues rise above the roof level in front of the shelter above. The interior of the magazines are arranged as two pairs of shell and cartridge stores to each side of a central passage. The shell stores are to the front and the cartridge stores to the rear. The cartridge stores are enclosed by a brick wall and lit with lamp windows. Serving hatches open from each end into areas with lifts to transport the shells and cartridges up to the emplacements. Almost all of the internal fittings have been removed.

Attached to the south of the magazines is a brick artillery store. Opposite the magazines is single-storey red brick building, probably the guard house. It is an irregular rectangle on plan with four bays facing east, the two right bays standing under a lean-to canopy with cast-iron columns. There are two square stacks on the roof. To the east of the guard house is a look-out point with a low stone wall, overlooking the freestanding wall in the fortified ditch below. Below the guns, the battery observation post is rectangular on plan and built of brick and concrete. Wide, narrow openings face seawards, and there is a concrete pillar at the east end of the interior. The position finding cell/ OCEL post below is largely intact although the concrete roof is supported by numerous acro props. There is at least one concrete instrument pillar remaining intact. The position finders and Second World War observation post to the north of Watch House are intact and modern communications equipment is attached to their roofs. Outside the entrance to the battery is a hardstanding with the base and fittings of a flagpole to the centre.

To the north-west is a former depressed range finder station of 1904, which has lost its instrument pillar, probably removed in the Second World War to allow a Lewis or Bren machine gun to be mounted as a light anti-aircraft machine gun (LAAMG) on a tripod.

The concrete steps from the South West Coastal Path to Watch House Battery, the modern palisade fencing by the road, and modern equipment attached to the former Second World War Observation Post, are excluded from the scheduling but the ground beneath these features is included.


Principal Features
A deep ditch with masonry and earthworks of the 1860s, protecting the Staddon Heights defences from infantry attack from the south-east. It extends uphill from Fort Bovisand to Watch House Battery with caponiers at each end. Then turns east to Twelve Acre Brake Battery and beyond to the south of Brownhill Battery. It then turns north and runs as a scarp up to Fort Staddon.

The ditch is rock-cut and c.10-15m deep and 20-30m wide, except between Watch House Brake and Twelve Acre Brake where it has been built as a ditch across a small combe. The latter section has a freestanding stone north wall, which is battered and buttressed. Its southern wall is formed by a dump of soil forming a bank. The wall is partially collapsed, principally to its west end. Elsewhere, the ditch walls are revetted with masonry in places. The caponiers of Watch House Brake are constructed of rubble stone. The upper gallery is set in the scarp below Watch House Battery and is accessed from the west, behind a late-C19 position finding station. As a whole, the ditch and scarp is largely overgrown with scrub.


Principal Features
A battery of 1893, disarmed in c.1903 and partially infilled in the later C20. It survives largely as buried remains. Linked to Watch House Battery and former position finder cells by a former covered way.

Most of the battery structure probably survives intact. The southern gun position has been infilled although the concrete apron remains. The entrance to the magazine is visible as a steep hole, and the magazine probably survives underground. The northern gun position is partially visible as a semicircular depression close to the entrance to Staddon Cottage. The magazines are under the terreplein to the south of the gun position, and other structure including the concrete apron is likely to survive below ground.


Principal Features
A battery of 1779 with terreplein and curved rampart wall. The above ground buildings of Staddon Cottage (qv.) are excluded from the Schedule. Linked to Staddon Heights Battery by a former covered way.

A path leads down from Staddon Heights Battery to the semicircular terreplein of the battery. It is now the front garden of Staddon Cottage, which has some re-laid granite slabs. Further slabs may remain in situ beneath the lawn. The garden retains the original limits and slope of the terreplein, as well as its curved parapet wall of rubble stone. The cottage is a conversion of the guard house, and a stone hardstanding projects from its south end.

The Grade II listed Staddon Cottage and its associated buildings, including garages, are excluded from the scheduling but the ground beneath these features is included.


Principal Features
A former rifle butts wall of c.1860-70 and c.1894.

A tall target butts wall, constructed of local rubble stone with stone buttresses. It is 300 m long and aligned on a north-west to south-east axis. The south-west side is supported by a series of large stepped buttresses. The junction between the two phases of construction is clearly visible.


Principal Features
A barrage balloon mooring site of c.1940 date.

The site comprises pre-cast concrete blocks, set flush with the ground surface. The central block is 262cm by 262cm, with a cast-iron ring set in the centre of its upper face. A set of eight evenly-spaced blocks is arranged in a circle around the central block, approximately 3m from it. A further circle of 24 mooring blocks stands approximately 5.5m outside the inner circle. The outer circle secured the guy ropes used when the barrage balloon was fully bedded down. The blocks in the inner and outer circles are all approximately 40cm by 60cm. The inner circle blocks have three cast-iron rings fixed to their upper face, and those of the outer circle have a single cast-iron ring, and each face is inscribed with a number (1 to 24). A further iron ring is set in the ground to the south-east of the outer circle, possibly for the use of a winch lorry.

Extent of Scheduling
The scheduled area includes the parts of the glacis to the north and north east of Fort Staddon that survive well, and the course of the military road south of the fort to Brownhill Battery. The south-eastern boundary is defined by the embanked east extent of Brownhill Battery, which adjoins Watch House Battery brake, continuing west to form a southern boundary incorporating Watch House Battery and ditch. The western boundary leads north from Watch House Battery, above the South West Coastal Path, to include the former observation posts and the buried remains of Staddon Heights Battery and Staddon Battery, and the latter's rampart wall. The area to the east of these batteries is included with its earthworks and Barrage Balloon Site, and its north-eastern boundary is defined by the rifle butts wall.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Staddon Heights Defences including Fort Staddon, Brownhill Battery, Watch House Battery, Staddon Heights Battery, Staddon Battery and associated features and structures, an integrated military complex of C18 to C20 date, is designated as a Scheduled Monument, for the following principal reasons:
* Historic: this defence complex has strong cultural and historical significance, within both a local and national context, marking the establishment and successive strengthening of coastal fortifications prior to the period of the Napoleonic Wars until the end of the Second World War;
* Rarity: as a particularly rich, complex and multi-layered defence system, it is rare in a national context;
* Survival: the evidence remaining above ground, as well as historic sources and more recent evaluations, demonstrate that the defences survive particularly well;
* Potential: the site has high potential for adding to our understanding of C19 military fortifications, especially where monuments survive as buried remains;
* Documentation: the original extent and armaments of the structures are, in general, well-documented;
* Fragility/ Vulnerability: all of the structures are vulnerable to the impacts of either disuse or unsympathetic reuse;
* Group value: the structures form an historic group with each other and with other monuments on the Staddon Heights military landscape, including Fort Bovisand, Fort Stamford and Mount Batten; and in the wider area with Plymouth Breakwater and Breakwater Fort.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Oppenheim, M M, The Maritime History of Devon, (1968), pp. 94, 95, 105
Pye, A, Woodward, F, The Historic Defences of Plymouth, (1996)
Fort Staddon, accessed from
Watch House (Brake) Battery, accessed from

Source: Historic England

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