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A Napoleonic coastal battery at Bath Side, 400m north west of Tower Hill

A Scheduled Monument in Harwich, Essex

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Coordinates

Latitude: 51.9446 / 51°56'40"N

Longitude: 1.2851 / 1°17'6"E

OS Eastings: 625873.712857

OS Northings: 232441.358847

OS Grid: TM258324

Mapcode National: GBR VQR.1Q6

Mapcode Global: VHLCG.7D74

Entry Name: A Napoleonic coastal battery at Bath Side, 400m north west of Tower Hill

Scheduled Date: 7 June 2000

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1018957

English Heritage Legacy ID: 29445

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

Details

The monument includes the buried remains of a coastal battery on the north
western side of the Harwich peninsula, located beneath Stour Road and the
verge which separates it from the Dovercourt Bypass, some 120m west of the
Harwich town railway station.

The military defences for Harwich - the safest natural harbour on the east
coast between the Thames and the Humber - were considerably enhanced following
the resumption of the war with France in 1803. The period 1806-1811 saw the
development of a ten-gun redoubt (or gun tower) in the centre of the
peninsula, supported by seaward facing batteries at Angel Gate and Beacon Hill
and the battery at Bath Side Bay looking west across the mouths of the
Rivers Stour and Orwell. These were intended to provide crossfire with
Landguard Fort and four contemporary Martello towers (numbered L-O) positioned
on the Suffolk (northern) side of the haven. The redoubt, Beacon Hillfort and
Landguard Fort, as well as the Martello towers are the subject of separate
schedulings.

The Angel Gate and Beacon Hill batteries have been lost to coastal erosion and
redevelopment. The remains of the Bath Side battery, however, are known to
survive below ground level, having been partly excavated during the
construction of the Dovercourt bypass in 1990-91. A map of Crown properties in
Harwich dated 1813 shows that the battery was originally constructed above the
high water mark on the western shoreline, extending beyond a coastal
embankment which enclosed a wide area of marshland along the foot of the
peninsula. The battery's present location (some 140m from the water's edge)
results from a process of land reclamation which began around 1850. Permission
for the batteries to be built was granted in 1809 following a report by
Captain George Whitmore, (the Royal Engineer in charge of the east coast
Martello towers) to the Inspector General of Fortifications, General R Morse.
The construction contract for the Bath Side battery was awarded to James Frost
of Norwich in 1810, and the armaments were ordered from Woolwich Arsenal in
the same year. The Bath Side battery was built in brick (mainly shipped from
Gravesend) and sandstone, with a semi-circular rampart facing into the
estuary, set behind a deflective earthen slope (or glacis) retained by a
lower brick wall. The interior of the battery, the area known as the gorge,
measured some 38m in width and contained a small octagonal guardhouse placed
centrally alongside a wooden fence enclosing the rear. The 1990-91 excavations
revealed extensive remains of the rampart, retaining walls and the
guardhouse (the latter located but not investigated) which had survived
partial demolition and disturbance from later buildings. The material of the
glacis, however, had been completely removed by tidal erosion - a process
which had also led to the collapse of some sections of the walls. The gun
emplacements also remained substantially intact. The battery was originally
equipped with three 12-pounder cannons mounted on traversing carriages. These
were set on pivots to the rear of the rampart wall and designed to fire over
the parapet (en barbette). Remnants of the semi-circular steps (racers) for
the carriage wheels and impressions of the pivots (9-pounder cannon barrels
embedded mouth uppermost in the floor of each emplacement) were found during
excavation, although these arrangments were largely overlain by evidence of
subsequent modifications. It is thought that the original design, constructed
in haste to meet an imminent threat of invasion, provided the guns with
inadequate arcs of fire (50 degrees or less), and that alterations were made
soon after the battery's completion. The three emplacements were moved forward
through breaches in the rampart wall so that the relocated pivots stood in
line with the parapet. Imprints of the pivot cannons' cascabels were also
found in these locations, although the pivots themselves had long since been
removed. These new positions increased the firing arcs to some 70 degrees and
allowed for overlapping trajectories. They were encircled by new brick-built
steps for the iron carriage racers (also removed) and protected by
semi-circular embrasures projecting beyond the rampart wall.

The war with France ended in 1815 and in September 1817 the Board of Ordnance
ordered the guns, which had never seen action, to be dismounted. The Harwich
tithe map of 1843 depicts the battery intact, although land reclamation had
begun to affect the shoreline in the vicinity. Some work was carried out in
1853 to maintain both the Bath Side and Angel Gate batteries, although a
report by Lieutenant General Burgoyne in the same year advocated
decommissioning on account of their close proximity to new buildings. In 1854
the Harwich Gas and Coke Company purchased the reclaimed land immediately to
the north of the battery for the town's gas works, limiting the possibilty of
any further military use. Improvements to the armaments mounted on the Redoubt
in 1862 also undermined the value of maintaining the battery and by 1867 it
was largely ruinous. The eastern side of the peninsula began to be developed
for housing in 1873 and the battery was sold in about 1875 to the United Land
Company. The area was divided into plots which retained the semi-circular
outline of the battery and a row of cottages was constructed over the site in
1884. These were demolished in 1990 to make way for the bypass. Following the
excavations in 1991 the battery was reburied, grassed over and the outline
depicted with superficial brickwork. The site is included in the Harwich
Maritime Trail.

The brick outline, together with the modern surface of Stour Road, adjacent
fence and information board are all excluded from the scheduling, although the
ground beneath these features is included.

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

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Batteries are self contained positions where guns were mounted for purposes of
offensive or defensive action, located either in isolation or in association
with wider schemes of fortification. The objective was primarily to bring guns
to bear on a specific area, be it a harbour, river or line of communication.
Batteries were therefore normally designed to provide the appropriate range
and to protect the guns (and crew) during such action, rather than to repell
prolonged assault or seige. Battery design developed alongside the
improvements in ordnance in the 18th and 19th century, with earthen defences
and gabions (barracades of wicker bundles or earth-filled baskets) used during
the temporary campaigns, and more elaborate masonry structures placed in areas
of permanent vulnerability - such as coastlines and harbours. The battery
rampart could be divided by embrasures or sufficiently low to allow guns to
fire over the parapet, the latter (en barbette) practice being most common in
the early 19th century. Permanent batteries of this period operated
smooth-bore cannons, slide-mounted on carriages which rotated around fixed
pivots supported by wheels describing the arc on steps or rails (racers).
Ammunition would be stored behind the rampart (the area known as the
`gorge'), sometimes in purpose built structures (magazines) or in pits,
boarded over to prevent accidental ignition. The gun crew might be supplied
with a shelter and a guardhouse was commonly situated to oversee the battery
when not in use. Batteries of the late 18th and early 19th century, despite
being once numerous (especially along the south and east coasts during the
French Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars) now rarely survive due to subsequent
military and civil developments and coastal erosion. In all some 22 examples
are known nationally, the majority of which occur in Devon and Cornwall. As a
source of information for the developments in military technology and as
indications of the ebb and flow of international (and civil) conflict during
this formative period in British history, all examples exhibiting a
significant degree of preservation are considered worthy of protection.

The Bath Side battery is the last of the three Napoleonic batteries at Harwich
to survive, and it is one of few such sites in England to have been
investigated archaeologically. The results of the excavation have demonstrated
that the structure remains substantially intact and, despite former erosion,
the effects of decommissioning and subsequent development, it retains details
of the original design, armament and alterations undertaken to improve its
capability. The battery formed an integral part of the fortifications for the
harbour, serving a documented role alongside the Harwich Redoubt, Landguard
Fort and the Martello towers of the Suffolk shore. Although the other
batteries have been lost, the Bath Side battery (portrayed in outline on the
verge) compliments the major surviving features of the period and provides a
valuable insight into a period when modern Britain faced the most serious
threat of invasion prior to the major conflicts of the 20th century.

Source: Historic England

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