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HER Number:MDV123991
Name:Berry Head Fortifications, Brixham


Summary of the history and development of the fortifications on Berry Head. See associated records for more detailed information on individual sites.


Grid Reference:SX 942 565
Map Sheet:SX95NW
Admin AreaTorbay
Civil ParishBrixham
Ecclesiastical ParishBRIXHAM

Protected Status

Other References/Statuses

  • Tide Project: 30/10/2020
  • Torbay HER: MTO60088

Monument Types: none recorded

Full description

Ordnance Survey, 2023, Mastermap 2023 (Cartographic). SDV365227.

Bishop, H., post 1989, Berry Head Fortifications (Un-published). SDV363932.

This headland of Carboniferous limestone forms the southern arm/arc of Torbay and has long been thought to be a site of prehistoric, Roman and Danish fortification/settlements. Many 19th century writers have asserted this but have not been able to display documentary or physical evidence. Octavian Blewitt, writing in 1832 describes an 18 foot high rampart which crossed the neck of the headland as Roman; this was destroyed when the wall of Fort No. 3 was built by General Mercer 'forty years ago'. Admiralty charts and 18th century maps do indicate a cross-promontory rampart on the line taken by the wall of Fort No. 3 - the best probably being that of circa 1780 (PRO MPHH 126).
Sixteenth century documents and plans specify defensive fortifications and 'bulwarks'for Berry Head but there is no evidence for their ever having been constructed.
In 1779 following the entry of France and Spain into the American war of Independence 4 cannon and 1 howitzer battery were established along the south coast of Torbay and on Berry Head. The batteries were operational by 1780 and were located at Fishcombe Point (Furzeham) now within Battery Gardens, Castle Hill and at the Half-moon battery at the tip of the headland - the howitzer battery being located just to the north of the latter. After the Treaty of Paris in 1783 all Berry Head batteries were decommissioned, the guns and building materials being removed to Plymouth.
In 1793 at the outbreak of war with France all 1780 cannon batteries were re-activated, and in 1794 Berry Head (27 acres) was purchased by the Board of Ordnance in order that the promontory could be fortified against a French coup de main. Four forts were designed to defend the headland but in the end only two were built, forts numbers 1 and 3. Barracks of prefabricated timber work were erected behind the stone walls of the forts. A garrison hospital was built in 1809-10 from stone quarried from the cliff; quarrying also provided the Board of Ordnance with an income.
In 1817 the batteries and barracks were dismantled but the freehold was kept by the board of Ordance (superceded by the War Department in 1855). Quarrying continued and presumedly removed whatever portions of the prehistoric wall had survived the building of Fort No. 3. Fields and the western commons were leased off in 1835. In the eastern part a rifle range was established by 1865 whose target butts were located to the north east of Fort No. 1. In 1886 the freehold interests were sold, the lands being vested in trustees for the Berry Head Estate after 1932.
A lighthouse was erected within Fort No. 3 in 1906, in the same year that its magazine was converted into a coastguard station, though this was substantially altered in 1963.
During the Second World War the site was again militarised. AA guns were sited within Fort No. 3 with an ROC post established. A navigation beacon was erected on the common in 1965 and a cloud searchlight established adjacent to Fort No. 3 in 1967.
In 1969 Torbay Borough Council purchased the residue of the Berry Head Estate and established it as Country Park. In 2000 Berry Head became part of the lands of the Torbay Coast and Countryside Trust.
Information from SDV362566, SDV362497, SDV362493, SDV362684 and SDV362495.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV363932Un-published: Bishop, H.. post 1989. Berry Head Fortifications. Not Applicable.
SDV365227Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 2023. Mastermap 2023. Ordnance Survey Digital Mapping. Digital. [Mapped feature: #118127 ]

Associated Monuments

MDV20083Parent of: Berry Head Fort No. 1, Brixham (Monument)
MDV20080Parent of: Berry Head Fort No. 3, Brixham (Monument)
MDV19478Parent of: Castle Hill Battery, Brixham (Monument)
MDV20088Parent of: Hardy's Head Battery, Berry Head, Brixham (Monument)
MDV123588Related to: Berry Head Hotel, Brixham (Building)

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events

  • EDV7832 - Documentary research on the Berry Head Fort
  • EDV7834 - Archaeological Assessment of the Berry Head Forts
  • EDV7835 - Archaeological Survey of the Berry Head Forts

Date Last Edited:May 11 2023 1:43PM