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Civil War defences on Brandon Hill

A Scheduled Monument in Hotwells and Harbourside, Bristol

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Latitude: 51.4527 / 51°27'9"N

Longitude: -2.6071 / 2°36'25"W

OS Eastings: 357909.599006

OS Northings: 172811.237601

OS Grid: ST579728

Mapcode National: GBR C5L.C2

Mapcode Global: VH88M.RRL6

Entry Name: Civil War defences on Brandon Hill

Scheduled Date: 17 January 1961

Last Amended: 19 October 2016

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1006989

English Heritage Legacy ID: BS 118

County: Bristol

Electoral Ward/Division: Hotwells and Harbourside

Built-Up Area: Bristol

Traditional County: Gloucestershire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Bristol

Church of England Parish: Bristol St Stephen with St James and St John the Baptist with St Michael and St George

Church of England Diocese: Bristol


The remains of two phases, 1642-43 and 1643-45, of Bristol’s Civil War defences, found on Brandon Hill, a steep hill on the west side of the City of Bristol, that commands good views of the River Avon and the S of the city. It includes the remains of Brandon Hill Fort, the Water Fort and the connecting lines.

Source: Historic England


PRINCIPAL FEATURES: the remains of two phases, 1642-43 and 1643-45, of Bristol’s Civil War defences found on Brandon Hill, a steep hill on the W side of the City of Bristol, that commands good views of the River Avon and the S of the city. It includes the remains of Brandon Hill Fort, the Water Fort and the connecting lines.

DESCRIPTION: to the N of Cabot Tower there are areas of exposed rubble stone between 1m and 0.2m high that lie at the N corner and along the projected line for the N side of the 1644 bastion. Centred on ST5795972983 to the NE of the tower is a 0.5m high mound which appears to sit on the projected line of the defences that connected Brandon Hill to the northern forts; however, this mound may also relate to the C19 landscaping.

The upstanding curtain wall, to the W of the tower, is constructed of random-shaped Quartzitic sandstone. Various phases of mortar are evident including off-white/ buff lime based with local Brandon Hill grit and later grey-coloured cement based. The main continuous upstanding section of the wall starts to the S of the footpath at ST5789272994. The wall runs on a NE to SW alignment for circa 7.6m, turning to the SE for circa 23.38m, it then heads E for circa 22.5m before finally turning S for circa 35.7m, terminating at ST5791572915. On the W side of the wall is an outer ditch that follows the same alignment. The maximum width of the ditch is 6.5m. The S edge of this ditch and wall stops at a small C19 park maintenance yard and a maintenance building stand on the site of the infilled ditch.

Midway up Brandon Hill Park are the remains of two parallel lines of earthworks running roughly N to S. The E earthwork, on the alignment of the first phase of Civil War defences, is a linear bank topped by a C19 footpath. At ST5794072829 the bank, with a ditch on the W side, heads SE, linking to a triangular platform that projects NW and which has been identified on historic plans as of a series of ‘spurs’, small triangular artillery platforms, that were positioned between the main forts. The platform is relatively flat and was adapted in the C19 to accommodate a tree and bench. The bank and ditch continue to the SE, tapering away at the C19 footpath to the S at ST5790772740.

The W earthwork is on the line of the second phase of defences. It is centred on ST5791572915, and consists of a bank c.2m in height with two arms meeting at right angles to create a triangular shape. The bank is topped by trees and vegetation; some of the trees have been uprooted and lime mortar stonework is visible amongst the exposed roots. On the W side is of the bank is a ditch circa 1m deep. At ST5788572810 the bank appears to head to the SE, surviving as fragmentary low earthworks approximately 0.2m high, before joining up with the first-phase line a little further S.

At the S end of Brandon Hill Park is a NE to SW aligned ditch, measuring 1m deep 6m wide and 15m long. To the N of the ditch is a multi-sided platform, roughly 90m wide, ST5790472724. The S end of the ditch terminates at the edge of a steep slope. At the top of the slope, and on the E side of the ditch, at ST5789472660, is a roughly rectangular platform that is also approximately 90m wide. This area has been commonly interpreted as the site of the Water Fort. The steep slope appears to be a natural formation, with evidence of sporadic quarrying. There is another short section of ditch at ST5791472678, running NW to SE, and roughly parallel to the longer W ditch that may also relate to the Civil War defences. The area is currently largely obscured by an area of woodland and undergrowth. To the E of the remains is the boundary wall of St George's Church of England School. A basketball court was placed to the NE of the fort remains in the late-C20. There are public footpaths running along the NW and S of the fort site.

EXCLUSIONS: the surfaces of all paths and steps, benches, railings, fence posts, the maintenance yard building and the yard's modern surface, signposts, lamp posts, and dustbins are excluded from the scheduling. The ground beneath all these features is, however, included. The wall to St George Church of England School to the S of the mapped area is not included in the scheduling.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

The remains of the mid-C17 First English Civil War defences on Brandon Hill, Bristol, are scheduled for the following principal reasons:

* Survival: the upstanding earthworks represent legible remains that demonstrate well both phases of the Civil War defensive lines;
* Period: the battles and sieges of the English Civil War (1642-52) were the last major active military campaigns to be undertaken on English soil;
* Rarity: they include the only known substantial upstanding remains of the City of Bristol’s Civil War outer defensive ring, and are also rare survivals nationally of upstanding remains associated with the defence of a major urban settlement during this conflict;
* Documentation (historic): the route of Bristol's outer defences is well understood from historical accounts and through C18 and C19 cartographic evidence;
* Documentation (archaeological): the remains have been subject to a number of desk-based and topographical assessments and some small-scale excavation;
* Potential: in addition to the upstanding remains, it is likely that buried remains will survive and provide valuable information about the construction and use of these defences, including the original cut of the ditches and artefacts relating to the site's C17 military use.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Russell, James, The Civil War Defences of Bristol: Their Archaeology & Topography, (1995)
1715 View of Part of Michael’s Hill and Brandon Hill (BMAG Ma4381)
1750 John Rocque’s map of Bristol
1946 Aerial photographs (Historic England)
Ashmead Survey of Bristol (1828)
Bristol City Council Historic Environment Records Monument Reports
Israel, R (2009) Earthwork Survey and Assessment of Brandon Hill, Civil War Fort, Bristol
King, Andy (2011) Archaeological Evaluation At Brandon Hill, Bristol for Bristol City Council
Roberts, A.J. (2013) Geophysical Surveys at Brandon Hill, Bristol, Archaeoscan
Wessex Archaeology (2015) Water Fort, Brandon Hill, Bristol Historic Environment Desk-Based Assessment and Topographical Survey

Source: Historic England

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