Ancient Monuments

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The Fort on the Heugh and underlying midden

A Scheduled Monument in Holy Island, Northumberland

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Latitude: 55.6682 / 55°40'5"N

Longitude: -1.7957 / 1°47'44"W

OS Eastings: 412945.987457

OS Northings: 641647.995249

OS Grid: NU129416

Mapcode National: GBR H2XW.0Y

Mapcode Global: WHC05.DS3L

Entry Name: The Fort on the Heugh and underlying midden

Scheduled Date: 12 February 1953

Last Amended: 16 July 1996

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1014733

English Heritage Legacy ID: 24600

County: Northumberland

Civil Parish: Holy Island

Traditional County: Northumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Northumberland

Church of England Parish: Holy Island St Mary the Virgin

Church of England Diocese: Newcastle


The monument includes a stone fort or gun battery, constructed in 1671 and
located on a rocky promontory known as the Heugh. The promontory is formed by
a dolerite (whinstone) dyke running east-west across the southern edge of Holy
Island. The fort is also known as Osborne's Fort or Steel End Fort. It
comprises an irregular pentagonal enclosure containing a redoubt with a lower
gun platform around the south and east sides. The overall dimensions of the
fort are 64m ENE-WSW by 32m north-south. The north east and south sides follow
the edges of the promontory, whilst the north west side runs across level
ground. It was built to support Old Beblowe (Lindisfarne Castle) in protecting
the small harbour known as The Ouse.
The redoubt is a tower which measures 6.6m square externally and stands a
little to the east of the centre of the fort. The south wall of the redoubt is
1m wide, the east wall is 0.95m wide and the remaining two walls are each
0.8m wide. The walls are faced externally with squared and coarsed stone
consisting of a mixture of limestone, sandstone and whinstone; the internal
faces are largely of whinstone rubble. There is a chamfered plinth at the foot
of the wall. The north and east walls stand up to 4m high and the south wall
up to 2m high; the west wall has collapsed. Internally, in the north west
corner the inner part of the north jamb of the doorway survives. In the south
west corner the remains of a fireplace can be seen. In the north wall there is
a series of five small irregular holes 1.5m above ground level; two of these
penetrate the thickness of the wall and may be musket loops. One metre above
are much larger sockets for the beams of the first floor. In the east wall
another possible crude musket loop exists. The south wall shows three tapering
apertures which are almost certainly musket loops; these would command the
gateway onto the lower gun platform.
The enclosure walls are of whinstone rubble with some irregular coursing
attempted in the facing; they measure between 0.6m and 0.8m thick. The south
wall stands up to 1.5m high externally and contains a gateway, c.1.8m wide,
which gave access to the lower gun platform. The north east wall is the
shortest of three sides of the fort and is best preserved towards the northern
angle where it stands up to 2m high. The north west wall is visible as an
intermittent earthwork with a few courses of stonework evident. A gap through
the centre of the wall, c.2m wide, and marked by a single large squared block
of stone, probably represents the south jamb of a gateway. Remnants of three
angle turrets, shown on a plan of 1742, survive as short stubs of wall at the
north and east corners; that on the west is visible as a rubble mound.
The lower gun platform follows the line of the south wall of the main
enclosure, but is about 1.5m lower in level and measures 5m wide internally.
Some of the outer wall has been lost to coastal erosion, but the lower part of
the west end wall, the north east end and its south return, a few footings of
the east end and a 5m length running along the south side survive.
The building of the fort was entrusted to Major Daniel Collingwood, the
captain of Holy Island. A plan of the fort by M Beckman dated 1683 states
`Platforme and Redoubt made and designed by Dan: Collingwood Esquire and Mr
Robt. Trollope'. The plan shows the fort with steeply pitched roofs to the
redoubt and corner turrets. A drawing dating to 1742 shows the central redoubt
intact and roofed but the perimeter walls apparently in decay.
Beneath the fort, where coastal erosion has created an open scar,
stratified layers of a midden have been exposed. The lowest layers of this
exposed section are thought to be prehistoric in date and consist of animal
bones, charcoal and flint waste material. The erosion scar has now been
repaired but, before this was carried out, environmental samples of plant
remains from within the midden were sampled and analysed by the Ancient
Monuments Laboratory. The plant remains were found to consist of a high
percentage of rye and may be associated with early medieval Scandinavian
occupation of the island. Charcoal was found from the possible prehistoric
layers. This evidence suggests that the Heugh has been occupied at various
times over the last 8,000 years and that further archaeological remains await

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

The fort on the Heugh is a good example of a late 17th century fortification.
It functioned with the contemporary fortification of Old Beblowe (Lindisfarne
Castle) to control the island harbour. Unlike Old Beblowe and the majority of
other contemporary defence works, it was not subjected to rebuilding and
redesign at a later date. It therefore provides an important insight into the
technology of 17th century defence works. The reign of Charles II saw a range
of new fortifications being built in England, primarily around the coast.
Direct royal involvement in the design and construction of forts was evident
on a scale not seen since the time of Henry VIII. During this period the most
architecturally accomplished fortifications in England were erected. They were
stimulated by the real dangers thrown up by the Dutch Wars, but fortress
construction was also a very fashionable occupation for European monarchs at
the time. Other forts constructed at this time include the Citadels at
Plymouth and Hull, as well as town and dockyard defences at Portsmouth. Whilst
there is no evidence of direct royal involvement in the construction of the
fort on the Heugh, it should be viewed in the light of these wider
developments in fortifications. Surviving fortifications of this date are rare
nationally and all examples will be identified as nationally important.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Ryder, P, The Fort on the Heugh Historical Notes & Structural Account, (1994)
Williams, A, The Heugh, Holy Island, (1995)
Williams, A, The Heugh, Holy Island. Archaeological recording...ground surfce, (1994)
Beavitt, P , 'Northern Archaeology' in Fieldwork on Lindisfarne, Northumberland, 1980-1988, , Vol. 8, (1987), 6-7
Huntley, J P, 'Durham Environmental Archaeology Report' in The Heugh, Lindisfarne. The Carbonised Plant Remains, , Vol. 38/94, (1994)

Source: Historic England

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