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Resolution Fort: Civil War town defences at Friary Court

A Scheduled Monument in St Peter and the Waterfront, Plymouth

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Latitude: 50.3725 / 50°22'21"N

Longitude: -4.129 / 4°7'44"W

OS Eastings: 248701.032412

OS Northings: 54679.618342

OS Grid: SX487546

Mapcode National: GBR RDJ.9G

Mapcode Global: FRA 2871.WS4

Entry Name: Resolution Fort: Civil War town defences at Friary Court

Scheduled Date: 16 November 1998

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1018732

English Heritage Legacy ID: 29665

County: Plymouth

Electoral Ward/Division: St Peter and the Waterfront

Built-Up Area: Plymouth

Traditional County: Devon

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Devon


The monument, a Civil War construction, includes part of an earthen rampart
and bastion (projecting gun platform) fronted by a stone wall and defensive
ditch, built by Parliamentarian forces in the early 1640s for the defence of
Plymouth. The surviving portion of the rampart and bastion is known from
contemporary cartographic sources to have been part of Resolution Fort, one of
a number of named forts and features on the Plymouth fortifications. The
monument is located at Friary Court off Beaumont Road.
Soon after the outbreak of Civil War, Plymouth expelled its Royalist garrison
and declared for Parliament. There was no earlier continuous medieval town
wall with which to improvise a defensive circuit to resist the expected
Royalist siege and work on erecting a new and continuous fortification on the
landward side, in order to defend the city, began shortly after the summer of
1642. Excavations in 1989, in advance of a housing development at Friary
Court, revealed a 17m stretch of these defences comprising an earthen rampart
and bastion fronted by a limestone wall and a ditch. These remains lay just to
the east of a former Carmelite friary which was surrendered to the Crown in
1538 and later passed into private ownership. The earth rampart of 1642 was
about 6m wide and it originally had a turf-revetted face. Where the bastion
was added, the rampart was built forward. The bastion in this case has been
suggested, from the study of other complete known examples, to have been a
broad diamond-shaped projection. A section of the earth rampart, about 4.5m
long and part of its forward bastion, approximately 21m east-west by 12.5m
north-south, survives above ground at Friary Court. Further archaeological
investigation has demonstrated that a limestone wall on an exposed bed of
natural shale, which survives to a maximum height of about 1.7m and which
varies between 0.85m and 1.1m wide at its base, was inserted into the front of
the earthwork defences at a slightly later date. The projecting wall angles
clearly show the southern side of the bastion which was further defended by an
external rock-cut ditch about 0.8m deep and 3.6m wide. This ditch is now
partly infilled but is visible as a shallow depression running parallel to the
bastion wall at the base of the shale scarp. A number of musket balls were
recovered in excavation at the rear of the rampart at a point where an access
leading up to the bastion platform was likely to have been located.
Documentary research has revealed that the decision to upgrade the defences by
the addition of a stone wall and parapet was taken on the 9th July 1643 and
that the work was completed by February 1644. A map of the city's
fortifications and the Royalist siege lines was drawn up by Wenceslaus Hollar
in early 1644 and it still survives. This map is accurate enough, when
combined with other cartographic and archaeological evidence, to permit the
identification of the section of the defences exposed in excavation at Friary
Court with the mapped depiction of Resolution Fort, one of seven forts or
bastions which can be located with reasonable certainty on the eastern and
northern sides of the Parliamentarian fortification.
On the completion of the housing development in 1992, the wall of the bastion
was consolidated and built up to something of its former height by the
addition of a wall and parapet of Staffordshire Blue Brindle brickwork and the
rampart and external ditch were grassed over. The Blue Brindle brickwork is
included in the scheduling.

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

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

The battles and sieges of the English Civil War (1642-52) between King and
Parliament were the last major active military campaigns to be undertaken on
English soil and they have left their mark on the English landscape in a
variety of ways. Fieldworks are earthworks which were raised during the
military campaigns or sieges to provide temporary protection for infantry or
to act as gun emplacements. The earthworks, which are sometimes reinforced
with revetting and palisades, consisted of ramparts and ditches often
supplemented with a variety of more complex projecting works such as bastions
and spurs. Where the earthworks were erected to defend a town, they could be
even more sophisticated with strong points and forts at intervals along the
enceinte and the provision of outworks beyond. These features can be
recognised today as surviving earthworks or as crop or soil marks on aerial
photographs. They are recorded widely throughout England, with concentrations
in the main areas of campaigning, and have been recognised to be unique in
representing the only evidence on the ground of military campaigns fought in
England since the introduction of artillery.
Plymouth was a key garrison held by the Royalists but taken by Parliament soon
after the outbreak of the Civil War in 1642. The town remained in
Parliamentarian hands for the remainder of the war but it was required to
withstand five major sieges and several blockades. The town was surrounded by
a series of defensive fieldworks of which the surviving defences at Resolution
Fort provide a visible reminder of the role played by Plymouth in the Civil
War as a Parliamentarian stronghold. The monument also provides archaeological
information relating to the erection of purpose-built town defences of the
period and information relating to the strategic military thinking of the
times. This information is complemented by contemporary documentary and mapped
sources which enhance the research value of the monument and, as a result, the
remains are well understood.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Henderson, C G, 'Occasional Publication:Archaeological Investigations in Plymouth' in Excavation at Plymouth Whitefriars, 1989-94, , Vol. 1, (1992-93), 47-58
Stoyle, M, 'Devon Archaeology' in Plymouth in the Civil War, , Vol. 7, (1998)

Source: Historic England

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