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World War II Emergency Coastal Battery and remains of a Victorian practice battery, at Battery Gardens

A Scheduled Monument in Brixham, Torbay

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Coordinates

Latitude: 50.4021 / 50°24'7"N

Longitude: -3.5199 / 3°31'11"W

OS Eastings: 292082.000154

OS Northings: 56905.761267

OS Grid: SX920569

Mapcode National: GBR QX.718F

Mapcode Global: FRA 37JZ.LJN

Entry Name: World War II Emergency Coastal Battery and remains of a Victorian practice battery, at Battery Gardens

Scheduled Date: 6 March 2002

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1020411

English Heritage Legacy ID: 33036

County: Torbay

Civil Parish: Brixham

Built-Up Area: Brixham

Traditional County: Devon

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Devon

Church of England Parish: Brixham All Saints

Church of England Diocese: Exeter

Details

The monument includes the standing and below ground remains of the World
War II Emergency Battery set up in 1940 to protect the Brixham harbourage, and
the remains of an earlier 19th century practice battery. From at least 1780, a
succession of batteries of varying longevity occupied the promontory of land
which lies above the west side of Brixham Harbour. The presence of batteries
at the site gave rise to the place-names of Fishcombe Point Battery, Furzedon
Battery, and, in more modern times, Battery Gardens following the creation of
a park in the 1930s. Brixham itself lies close to the tip of the southern
crescent of Torbay almost directly opposite Torquay. The bay was considered
strategically important for naval purposes from at least the late 18th
century. The World War II battery formed part of the defences of Torbay
between the period 1940-1945 and, together with a similar battery on Corbyn's
Head at Torquay, it was sited to defend the bay against enemy invasion or
attack. Brixham Battery was manned by various Royal Artillery regiments from
362 Battery and later 378 Battery, supported by D Company 10th Torbay
Battalion Devonshire Home Guard. The battery was fully manned from 1940 and
was in a state of readiness throughout the height of the threatened invasion
period (codenamed Operation Sealion by the Germans) until the threat receded
by 1942.
The World War II complex comprises a number of different structures dispersed
throughout the 14 acre (5.6ha) site; only fragmentary remains of the earlier
practice battery survive. The World War II battery housed two 4.7inch guns
each held within a separate gun floor of similar design built from level
concrete with semi-circular aprons facing the sea and each defined by a low
brick wall. The western gun floor was known as No 1 Gun and its companion to
the east as No 2 Gun. The circular holdfast plates upon which the guns were
mounted survive, each around 1m in diameter. The gun positions were protected
by brick walls made blastproof by being encased in earth whilst the roofs were
constructed of prefabricated steel and concrete sealed over with earth. A
steel visor, which acted as an anti-strafing measure, extends down from an
angle at the front of both roofs. Access to No 1 Gun was via a large doorway
in the rear wall which led to an access channel; No 2 Gun was accessible via a
stepped tunnel at its rear west corner. A war shelter which provided a stand-
to area for the gun crews is located between the two gun floors. Although
partly sealed, the north wall of the shelter is exposed and is constructed of
splinter-proof concrete. Each gun was provided with a separate magazine, that
for No 2 Gun lies some 40m behind it and comprises a concrete bunker almost
totally covered by earth. All of the operations of the battery were controlled
from the battery observation post (BOP) which is a Listed Building Grade II.
The BOP is a two-storey flat-roofed building built into the slope and offering
views over Brixham Harbour and the sea approaches. The building was
constructed with thick concrete walls with a reinforced concrete slab roof.
The lower room, according to Mr Ron Coleman, a veteran who served at the site
as a leading sergeant with D Company, housed range finders used in identifying
the positions of targets; the room has a wide observation aperture on the
seaward side. The upper room has an aperture extending into the sidewalls
giving a broader arc of vision. This room also housed a range finder and it is
believed to have been the centre for radio communications. The battery
commander's quarters were located in a room behind the BOP. A large range
finder was housed in the brick emplacement which survives just to the north
west of the BOP.
The night-time task of protecting the harbour was assisted by two Coast
Artillery Search Lights (CASL) positioned north of the gun floors and close
to the cliff edge. The buildings which housed both searchlights survive. They
are constructed of brick with bombproof flat roofs and would originally have
been earthfast, although some of this mounding appears to have been removed.
The searchlight buildings are unusual in having a rectangular ground plan
rather than arc- or polygonal-fronted forms which, where in use elsewhere,
provided a broader arc of operation. Instead, they had open fronts and cutaway
side openings which were bricked up in the post-war period.
The battery was equipped with its own Light Anti-aircraft and ground defences
some of which could also be turned to protect the harbour. Oral evidence from
Ron Coleman has suggested that the main anti-aircraft installation was a 40mm
Bofors gun sited just behind the main gun floors. A 1m high earthwork mound
with a maximum diameter of 10m just to the south west of, and a little higher
than the battery, appears to represent the base for this emplacement.
Approximately 10m west of this position is a level concrete platform which is
believed to be the site of an non-rotating rocket projector which could fire
10 or 20 2 inch rockets at a time. Further to the south east is a surviving
and partly restored gun position suggested by the Brixham Battery Heritage
Centre Group (BBHCG) to have housed a 37mm Pom Pom gun. The position comprises
a horseshoe-shaped, 1.4m high wall of concrete sandbags built onto a concrete
base, with a concrete sandbag revetment to the rear. At the centre of the base
is an upstanding, circular concrete plinth with protruding bolt studs for
fixing the gun. Surviving elements of the ground defences include a concrete
platform sited to cover the main gate of the battery and believed to have held
a Lewis light machine gun, and at least three small-arms positions created at
points around the boundary by the modification of the park wall in order to
provide rifle platforms. A pillbox at the eastern side of the site overlooks
the inner harbour. It has a triangular ground plan with an overhanging front
and bevelled corners; a narrow loophole on the front has a protective iron
doorway. The pillbox is said by Ron Coleman to have housed a 6-pounder
Hotchkiss tank gun and it is believed to have been sited in order to protect
against any enemy craft which had breached the main defences and gained access
to the inner harbour.
Support buildings for the battery which lie within the area of the monument
include two generator houses which supplied electricity for the searchlights
and the emergency supply for the battery, the `Altmark' a pre-World War II
public shelter used as a store during the War, a small observation post almost
at the summit of the hill (believed to be an emergency backup for the BOP), a
reserve reservoir, the remains of an emergency cookhouse, and a concrete
platform for artillery loading exercises. An Artillery Training Service (ATS)
building lies just outside the area of the monument. It is a permanent brick
single-storey building understood to be one of the most common forms of
structure erected by the military in World War II.
War Office documentation (now lodged with the Public Record Office) suggests
that Brixham Battery had a somewhat irregular layout where, unusually, the
searchlights lie to one side of the guns and the BOP was in a retired
position. However, Emergency Batteries, by the very nature of their rapid
construction, did not conform closely to any regular plan.
The World War II battery position overlooking the harbour had been previously
recognised as advantageous for artillery positions as far back as 1780 and at
some stage in the 19th century the open heathland there was enclosed by the
War Department (WD), although it was almost certainly already in their
ownership and boundary walls were erected prior to the turn of the 20th
century. At least two WD boundary stones survive, one free-standing at the
north east corner of the former War Department property, and one embedded in
situ in the boundary wall at Fishcombe Road; they appear to date from the
second half of the 19th century. Of the same general period are some slight
earthworks near the lip of a slope forward of the World War II No 2 Gun
position; these are believed to be associated with a Victorian practice
battery first recorded in 1852. To the rear of the earthwork are two arced
traverse rails (known as racers) on which the gun (a 64 pounder Muzzle Loading
Rifle) rotated. One rail survives complete and has a length of 3.3m; the other
is partly buried with less than 0.3m visible. Associated with this period of
use is a standing granite pillar surmounted by a mortar capping into which are
embedded three iron bolts arranged so as to hold fast a detachable piece of
equipment. The stone, which lies about 30m behind the traverse rails, has an
inscription in six lines. Detailed study of the weathered inscription has
revealed that it carries information on tides and heights above sea level. The
most likely explanation is that the stone was a sighting post used in the
calculation of range and bearing to target during firing exercises carried out
in the latter half of the 19th century; the bolts could have held a range
finder and a theodolite type instrument could also have been mounted.
All modern surfacing for made-up paths, and all modern fencing, signposts and
steps are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath these
surfaces and features is included.

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

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

The use of fixed artillery to protect the coast from hostile ships is one of
the oldest practices in the history of England's defences, providing home
security and protecting communications from the fifteenth until the second
half of the 20th century.
Emergency Coastal Batteries are one of the four classes of 20th century
batteries - the other three are Anti-Motor Torpedo boat Batteries (AMTB),
Defended Ports (DP), and Temporary and Mobile Artillery (TMA). They were set
up at speed in the early years of World War II. Their construction and siting
were often hurried, and many sites have evidence of change or adaptation in
use whilst building was taking place. The guns on their holdfasts were
generally the earliest fixed structures within the complex, but a pair of
searchlights, magazines and support buildings were also required, as was a
Battery Observation Point (BOP). The haste of their construction and the need
to adapt to existing buildings, local topography, and camouflage requirements,
led to many different arrangements in layout. Some have a more coherent
appearance than others, however, with the various elements integrated to make
their operation more efficient. Coast artillery was finally discontinued in
1956 and many Emergency Coastal Batteries were then removed.
All Emergency Coastal Batteries, where sufficient physical remains survive to
illustrate and provide information about the site's original form and
function, will be considered to be of national importance.

The Emergency Coastal Battery at Brixham Battery Gardens has been identified
as being one of only seven examples of this type of battery which have
survived intact (from a recorded total of 116 Emergency Coastal Batteries set
up around the coast of England in World War II). The Brixham Battery retains
all of the elements of such a coastal battery in an excellent state of
preservation within a public area where the remains can be viewed.
Some interpretative panels explaining the role of the site in World War II are
in place at the site and the historic profile of the battery is enhanced by
the work of the Brixham Battery Heritage Centre Group who have produced
guidebooks and detailed handbooks about the battery for educational purposes.
The monument is well documented with original records available at the Public
Record Office which give details of the manning and armament of the battery.
The battery stands therefore as a well-researched and visible reminder of the
measures taken to protect England against the threat of invasion during the
1940s, and of the degree to which earlier defence sites were often adapted to
serve that need.

Source: Historic England

Sources

Books and journals
Coleman, R, WWII Coastal Battery Defence System at Battery Gardens, Brixham, (2000)
Newman, P, Battery Gardens, Brixham, Devon, (2001)
Newman, P, Battery Gardens, Brixham, Devon, (2001)
Sheringham, R N, Tor Bay, (1852)
Dobinson, C, 'Twentieth Century Fortifications in England' in Coast Artillery, 1900-56, , Vol. VI.1, (2000)
Other
Coleman, R, (2001)
Lawrance, E, (2001)
Ordnance Survey, Ordnance Survey 1904 1st Revision, (1904)
Pye, A R and Slater, W D, Berry Head Fort, Brixham: An Archaeological Survey, 1990, Unpub EMAFU Report No 90.10

Source: Historic England

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