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The Harwich Redoubt

A Scheduled Monument in Harwich, Essex

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Latitude: 51.942 / 51°56'31"N

Longitude: 1.289 / 1°17'20"E

OS Eastings: 626155.717691

OS Northings: 232160.873696

OS Grid: TM261321

Mapcode National: GBR VQR.8Q1

Mapcode Global: VHLCG.9G94

Entry Name: The Harwich Redoubt

Scheduled Date: 21 October 1968

Last Amended: 11 February 2000

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1017205

English Heritage Legacy ID: 29443

County: Essex

Civil Parish: Harwich

Built-Up Area: Harwich

Traditional County: Essex

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Essex

Church of England Parish: The Harwich Peninsula

Church of England Diocese: Chelmsford


The monument includes a fortified gun tower, or redoubt, situated on a slight
hill towards the eastern side of the Harwich peninsula, flanked by Harbour
Crescent to the north and east, Main Road to the west, and Mayflower Avenue to
the south.

The Harwich Redoubt, which is Listed Grade II*, was built between 1807 and
1809 on the orders of Major Bryce, Royal Engineer in charge of the Eastern
District, in order to protect this important deep water harbour in the event
of invasion or attack by Napoleon's forces. The location, just outside the
town gate, presented a wide field of fire across the peninsula and, combined
with Languard Fort on the Suffolk side of the Stour/Orwell Estuary, allowed
for cross fire over the harbour approach.

The redoubt is brick built with masonry details and exterior facings. The
tower is circular in plan, measuring 61m in diameter, encircled by a dry moat
and enclosing an open central parade ground (the Parade) measuring some 26m
across. The ground floor has 18 rooms or casemates radiating from the Parade
which served as stores for ammunition and general supplies, a cookhouse,
ablution room, latrines and accommodation, once the garrision of 250 men and
six officers became operational in 1810. The garrison's water supply was
provided by a well in the centre of the Parade. The large octagonal cistern
located outside the moat to the west (constructed of iron plates with leather
seals) held a further 10,000 gallons which could be used for fire-fighting.

Apart from the main magazine and the shell store (which have modified doorways
leading around internal blast walls) the inward-facing elevations of the rooms
surrounding the Parade are broadly symmetrical: alternating between wide and
narrow frontages, each equipped with square headed doorways and flanking sash
windows (the doors and frames are modern replicas). Circular windows above the
doors allow further light into the rooms, all of which have high barrel-
vaulted ceilings to support the weight of the gun platforms above. Staircases
ascend from rear passages between three pairs of ground floor rooms and lead
to covered entrances on the north, east and south sides of the gun platform.
The platform is equipped with ten embrasures, each originally designed for a
24 pounder smooth bore (SB) cannon, slide mounted on traversing carriages
secured to central pivots (usually a further cannon barrel embedded mouth
uppermost in the floor). None of the embrasures survive unaltered. In 1861 the
embrasure openings were narrowed with granite blocks to protect the gun crews
from rifle fire. The deflective parapet and exterior walls, originally clad in
limestone, were refitted with granite to withstand heavier bombardment from
improved artillery. In 1862 the ten guns were replaced with more powerful
armament, seven 68 pounder cannons and three 8-inch (SB) guns. Ten years later
three of the positions facing the harbour approach (known as Cook Street, Box
Street and King Street from the original painted plaques) were modified to
take 9-inch rifled muzzle loading guns (RMLs). One such RML gun, weighing 12
tons, was recovered in 1970 from the floor of the moat surrounding the redoubt
and is now mounted on a concrete carriage in Cook Street embrasure. Two
others, still buried in the moat, have been identified by geophysical survey.

It is thought likely that the ground floor magazine and shell store were
overhauled at this time, improving the blast walls and separate light
passages, and that rear windows (facing into the moat) were added to some
rooms, replacing or supplementing earlier rifle loops. Ammunition was raised
to the gun positions using five hoists mounted above wooden gantries over the
Parade. One of these hoists is attached to the rear of the eastern stairhead
structure, the others form part of brick built ammunition stores designed to
house supplies for the guns. In 1903 the two emplacements facing the harbour
(Box Street and King Street) were modified to take 12 pounder quick-fire (QF)
guns and a doorway (or sally port) was added to the rear of the ground floor
guard room to provide access into the north side of the moat. The moat is
about 16m wide and 7m deep, the upper edge of the brick retaining wall set
slightly below the level of the gun platform so as to conceal the bulk of the
building while allowing an uninterrupted field of fire across the modified
slope (glacis) of the hill. A generator house and oil store was constructed in
the moat in 1903 in order to supply electricity to searchlights located on the
slope below the fort. Access to the redoubt was originally provided by a fixed
bridge, with a drawbridge section, leading to the gun platform on the WNW
side. This was replaced with the present permanent bridge, capable of
supporting heavy vehicles, after World War II.

In 1910 the QF guns were removed and the redoubt became barrack accommodation.
Having seen little active use in World War I, the redoubt was sold to the Town
Council in the 1920s and housing developments soon encroached around the foot
of the hill. The hillside itself was used for allotment gardens. The redoubt
was recommissioned for military use in World War II and served a range of
support roles including a period as a detention room for British servicemen. A
Bofors anti-aircraft gun was stationed on the forward gun platform as part of
the air defences for the harbour. After the war the redoubt was retained as a
civil defence centre for co-ordinating emergency services in the event of
nuclear war. These operations were transferred to other more suitable
buildings in the late 1950s, and the redoubt was abandoned until restoration
work was initiated by the Harwich Society in 1969.

Clearance work has been followed by consolidation and repair and the redoubt
is now a well maintained structure, open to the public and dedicated to the
display of its former use. Of the various guns located on the upper platform
the only original piece of ordnance is the 1872 RML gun raised from the moat,
which is included in the scheduling. Its modern concrete gun carriage is
excluded from the scheduling, although the platform structure on which it
stands is included. All the other weaponry on display has been brought from
elsewhere and is excluded from the scheduling, although again the structures
to which they are attached are included.

Modern replacement items, such as the wooden floors of some of the ground
floor rooms and the hoist gantrys, the sash windows and the doors facing the
Parade are excluded, together with all modern plaques, notice boards, display
cases and contents, furniture, workshop equipment and all modern plumbing and
electrical systems, although all structures to which these items are attached
are included. Original fittings, such as the ammunition hoists, the iron
banisters around the inner edge of the gun platform and the various equipment
racks in the ground floor room are included in the scheduling.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 4 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Redoubts are generally defined as defendable low level works serving as
platforms for a number of guns. The later, more heavily armed versions,
devised during the Napoleonic War, share this concept but housed sizable
garrisons for the operation of the armament and are in many ways more closely
related to gun towers, a feature of coastal defence since the later Middle
Ages. There are three such redoubts in England, one on the east coast at
Harwich and two on the south coast, at Dymchurch and Eastbourne. All three
formed an integral part of the chain of Martello towers (smaller fortified
gun towers) based on a structure encountered by the British Navy at Mortella
Bay, Corsica, in 1794 and constructed along the south and east coasts in the
early years of the 19th century. As the expected Napoleonic invasion did not
materialise, the defensive strength of this system was never tested, although
it could be argued that it had served its purpose as an effective deterrent.
In addition to the three redoubts, 43 of the original 103 towers now survive:
26 on the south coast and 17 on the east coast.

The Harwich Redoubt has undergone comparatively few later alterations, and it
remains the most complete example of the three ten-gun fortifications. The
tower is substantially unaltered since its completion in 1810 and,
particularly when considered together with the surviving martello towers and
other batteries along the east coast, provides a significant insight into a
period when modern Britain faced the most serious threat of invasion prior to
the major conflicts of the 20th century.

The redoubt also retains a range of minor modifications which demonstrate both
the provisions made for improved ordnance in the latter part of the 19th
century and the continued military importance of the harbour. The redoubt's
involvement in later periods of warfare (both the two World Wars and the early
stages of the Cold War), despite being relatively low-key, is nonetheless of
considerable interest in terms of the history of the town, the harbour and the
more general defence of the east coast.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Medlycott, M, Harwich: Historic Town Assessment Report, (1998)
Trollope, C, Sheard, S, Rutter, A, The Harwich Redoubt, (1995)
Trollope, C, Sheard, S, Rutter, A, The Harwich Redoubt, (1995)
Trollope, C, Sheard, S, Rutter, A, The Harwich Redoubt, (1995)
Trollope, C, Sheard, S, Rutter, A, The Harwich Redoubt, (1995)
DOE, List of Buildings of Historic & Architectural Interest,
Text and photographs, Gilman, P, 0053: The Harwich Redoubt, (1987)

Source: Historic England

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