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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 and buildings.


Grid Reference:SX 943 563
Map Sheet:SX95NW
Admin AreaTorbay
Civil ParishBrixham
Ecclesiastical ParishBRIXHAM

Protected Status

Other References/Statuses

  • Tide Project: 30/10/2020

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • ARTILLERY FORT (XVIII to XIX - 1701 AD (Between) to 1900 AD (Between))

Full description

Pye, A.R., 1989, Berry Head Fort, Brixham. An Archaeological Assessment, 1, 6, 12 (Report - Assessment). SDV362497.

Due to its location on the south-western approaches to Torbay and the use of the latter as an important naval anchorage in the wars against France in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, Berry Head was selected as a site for batteries to defend the anchorage, a role it also fulfilled in the Second World War.
As a promontory with high, steep cliffs, Berry Head is also a naturally defensive location. It was probably utilised for defence in the Iron Age and was fortified during the Napoleonic Wars in order to protect the batteries against land attack. Its prominence and location has also made it a suitable site (past and present) for navigation and communication facilities and look-outs.
From 1823 most of the Ordnance land including the fort interiors was let for pasture. All the land, including the hospital, was sold to Mr. Hogg in 1886. It remained in private hands until, with the exception of 20 acres to the west of the bungalow, it was bought by Torbay Borough Council in 1969 and coverted to a Country Park.
Apart from the fortifications and some agricultural activity (including partial and temporary enclosure of some of the common in the mid 19th century), the other major man-made features of the headland are a series of quarries on the northern side of Berry Head and towards Brixham. The limestone of the headland has been quarried for building stone and lime from at least the mid 18th century. Quarrying ceased in 1969 when the headland was bought by Torbay Borough Council. See report for further information.

Riley, H., 2023, Berry Head Fort, Hardy’s Head Battery & The Old Redoubt, Torbay, Devon. PAI Implementation Plan for Higher Tier Countryside Stewardship Scheme (Report - Survey). SDV365956.

A desk based assessment, LiDAR analysis and field assessment were undertaken of the Napoleonic defences and other archaeological features on Berry Head in order to specify recommendations for archaeological work, interpretative material and management works to be carried out under Higher Tier Countryside Stewardship. Berry Head is currently owned and managed by the Torbay Coast and Countryside Trust and is part of an SSSI. The site also includes two scheduled monuments and eight listed buildings.
The archaeological remains at Berry Head include well-preserved Napoleonic forts and gun batteries, a 19th century rifle range, early 20th century coastguard lookout and lighthouse, a ROC post and underground Cold War facility.
Documentary and cartographic evidence indicates that Berry Head was a promontory fort during the Iron Age with a rampart across the neck of Berry Head on the line of the rampart of Berry Head Fort. Prehistoric material, a Bronze Age axe and Roman coins have been recorded in the vicinity. The Tithe Map and the first and second edition Ordnance Survey maps show medieval strip fields extending to the edge of Berry Head Common. Berry Head is formed of limestone which was quarried from the mid 18th century until 1969, during which time much of the northern side of the fort was destroyed.
Declarations of war by France in 1778 and Spain in 1779 led to the construction of Half Moon Battery and Hardy’s Head Battery. The batteries were recommissioned in 1794 and Berry Head Fort and the Old Redoubt were built to protect them from landward attack. The batteries and forts were decommissioned in 1817. Much of the land was let to pasture and was sold in 1886.
A rifle range was built to the north of the Old Redoubt in the late 19th century and a coastguard lookout and a lighthouse were built within the Berry Head Fort in 1906. A ROC post was established here in the 1940s which became a Cold War monitoring post. The forts and common were bought by Torbay Borough Council in 1969.
The defences of both forts and the features within them show clearly on LiDAR visualisations, particularly the barrack blocks, south musketry wall and walled garden and the Half Moon Battery within Berry Head Fort and the causeway, defences and building foundations within the Old Redoubt.
The report notes that Berry Head is a popular tourist location and is also well-suited for educational use. The Napoleonic forts and associated features are generally considered to be in good condition. The main threat to the archaeological features is scrub encroachment and ivy growth on stone walls. Vegetation management is detailed. It is also suggested that Hardy’s Head Battery would benefit from the removal of the bench supports and concrete plinths. It is also recommended that a Level 3 archaeological survey be carried out of Berry head Fort, the Old Redoubt and Hardy’s Head Battery into order to aid management of the sites and to provide a contextual assessment of the remains. Other recommendations include the erection of an interpretation panel near the carpark, an online educational resource.

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

Ordnance Survey, 2024, Mastermap 2024 (Cartographic). SDV365834.

Fortifications of Forts 1 and 3 are depicted.

Torbay Coast and Countryside Trust, c2000, Berry Head National Nature Reserve (Pamphlet). SDV365783.

A guide to the wildlife and history of Berry Head with a plan showing the key areas and facilities. Berry Head was declared a National Nature Reserve in 2000. The fortifications, which were built between 1795 and 1806, are some of the best preserved Napoleonic fortifications in the country. The North Fort and Hardy's Head Battery were built to command the Torbay anchorage while the Old Redoubt to the south protected these batteries from landward attack.

Torbay Borough Council, Post 1969, Berry Head Country Park (Leaflet). SDV365789.

Leaflet with a plan of the Country Park showing the location of the Napoleonic fortifications. A number of wooden huts were constructed on Berry Head following the declaration of war between France and England in 1793. These were located within the old Iron Age rampart, which was still standing 18 feet high at that time.
From 1795 works were undertaken to improve access and defences (Half Moon and Castle Batteries). The huts were condemned in 1798 but continued in use until the forts were built. Work started on these in 1803. Initially three forts were planned but in the event only two, Forts 1 and 3, were built. Hardy's Head battery was improved instead of building the planned No. 2 fort. The forts were completed in 1805 at which time the old timber huts were demolished. The Iron Age rampart was used to build the embankment behind the wall of the No. 3 fort.
Various infantry regiments were stationed at the forts throughout their use. The batteries were manned by the artillery regiment. The forts were abandoned c1820-25 and the land was sold off.

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

SDV362497Report - Assessment: Pye, A.R.. 1989. Berry Head Fort, Brixham. An Archaeological Assessment. Exeter Museums Archaeological Field Unit. EMAFU 89.04. Hardcopy + Digital. 1, 6, 12.
Linked documents:1
SDV363932Un-published: Bishop, H.. post 1989. Berry Head Fortifications. Digital.
SDV365227Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 2023. Mastermap 2023. Ordnance Survey Digital Mapping. Digital.
SDV365783Pamphlet: Torbay Coast and Countryside Trust. c2000. Berry Head National Nature Reserve. Pamphlet + Digital.
SDV365789Leaflet: Torbay Borough Council. Post 1969. Berry Head Country Park. Leaflet + Digital.
SDV365834Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 2024. Mastermap 2024. Ordnance Survey Digital Mapping. Digital. [Mapped feature: #142504 Polygon derived from Mastermap and existing monument polygons, ]
SDV365956Report - Survey: Riley, H.. 2023. Berry Head Fort, Hardy’s Head Battery & The Old Redoubt, Torbay, Devon. PAI Implementation Plan for Higher Tier Countryside Stewardship Scheme. Hazel Riley. Digital.

Associated Monuments

MDV20083Parent of: Berry Head Fort No. 1 or Old Redoubt, Berry Head, Brixham (Monument)
MDV20080Parent of: Berry Head Fort No. 3, Brixham (Monument)
MDV20088Parent of: Hardy's Head Battery, Berry Head, Brixham (Monument)
MDV39550Related to: Battery Gardens, Brixham (Monument)
MDV123588Related to: Berry Head Hotel, Brixham (Building)

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events

  • EDV7834 - Archaeological Assessment of the Berry Head Forts
  • EDV7835 - Archaeological Survey of the Berry Head Forts
  • EDV9033 - Assessment of Berry Head Fort, Hardy’s Head Battery and The Old Redoubt, Torbay, Devon

Date Last Edited:May 30 2024 12:55PM