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Whitehaven Old Fort, an 18th century coastal battery overlooking Whitehaven Harbour and an associated lime kiln, 80m west of the southern end of Old Quay

A Scheduled Monument in Whitehaven, Cumbria

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Latitude: 54.5498 / 54°32'59"N

Longitude: -3.5967 / 3°35'48"W

OS Eastings: 296817.535985

OS Northings: 518340.257492

OS Grid: NX968183

Mapcode National: GBR 3HBT.3T

Mapcode Global: WH5Z1.QWGY

Entry Name: Whitehaven Old Fort, an 18th century coastal battery overlooking Whitehaven Harbour and an associated lime kiln, 80m west of the southern end of Old Quay

Scheduled Date: 7 March 2002

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1020460

English Heritage Legacy ID: 34982

County: Cumbria

Civil Parish: Whitehaven

Built-Up Area: Whitehaven

Traditional County: Cumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cumbria

Church of England Parish: Kells St Peter

Church of England Diocese: Carlisle


The monument includes the upstanding and buried remains of Whitehaven Old
Fort, an 18th and 19th century coastal battery which defended the entrance
to Whitehaven harbour, together with upstanding remains of a 19th century
lime kiln built into the fort's north west corner. It is located 80m west
of the southern end of Old Quay and is situated north of, south of and
beneath a modern road leading to South Beach Recreation Area.

During the 18th century Whitehaven developed into one of Britain's premier
ports. It enjoyed a thriving trade with America and Ireland and by 1790
the harbour was dealing with a greater overall tonnage per annum than any
other port except London. Construction of the fort began in 1741 and when
completed it comprised a gun platform surrounded by a perimeter wall with
a guardroom and powder magazine. Ten 18-pound guns stood in a line within
the fort and projected over a low wall from where they commanded a clear
view out to sea. Sods were placed along the top of the wall leaving
embrasures for the guns. The ordnance at the Old Fort changed frequently,
the original guns being removed to Carlisle in 1745 to assist against the
Jacobite Rebellion with replacements being sent to Whitehaven the
following year. Recommendations by the Board of Ordnance for improvements
to Whitehaven's defences during the 1760s were only partially carried out
and this failure to provide adequate protection resulted in an attack on
the town and harbour by the American vessel `Ranger', commanded by John
Paul Jones, in April 1778 during the American War of Independence.
Immediate improvements were then undertaken and by June of the same year
repairs and new construction meant that Whitehaven was now defended by six
strong batteries. Throughout the Napoleonic War documentary sources record
activity on the harbour defences including the carrying out of repairs,
remounting of guns and inspection of stores. Although never permanently
manned the Old Fort was the headquarters of the local and county militia,
while militia regiments from other areas were periodically garrisoned
there. In 1819 the Old Fort is recorded as containing eight guns mounted
on iron carriages. These were last fired in 1824 during celebrations to
mark the laying of foundation stones for the West Pier. In the same year a
lime kiln was constructed in the fort's north west corner using much of
the fort's original stonework. Gunpowder continued to be stored at the Old
Fort at least until 1840. During the 1870s many of the guns were removed
and those that remained were probably buried by a landslip which covered
the site in 1872. The guardhouse survived as a standing structure at least
until 1880. Whitehaven Old Fort was subjected to limited excavation in
the late 1970s; that part of the fort located to the north of the modern
road has been consolidated as a harbourside feature whilst that part of
the fort to the south of the road has been reburied. A plan of the Old
Fort produced by John Spedding in about 1756 shows a proposed extension to
be constructed on the eastern side. Features in this extension included
another powder magazine, a two-storey building being a storeroom on the
lower floor and a guardroom on the upper floor, a guardroom for officers
and a small backyard. The area of this proposed extension was not
excavated thus it is not presently known if it was ever constructed.

The northern part of the Old Fort includes a sandstone perimeter wall up
to 1.3m high. At intervals the walls are cut by semi-circular drains at
ground level which appear externally above a prominent sandstone cordon.
Also visible are the remains of iron `handles' leading into the internal
face of the fort's western wall which are interpreted as the remains of
the recoil-check system for the guns. There is a doorway in the fort's
north wall and immediately adjacent there are the substantial remains of a
lime kiln which slightly overlaps the fort's door. The lime kiln is about
2.8m high with the stoke-hole facing the harbour.

Limited excavation of the northern part of the Old Fort found that it was
originally floored with rectangular sandstone blocks identical to those
which formed the fort's walls. Other features revealed during the
excavation of the northern part of the fort include a rough trackway
considered to be contemporary with the lime kiln, which led from the
fort's doorway to a small pit, and the remains of a sandstone wall butting
onto the internal face of the fort's east wall which is the remains of a
blacksmith's shop shown by harbour plans to have been built between
1827-33. Limited excavation of the southern part of the Old Fort revealed
that the walls of the guardhouse and powder magazine, although razed to
ground level, are an integral part of the fort, being bonded into the
southern and eastern walls. The guardhouse measures about 6m by 4m
internally and is floored with rectangular slabs of siltstone while the
powder magazine measures about 4m by 2m internally. Outside these
buildings the floor of the fort was virtually identical to that found in
the northern part. At various places drainage channels had been cut into
the floor after laying and a large semi-circular drain in the south west
corner cutting almost vertically down through the wall is interpreted as a
urinal leading directly to the sea. The southern part of the fort was
drastically affected by the development of Wellington coal pit which was
sunk in 1840 and operated for almost a century. Considerable demolition
and disturbance took place within the Old Fort including use of the powder
magazine as a pit `cabin'. The southern part of the fort was eventually
buried in 1972 during the Wellington Pit Reclamation Scheme. Whitehaven
Old Fort is a Listed Building Grade II. A number of features are excluded
from the scheduling; these include a modern roadside wall, a modern wall
butting the lime kiln and a stone plinth in front of the lime kiln; the
surface of the modern road, the modern paved and brick flooring together
with an anchor and the display plinth on which it stands in the northern
part of the fort, all steps and an iron handrail, the surface of an access
track on the north west side of the fort, the paved surface on the north
side of the fort, gateposts and a fence on the north east side of the
fort, and a modern wall on the south east side of the fort together with a
winding wheel from Wellington Pit and the plinth upon which it stands.
However, the ground beneath all these features is included.

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

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

The term battery refers to any place where artillery is positioned to
allow guns to cover a particular area such as a line of communication
or the approaches to a defended location. Although often contained
within artillery forts designed to withstand sieges, typically
including resident garrisons, many batteries were lightly defended
and only manned at fighting strength in times of emergency.
Batteries not contained within forts or castles were either open,
with some approaches left undefended, or enclosed, often with a
loopholed wall, ditch and/or fence designed to repel small scale
attacks. Battery design evolved over time with developments in
artillery. Those of the 16th and 17th centuries were normally simple
raised earthwork platforms faced with turf, facines (bundles of
sticks), or wicker baskets filled with earth and known as gabions.
More permanent batteries, normally those on the coast, were faced in
stone. The guns and gunners were typically protected by a raised
parapet with guns firing through embrasures, or breaks in the wall,
or over the parapet. Gun positions protected by casemates (roofed gun
chambers) were generally restricted to batteries within artillery
forts and castles. The gun carriages were supported on timber or
stone platforms known as barbettes, often ramped to limit gun recoil.
In the 18th century, traversing guns using carriages mounted on
pivots were increasingly employed. By the late 19th century, barbette
positions became the usual practice and, as the century progressed,
guns were mounted in increasingly sophisticated emplacements,
normally built in concrete with integrated magazines.
All batteries where enough survives to interpret the original form
and function will be considered of national importance. Other
examples, of early date or where rare components are preserved, may
be considered nationally important even where overall survival is
comparatively poor.

Lime kilns have been in use since at least Roman times for the burning of
lime, chalk, marble and calcite. They consists of brick or stone-lined
kilns in which calcium carbonate is calcined to produce quicklime.
Typically the limestone is tipped into the kiln from the top, it is then
burned using wood, coal or coke as a fuel, then the resultant quicklime,
also known as birdlime or slaked lime, is shovelled out from a drawhole at
the bottom of the kiln. Lime has many uses including spreading on
lime-deficient land to encourage plant growth, the whitewashing of walls
and ceilings of buildings, and concrete and cement production.

England's naval strength, particularly between the 16th and 19th
centuries, was a major force in the growth of the British Empire. Such
expansionist policies, however, frequently brought the country into
conflict with rival powers, thus construction of coastal batteries became
a strategic necessity in the face of this threat. Whitehaven Old Fort was
constructed to protect the approaches to what was, during the 18th
century, one of the country's two principal ports. Along with Half Moon
Battery, a short distance to the south, Whitehaven Old Fort briefly became
the only military installations in England to be captured by opposing
forces during the American War of Independence. Following limited
excavation and consolidation of the northern part of the Old Fort, the
monument now provides a visible reminder of the coastal military defensive
measures required during the 18th and 19th centuries. It is well
documented and this information complements the standing and buried
remains and enhances the research value of the monument. Additionally the
19th century lime kiln survives reasonably well and is a good example of
this class of monument.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Taylor, J, Richardson, C, 'Post-Medieval Archaeology' in Whitehaven Old Fort: An 18th Century Coastal Fortification, (1980), 127-56
Taylor, J, Richardson, C, 'Post-Medieval Archaeology' in Whitehaven Old Fort: An 18th Century Coastal Fortification, (1980), 127-56
DOE, List of Buildings of Historic & Architectural Interest,

Source: Historic England

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