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HER Number:MDV17323
Name:Fort Bovisand, Wembury


Fort Bovisand is one of two forts commissioned in 1860 to protect the approaches to Plymouth Sound, superseding earlier emplacements. Additional gun and searchlight emplacements were added in the Second World War. Later an underwater studies centre.


Grid Reference:SX 487 507
Map Sheet:SX45SE
Admin AreaDevon
Civil ParishWembury
DistrictSouth Hams
Ecclesiastical ParishPLYMSTOCK

Protected Status

Other References/Statuses

  • National Monuments Record: 437584
  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SX45SE/18
  • Old SAM County Ref: 719
  • Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division: SX45SE 69

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • ARTILLERY FORT (XIX to World War II - 1801 AD (Between) to 1945 AD (Between))

Full description

Plymouth Ocean Projects Ltd., Untitled Source (Monograph). SDV342675.

Fort Bovisand is one of over 20 forts in the Plymouth area known as Palmerston's Follies. The oldest part of the fort is the harbour which dates back to Napoleonic times and which was built in conjunction with Plymouth breakwater, so that ships at anchor could send longboats to collect water. An underground pipe still leads from the jetty directly to a large reservoir capable of holding some 12,000 barrels of water. The Upper Fort was finished in 1847, a three storey structure with four gun emplacements in front and a dry moat behind. This area was later to become the officer's quarters. The Lower Fort, built to protect the eastern entrance to Plymouth Sound, was finished in 1868. The Lower Fort comprises 23 casemates with a magazine beneath. The fort was occupied by H.M. forces until after the Second World War following which it suffered from the weather and vandals. It became a diving school in 1970.

Ordnance Survey, 1915, 129NE (Cartographic). SDV337482.

Fort complex not marked on 1915 6 inch Ordnance Survey map.

Royal Air Force, 1947, RAF/CPE/UK/2105, RAF/CPE/UK/2105 RP 3138-3139 28-MAY-1947 (Aerial Photograph). SDV351151.

The structures and trackways of the fort are visible.

Ministry of Works, 1969, Fort Bovisand (Schedule Document). SDV342672.

Basically two forts. The earlier, known as Staddon Point Battery, consists of a Keep, dated 1847, approached by a drawbridge from the north. This was strengthened by the Palmerston addition of a heavy casemated battery below to the south. This had space for 23 heavy guns, and still contains some original fittings - hooks, winches, tackleblocks, iron shields etc. World War II additions on roof: look out towers and gun positions. Fort derelict and being damaged by vandals.

Hogg, I. V., 1974, Untitled Source, 190-193 (Monograph). SDV342676.

Bovisand Fort, a granite casemented work built between 1860 and 1870 as part of the Plymouth Defences, remained in continuous occupation by coast artilllery units until 1956. The structure is entirely sound and complete, the casemates retain their armour, mantlet bars and other fittings and above each shield can be seen painted the nomenclature of the gun originally installed there. Staddon Point Battery was built originally about 1770, altered circa 1850 and then superseded by Fort Bovisand to which it was connected by a covered way, acting as a barrack for that work.

Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division, 1980 - 2001, SX45SE69 (Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card). SDV342673.

Bovey, 1982 - 2982, Untitled Source (Personal Comment). SDV342674.

The fort has been converted to an underwater studies centre. This has entailed little damage or change to the structure and it is now well-maintained. Ancillary structures, such as the pier, are also well kept.

Department of Environment, 1985, Untitled Source (Correspondence). SDV342677.

Scheduled monument consent granted for alterations.

Brayshay, M., 1987, Plymouth's Coastal Defences in the Year of the Spanish Armada, 181-4 (Article in Serial). SDV342714.

Stuart, E., 1991, Untitled Source, 19,78 (Monograph). SDV342715.

Griffith, F. M., 1992, DAP/UT, 3-5 (Aerial Photograph). SDV342717.

Pye, A., 1992, Plymouth Fortress Survey (Report - non-specific). SDV167755.

Other details: Copy and plans in HER.

Griffith, F. M., 1995, DAP/YX, 1,3,5,6 (Aerial Photograph). SDV338096.

Jewell, T., 1995, Untitled Source (Personal Comment). SDV342716.

Plymouth's seaward defence headquarters was at Fort Bovisand during the Second World War.

Pye, A. + Woodward, F., 1996, The Historic Defences of Plymouth, 210-211 (Monograph). SDV167752.

One of two powerful casemated coastal batteries proposed in the Royal Commission report of 1860 to cover the approaches to the sound around the breakwater. Bovisand covered the eastern approach whilst Picklecombe Fort in Cornwall covered the western. Both superseded batteries (Staddon Point and Picklecombe) built in the 1840s for the same purpose. Bovisand is also located at the southern end of contemporary fortifications guarding against land attack from the east (Staddon Heights position).
Initially it was intended to build a battery housing about 60 guns in three tiers. However, the final design (by Major Porter) accepted n November 1861 was for a granite casemated battery of two tiers mounting fifty 68-pounder guns and 110-pounder guns, protected by iron shields with a large detached magazine to the rear. In 1864, when the foundations and basement had been largely completed, the specification was changed to one tier of 23 guns of 12 and 18 tons, with the magazines now being housed underneath them in the basement. Bovisand was completed in 1869 and in 1872 was armed with 22 9 inch RML guns and one 10 inch RML gun. By 1880 this had changed to its final armament (nine 9 inch and fourteen 10 inch RML guns) and a Watkins Depression Range-finder was installed. The RML guns were removed between 1896 and 1905. Later gun emplacements on the roof and searchlights along the shore belong to Fort Bovisand Batteries B and C, Staddon Point Battery B and Watch House Battery. All the searchlights were probably powered by diesel engines sited in casement numbers 1 and 2. In World War II casemate numbers 11 and 16 were used as magazines for the twin 6-pounder QF guns on the roof. In the early 1950s the fort was converted and used as the Plymouth Fortress Seaward Defence HQ until 1956.
The main structure of the battery survives complete, although most of the casemates and magazines have been adapted for other uses. The battery consists of 23 casemates built on a curving frontage. A typical casemate has an iron shield behind which was a rope mantlet. The RML gun ws placed on a traversing carriage at the front of the casemate with barrack accommodation at the rear. There is a cartridge lift between each embrasure in the front wall and fireplaces alternate with shell-lifts in the dividing walls to the rear. Most of the lifts are blocked although some of the pulley loops and davits still remain. Some mantlet bars survive together with gun specification labels. Access to the rear of the casemate was via an arched verandah which contains two spiral staircases leading down to the magazines.
The magazines consist of alternating barrel-vaulted shell-stores and cartridge-stores with each being placed directly under a casemate and each serving two adjoining guns. A passage around the front contains cartridge lifts and a passage around the rear of the stores gives access to them and contains shell-lifts. Most internal fittings for the magazines have been removed.
The eastern flank of the battery is protected by a deep dry ditch which continues around the Staddon Heights position to the north. The section adjoining Bovisand is protected by a musketry gallery below Watchhouse Brake Battery and its seaward end is defended by two musketry galleries, access to which was gained from inside Bovisand and which include a sally port. A covered way provided a safe route between Bovisand and Staddon Point Battery A, which was used as accommodation. Other surface buildings added to the rear of the main battery during the later 19th century and early 1900s include various store buildings and a possible observation post for the Hotchkiss Battery. There is also an original iron water tank at the rear of casemate number 23. The two observation stations on the roof of the casemates survive largely complete. All the casemates and magazines are presently used by a diving centre. Most are in good condition.

Woodward, F. W., 1998, Untitled Source (Monograph). SDV337824.

Bluesky International Ltd/Getmapping PLC, 1999-2017, Pan Government Agreement Aerial Photographs, Next Perspectives APGB Imagery SX4850 15-MAY-2016 (Aerial Photograph). SDV363087.

The structures and trackways of the fort are visible.

English Heritage, 2009, Heritage at Risk Register 2009: South West, 110 (Report - non-specific). SDV342694.

Generally satisfactory condition, but with significant localised problems.

Department for Culture, Media and Sport, 2009, Scheduled Monument Consent Letter (Correspondence). SDV342719.

Scheduled Monument Consent granted, subject to conditions, in respect of proposed works concerning the installation of a temporary pad mounted substation to the rear of the casemates and the laying of associated underground cables.

English Heritage, 2010, Heritage at Risk Register 2010: South West, 103 (Report - non-specific). SDV344777.

English Heritage, 2011, Heritage at Risk Register 2011: South West, 108 (Report - non-specific). SDV355280.

Generally satisfactory condition, but with significant localised problems. Principal vulnerability development.

Historic England, 2014, NMR 29059, NMR 29059_026 13-JUN-2014 (Aerial Photograph). SDV363262.

The trackways and buildings are clearly visible.

Hegarty, C., Knight, S. and Sims, R., 2019-2020, The South Devon Coast to Dartmoor Aerial Investigation and Mapping Survey. Area 2, Avon Valley to Plymouth (AI&M, formerly NMP) (Interpretation). SDV362982.

The buildings and trackways of the 19th century Fort Bovisand are visible on aerial photographs taken from the 1940s onwards. Many have been recorded as part of individual elements in separate records (MDV48760, MDV48761, MDV48732, MDV126659, MDV126661, MDV126662, MDV126663, MDV71923, MDV39601, MDV126664 & MDV48759). Ancilliary features such as trackways and walling that link Fort Bovisand with Staddon Point Battery have been recorded here.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV167752Monograph: Pye, A. + Woodward, F.. 1996. The Historic Defences of Plymouth. The Historic Defences of Plymouth. A4 Paperback. 210-211.
SDV167755Report - non-specific: Pye, A.. 1992. Plymouth Fortress Survey. A4 Unbound.
SDV337482Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 1915. 129NE. Second Edition Ordnance Survey 6 inch Map. Map (Paper).
SDV337824Monograph: Woodward, F. W.. 1998. Forts or Follies? The Story of Plymouth's Palmerston Forts. Hardback Volume.
SDV338096Aerial Photograph: Griffith, F. M.. 1995. DAP/YX. Devon Aerial Photograph. Photograph (Paper). 1,3,5,6.
SDV342672Schedule Document: Ministry of Works. 1969. Fort Bovisand. The Schedule of Monuments. Foolscap.
SDV342673Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card: Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division. 1980 - 2001. SX45SE69. Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card. Card Index.
SDV342674Personal Comment: Bovey. 1982 - 2982. Not Applicable.
SDV342675Monograph: Plymouth Ocean Projects Ltd.. Fort Bovisand Underwater Centre. A4 Paperback.
SDV342676Monograph: Hogg, I. V.. 1974. Coastal Defences of England and Wales 1856-1956. Unknown. 190-193.
SDV342677Correspondence: Department of Environment. 1985. Scheduled Monument Consent Letter. Letter.
SDV342694Report - non-specific: English Heritage. 2009. Heritage at Risk Register 2009: South West. English Heritage Report. A4 Bound +Digital. 110.
SDV342714Article in Serial: Brayshay, M.. 1987. Plymouth's Coastal Defences in the Year of the Spanish Armada. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 119. A5 Paperback. 181-4.
SDV342715Monograph: Stuart, E.. 1991. Lost Landscapes of Plymouth. Unknown. 19,78.
SDV342716Personal Comment: Jewell, T.. 1995. Not Applicable.
SDV342717Aerial Photograph: Griffith, F. M.. 1992. DAP/UT. Devon Aerial Photograph. Photograph (Paper). 3-5.
SDV342719Correspondence: Department for Culture, Media and Sport. 2009. Scheduled Monument Consent Letter. Letter Regarding Proposed Works at Fort Bovisand. Letter.
SDV344777Report - non-specific: English Heritage. 2010. Heritage at Risk Register 2010: South West. English Heritage Report. Digital. 103.
SDV351151Aerial Photograph: Royal Air Force. 1947. RAF/CPE/UK/2105. Royal Air Force Aerial Photograph. Photograph (Paper). RAF/CPE/UK/2105 RP 3138-3139 28-MAY-1947. [Mapped feature: #82034 ]
SDV355280Report - non-specific: English Heritage. 2011. Heritage at Risk Register 2011: South West. english Heritage. Digital. 108.
SDV362982Interpretation: Hegarty, C., Knight, S. and Sims, R.. 2019-2020. The South Devon Coast to Dartmoor Aerial Investigation and Mapping Survey. Area 2, Avon Valley to Plymouth (AI&M, formerly NMP). Historic England Research Report. Digital.
SDV363087Aerial Photograph: Bluesky International Ltd/Getmapping PLC. 1999-2017. Pan Government Agreement Aerial Photographs. Aerial Photography for Great Britain Aerial Photographs. Digital. Next Perspectives APGB Imagery SX4850 15-MAY-2016.
SDV363262Aerial Photograph: Historic England. 2014. NMR 29059. Historic England Aerial Photograph. Digital. NMR 29059_026 13-JUN-2014.

Associated Monuments

MDV48760Parent of: Boundary wall and bridge north of Bovisand Battery, Wembury (Monument)
MDV126661Parent of: Store houses in Fort Bovisand, Wembury. (Monument)
MDV17321Related to: ARTILLERY FORT in the Parish of Plymouth (Monument)
MDV39385Related to: Blockhouse southwest of Staddon Point Battery, Wembury (Monument)
MDV17343Related to: Bovisand Reservoir, Wembury (Monument)
MDV48768Related to: Bovisands Harbour and Pier (Monument)
MDV51693Related to: Military ditch at Staddon Heights, Wembury (Monument)
MDV48737Related to: Searchlight Emplacement to the east of Fort Bovisand (Monument)
MDV48738Related to: Searchlight Emplacement to the east of Fort Bovisand, Wembury (Monument)
MDV48759Related to: Staddon Point Battery, Wembury (Monument)
MDV17324Related to: Watch House Battery and Ditch, Staddon Heights (Monument)

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events

  • EDV4534 - Survey of Fort Bovisand
  • EDV8098 - The South Devon Coast to Dartmoor Aerial Investigation and Mapping (formerly NMP) Survey, Area 2, Avon Valley to Plymouth (Ref: ACD2040)

Date Last Edited:Oct 1 2021 12:44PM