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Linear Training Fortification, Royal Military Repository

A Scheduled Monument in Woolwich Common, Greenwich

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Coordinates

Latitude: 51.4845 / 51°29'4"N

Longitude: 0.0534 / 0°3'12"E

OS Eastings: 542671.571304

OS Northings: 178167.094231

OS Grid: TQ426781

Mapcode National: GBR NK.64D

Mapcode Global: VHHNJ.WY2D

Entry Name: Linear Training Fortification, Royal Military Repository

Scheduled Date: 1 November 2010

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1021456

English Heritage Legacy ID: 36206

County: Greenwich

Electoral Ward/Division: Woolwich Common

Built-Up Area: Greenwich

Traditional County: Kent

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Greater London

Church of England Parish: Woolwich St Mary Magdalene with St Michael and All Angels

Church of England Diocese: Southwark

Details

INTRODUCTION
The monument comprises the remains of the Linear Training Fortification,
which was formerly part of the Royal Military Repository in Woolwich, located
north of the junction of Repository Road and Green Hill, Woolwich. Situated
within the former Royal Artillery Barracks, it defines the eastern boundary
to the Napier Line compound, Rotunda compound and Repository Woods and
stretches from the modern entrance into the Napier Line compound (TQ 4273
7801) on a roughly north-south alignment to the modern entrance to Repository
Woods (also known as the Dell Gate, TQ 4263 7831). The Linear Training
Fortification is part of a much wider military training landscape with its
origins in the first decades of the 19th century, the intention to construct
the fortification itself being first mentioned in 1818.

An English Heritage research report (Newsome et al, 2009) has been compiled
for the monument and the associated landscape.

The Rotunda, bordering the monument on the west, is a Grade II* listed
building; Repository Woods, approximately 180m to the west, is under
consideration for registration as a Park and Garden whose landscape is of
special historic interest.

DESCRIPTION
Only the northern half of the fortified line survives as an earthwork above
ground. It stretches for approximately 370m from the modern entrance into the
Napier Line compound (at the junction of Repository Road and Green Hill) on a
roughly north-south alignment to the modern entrance to Repository Woods, the
point at which the earthwork originally terminated.

Between the entrance to the Napier Line compound and the Rotunda compound,
the remains of one of the two original large bastions (a structure which on a
working fortification projects outward from the main enclosure, facilitating
active defence against assaulting troops) - the 'North Bastion' on the 1867
Bayly map - is preserved as an earthwork platform, along with a section of
brick revetted east-facing scarp. Slight earthworks on the top of the
platform may relate to the buried remains of the numerous embrasures (the
openings in the line to facilitate artillery firing) and emplacements
depicted in this section of the line on historic maps (OS 1869) and
photographs (Royal Artillery Historical Trust / Firepower Collection (RAHT)
Collection Album 27).

To the north of the bastion the Rotunda compound is defined by a stock brick
wall topped by an iron fence. This wall stands on top of a section of the
practice fortification that appears to have been constructed after, though
perhaps not very long after, the 'North Bastion' was constructed. This may
indicate phasing in the construction of the different sections, including the
insertion of the current Rotunda compound access road, between 1839 and 1869.

To the north of the entrance to the Rotunda compound the earthwork is defined
by an east-facing scarp which turns through a number of different angles to
create a variety of flanks, salients and spurs (military positions that
project into the position of the enemy) and demi-bastions of different angles
and lengths which are much more irregular than the two large regular bastions
that existed to the south. It is probable that this irregularity was
deliberate to provide greater variety for training, but it may also have been
influenced by the location of the Rotunda and/or the previous stepped
boundary to the Repository. The stock brick wall and iron fence continue
along the top of the earthwork though it is clear that some sections of wall,
such as that defining the northern boundary to the Rotunda compound, have
been rebuilt in 20th century brick, with only the lower one or two courses of
original brickwork surviving. It is likely that the berm or step in the face
of the fortification suggested on the 1869 OS map has been lost due to the
bank eroding and slumping.

The earthwork is most substantial on the spur, located immediately to the
east of the Rotunda, which reaches a height of 5m, and this may be no
coincidence though erosion in other areas must be considered. If the
earthworks were constructed after the Rotunda was relocated here in 1818,
which contemporary correspondence would suggest, then this stretch of the
line probably had more of an aesthetic than a practical training function. It
is worth noting that the Rotunda building appears to sit on a large platform,
which is as high as the fortification earthwork and appears to sit on top of
the western flank of the Linear Fortification, maybe suggesting an earlier
fortification in this position (a possibility also implied by the historic
maps).

Continuing northwards, beyond the Rotunda compound, the height of the
earthwork diminishes and the very slight remains of a 4m wide outer ditch can
be seen. The ditch appears to disappear at the southern end under the main
scarp of the line close to the northern end of the Rotunda compound. It may
be that the earthwork in this section was disturbed and rebuilt to a slightly
different line. The earthwork evidence suggests possible phasing as one of
the angle changes, where the northern section of the ditch appears to cut the
southern section, suggests it was constructed at a later, though possibly not
much later, date.

On the western side of the boundary wall the earthwork has been disturbed by
later World War II trench digging, but short stretches of the western flank
can be identified. A number of linear earthworks are visible on the ground,
which slope away to the east of the fortification. Apart from later drainage
features a possible track has been identified as two small parallel scarps.
Other earthworks may relate to later 19th- or 20th-century landscaping. The
earthwork stops abruptly at the entrance gates to Repository Woods, and there
is no evidence to suggest that it ever continued any further north.

HISTORY
The Royal Military Repository, of which this monument is part, was founded by
William Congreve the elder (1743-1814), Commandant of the Royal Military
Repository and Superintendent of Military Machines, as a 'school of methods
of mounting and dismounting ordnance'. The exercises that Congreve devised
(1774) involved manoeuvring: 'Field pieces over Ditches, Ravines, Inclosures
of Lines...To mount or dismount heavy Guns, when no Gyn is at hand; to get
the Guns on Batteries with a far less number of Men than are usually employed
... To raise any Carriages that may be overset on a march etc'. These
exercises, as Major JP Kaestlin (a prolific researcher c1960 into the
military activities undertaken by Congreve) commented, consisted of 'a school
of ingenuity in the application of mechanical principles' and instruction in
the effective use of 'ropes, pulleys, levers and gravity' to move the
ordnance over obstacles, an observation borne out by a series of c1860
photographs which document exercises here. The natural topography of the
Repository Grounds with its contours and woods, provided the ideal terrain
for the exercises.

Though the institution of the Royal Military Repository was created in 1778
it is not clear at exactly what date the Repository Grounds were acquired. It
is possible that this land first became available for artillery use after
part of the Bowater Estate was leased by the Board of Ordnance in 1773 though
the Repository Grounds is not included in what appears to be the associated
survey. A detailed account of the purchasing of the Repository ground can be
found in Newsome et al (2009).

The 1788 maps do not show evidence of any immediate alterations to the
landscape of the Repository Grounds and the main focus of activity appears to
have remained at the Warren (part of the Royal Arsenal), where the Royal
Military Repository was originally based. Map evidence appears to suggest
that major landscaping in the Repository Grounds took place between 1806 and
1808. The 1808 and 1815 maps show other significant developments before the
construction of the Linear Fortification, such as the construction of a
network of paths and tracks around the grounds and features that represent
batteries or other artillery training structures, such as earth and wood
casemates (fortified gun emplacement or armoured structures from which guns
are fired), and ponds are shown on later photographs. In the early 19th
century Woolwich provided the perfect demonstration of Britain's growing
military strength. Woolwich was already becoming part of a long tradition of
promoting military activities and facilities to members of visiting royal
families. In June 1814 the Prince Regent invited the Allied Sovereigns to the
Repository Grounds highlighting the importance of the landscape and its
military training use.

The dismantled materials of the Rotunda (originally a John Nash-designed
marquee erected in the garden of Carlton House, London, for a ball given in
honour of the Duke of Wellington by the Prince Regent in July 1814) had
arrived at the Repository by 7th December 1818. This is evidenced by the fact
that on this date Sir William Congreve the younger wrote to RH Crewe to ask
the Board of Ordnance to instruct the Commanding Engineer, Lieutenant-Colonel
John J Jones, 'to make the necessary arrangements for its erection on the
brow of the Hill at the east boundary of the Repository Grounds, that spot
being the most convenient as well as the most picturesque situation for it'.
In the same letter, he also requested, that the surrounding land be
remodelled into a series of revetments in order to create a training
fortification for the Artillery and Engineers to be instructed in field
manoeuvres, which led to the monument that we see today. He specified the
features that the Engineers should create: 'I beg at the same time to
request, that the Commanding Engineer...make the necessary arrangement for
the formation of a section of regular fortification, with Scarp and
Counterscarp, Wet Ditch, Glacis and approaches in the Bottom of the
Repository Ground, with such additions as may be found necessary to carry on
a complete course of instructions in all that relates to the practice
involved in the defence and attack of such a work, passing the Ditch,
escalading etc'. Congreve concluded that this training landscape 'seems the
only thing wanting to make this Establishment the most complete school of
practical military instruction, that does exist...or, I believe I may venture
to say, that can possibly be devised'. His arguments convinced the Board of
Ordnance, who approved the works two days later (9th December 1818).

Congreve was confident that these features could be made out of 'Piste or
rammed earth, instead of Brick', as he had already demonstrated in an
experiment carried out in the Repository. This construction method is visible
in a watercolour (Campion c1850) and on a later photograph (1868), where
earth sods are shown laid like bricks. However, all available images show the
internal (west) face of the earthwork and its embrasures revetted in brick
and, although technically possible, it is unlikely that brick was not part of
the original construction. As a consequence of using 'piste' rather than
brick, Congreve believed that the cost of such earthworks would not exceed
£500, for the principal expense would be the labour of the Engineer Corps.
Rammed earth absorbed shot better than brick but this probably had less
bearing on Congreve's decision than comparative cost.

Work was postponed on the fortification until at least early 1820, as
priority was given to re-erecting the Rotunda. By the time the Rotunda was
finished in May 1820, the earthworks may have been started by the Engineers.
Certainly, the earliest known illustration of the Rotunda in situ at Woolwich
(RW Lucas 1 June 1820, 'The Rotunda or New Model Room') depicts guns sited
along a wall immediately to the east of the Rotunda though this could be an
earlier boundary. An 1821 map drawn to accompany John J Jones' inventory of
the Ordnance buildings at Woolwich, shows only a spur of wall bounding the
Rotunda to the south and again this may be related to a pre-existing boundary
as it appears in a different position to the later fortification.

Correspondence between the Office of Ordnance and the Engineers around 1824
may describe the construction of various elements of the fortification. By
1830, when Jones carried out the next survey of Ordnance buildings, the full
line of fortifications enclosing the Repository Grounds to the east and south
is clearly marked and indicates the relative complexity of the south section,
with two large bastions, compared to the north section. The fortifications
may also have differed in scale between the two sections, as seen on an 1844
etching and the Rock & Co drawing (c1830), though later photographs and maps
show that the greater number of embrasures is the most notable difference
between the south and north sections. This difference may reflect the
aesthetic, rather than practical, role of the fortifications very close to
the Rotunda or perhaps the need to accommodate different types of ordnance,
or indeed both of the above. The fortification generally followed the
original boundary wall of the Repository Grounds and provided a practical, as
well as dramatic, setting for the Rotunda, further establishing its
permanence within the Woolwich landscape.

A large number of photographs taken from 1858 onwards show in great detail
the internal faces of the fortification and the variety of artillery mounted
along the line. A number show cannons mounted at the embrasures though it is
likely that not all the line was armed in this way as others photographs
depict gun positions with and without embrasures, with hard standing or with
platforms and rails for carriages and for various types of cannons and
mortars.

Late C19 plans show the earthwork's construction in detail, depicting a
flat-topped bank revetted internally by a wall, with a small berm and then a
ditch on the outer side. Beyond the ditch is a feature which may be a fence
boundary or track. In some sections the internal face was also revetted by a
low earthen step as well as the brick wall.

The original entrance into the Repository, through the line, was to the south
of the Rotunda, framed between the two more elaborate and regular bastions,
marked on Bayly's map (1867) as 'South bastion' and 'North bastion', only the
later of which now survives. By the time Campion painted his watercolour of
the Rotunda (c1850) what appears to be a wooden bridge has been built across
the ditch in the same position as the current entrance, immediately to the
south of the Rotunda.

The establishment of a new school of gunnery at Shoeburyness in 1859 appears
to have heralded the beginning of a decline in the status of the Repository.
However, it is clear that the Repository Grounds were still used for training
by the cadets from the Royal Military Academy, though perhaps in a less
formal way than had originally been envisaged by Congreve. The digging of
trenches just to the west of Congreve's Fortification in the early 20th
century indicates that the use of the grounds for military training
continued. A rifle range, assault course and various other facilities were
also constructed during the 20th century. Tented camps were also erected in
the woodland during the Second World War. At the time of writing (2010) the
area is still used for training, continuing a 200 year old tradition on the
site.

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

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

The majority of military 'practice fortification or trench systems' in
England designated for their historical or archaeological significance date
from either World War I or World War II. A number have been recorded which
pre-date these but are generally linked to specific conflicts (1540 and 1545
Pendennis Castle, Falmouth, Cornwall to defend against possible attack by
Spain and France; or 1792 Napoleonic practice redoubt, Crowthorne, Bracknell
Forest, Berkshire) rather than the detailed training programme that was
planned for Woolwich and Sandhurst. Training facilities have also been
provided elsewhere, such as the 19th-century ones at Chatham, Kent. In
general, however, they were often built to practise construction techniques,
rather than to provide a facility for repeated training as part of a broader
scheme as at the Royal Military Repository.

Congreve the elder (1743-1814) lived in a time when the British Empire was
expanding, and thus was involved in numerous conflicts and skirmishes not
only on native shores, but further afield (the training landscape he created
was highly influenced by his experiences in Canada during the Seven Years
War). During the 18th century, Britain was a main participant in over 35
different conflicts, ranging from the Wars of Jenkins' Ear and of the
Austrian Succession (1739-1748) between Great Britain, Spain and France,
through the American War of Independence (1775-1783), to the French
Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars (1792-1815). However, the concept of a
military training ground, which brought together all the training activities
necessary for soldiers, was previously unknown. The designed landscape and
training facilities of the Royal Military Repository represent a unique
collection of buildings and structures whose history is intimately linked
with international events of the late 18th and early 19th century and
represent one of the earliest purpose-built training landscapes in England,
if not in Western Europe.

The Linear Training Fortification is the best-preserved individual element of
the training ground. The surviving upstanding and below ground archaeological
remains, when combined with the excellent photographic, cartographic and
documentary evidence enables the building of a narrative about a site that
was at the heart of the growing professionalism of the British Army. Added to
this it exists within a complex which has stayed in use as a military
training area until the early 21st century.

It has clear national importance as a unique training facility of the early
19th century.

EXCLUSIONS
To aid future site management the scheduling boundaries follow in part extant
features, which may not be directly related to the Linear Training
Fortification. All buildings, modern walls, modern fencing, gates, statuary
(including artillery), modern street furniture (including lamp posts,
bollards and rubbish bins) and telegraph poles are excluded from the
scheduling, although the ground beneath them is included. Tarmac road
surfaces are excluded although the road sub-strate is included. For the
avoidance of confusion the eastern boundary wall of the Rotunda enclosure and
the eastern boundary wall of Repository Woods are included in the scheduling
as they contain some original, albeit repaired and patched historic fabric.
The railings, which surmount the wall, are not of historic importance and are
therefore not included in the scheduling.

SOURCES
Cole Emily, Skedd Susan, Clarke Jonathan & Newsome Sarah, 2009, The Woolwich
Rotunda, Former Royal Artillery Museum, Woolwich Common, London Borough of
Greenwich. English Heritage: London
Duncan 1872. History of the Royal Regiment of Artillery
Royal Artillery Historical Trust / Firepower Collection (RAHT) MD939/16 -
Major Kaestlin JP - unpublished typescript and notes for book on Congreve
Newsome, Sarah, Jonathan Millward and Wayne Cocroft, 2009, Repository Woods,
Woolwich, Greater London: An archaeological survey of the Royal Military
Repository Training Grounds Survey report, Research Department Report Series
14-2009, English Heritage

Source: Historic England

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