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HER Number:MDV17324
Name:Watch House Battery and Ditch, Staddon Heights


The present battery was completed in 1904 replacing an earlier earthen redoubt (Watchhouse Brake battery) built as part of the Staddon Heights position in the 1860s. Later used for artillery training


Grid Reference:SX 490 508
Map Sheet:SX45SE
Admin AreaDevon
Civil ParishWembury
DistrictSouth Hams
Ecclesiastical ParishPLYMSTOCK

Protected Status

Other References/Statuses

  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SX45SE/19
  • Old SAM County Ref: 720

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • ARTILLERY FORT (Built, XIX to XX - 1860 AD to 1904 AD (Between))

Full description

English Heritage, 10/02/2014, Staddon Heights Defences, including Fort Staddon, Brownhill Battery, Watch House Battery, Staddon Heights Battery, Staddon Battery and associated features and structures. (List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest). SDV356311.

The Watch House Battery and Ditch was first Scheduled on 26th November 1969. The designation is being reviewed as part of the Staddon Heights Defined Area Survey, in order to provide a more thorough description of its significance and special interest, and to consider the inclusion of Fort Staddon, Brownhill Battery and other military structures in the designated boundary.

A battery of c.1901, replacing an earlier battery of 1869. Remaining extant structures include emplacements for two 6-inch breech-loading guns, magazines, shelters, a guard-house, artillery store and lamp-room. Outside the perimeter of battery are a direction range-finder to the north, a battery observation post/range-finder position below the guns, and a position finder cell/ night direction post/ Officer Commanding Electric Lights (OCEL) post below that, on the west edge of the ditch below Watch House. Directly behind the rear entrance to the position finder cell is a tunnel giving access to the upper musketry gallery of the 1860s, which looks down Watch House Brake. Steps from the north lead down to the former covered way (now the South West Coastal Path) linking to the former position finder cells for Staddon Heights Battery, which have a Second World War battle observation post inserted between them.

A deep ditch with masonry and earthworks of the 1860s, protecting the Staddon Heights defences from
infantry attack from the south-east. It extends uphill from Fort Bovisand to Watch House Battery with
caponiers at each end. Then turns east to Twelve Acre Brake Battery and beyond to the south of Brownhill Battery. It then turns north and runs as a scarp up to Fort Staddon.

The ditch is rock-cut and c.10-15m deep and 20-30m wide, except between Watch House Brake and Twelve Acre Brake where it has been built as a ditch across a small combe. The latter section has a freestanding stone north wall, which is battered and buttressed. Its southern wall is formed by a dump of soil forming a bank. The wall is partially collapsed, principally to its west end. Elsewhere, the ditch walls are revetted with masonry in places. The caponiers of Watch House Brake are constructed of rubble stone. The upper gallery is set in the scarp below Watch House Battery and is accessed from the west, behind a late-C19 position finding station. As a whole, the ditch and scarp is largely overgrown with scrub.

The entrance to the battery is from the north, at the end of the embanked military road, enclosed by a modern steel palisade fence. The forecourt of the battery is covered in grass with a sunken single-storey concrete shelter to the right with three openings under a flat roof. To the south-west of the shelter is the main battery structure with two raised gun emplacements either side of another shelter that stands on the roof of the magazines. The emplacements are of standard concrete type with ammunition lockers and shell and cartridge lifts arranged around the exterior of the gun pit, some retaining doors. There are original railings above the gun pits, and the emplacements are accessed by concrete steps. To the south of the south emplacement, at lower level, is a further single-storey shelter. The shelter above the magazines has eight window openings facing east and doors at each end. A walkway runs in front of the shelter with guard rails; davits at each end provided an alternative means to lift shells and cartridges from the magazines. Steps at each end lead down to magazine level. Under the north steps is a red brick lamp room with bench seating and wall-mounted racks. The attached magazines have seven window openings and two door openings, all boarded. Two central iron chimney flues rise above the roof level in front of the shelter above. The interior of the magazines are arranged as two pairs of shell and cartridge stores to each side of a central passage. The shell stores are to the front and the cartridge stores to the rear. The cartridge stores are enclosed by a brick wall and lit with lamp windows. Serving hatches open from each end into areas with lifts to transport the shells and cartridges up to the emplacements. Almost all of the internal fittings have been removed.

Attached to the south of the magazines is a brick artillery store. Opposite the magazines is single-storey red brick building, probably the guard house. It is an irregular rectangle on plan with four bays facing east, the two right bays standing under a lean-to canopy with cast-iron columns. There are two square stacks on the roof. To the east of the guard house is a look-out point with a low stone wall, overlooking the freestanding wall in the fortified ditch below. Below the guns, the battery observation post is rectangular on plan and built of brick and concrete. Wide, narrow openings face seawards, and there is a concrete pillar at the east end of the interior. The position finding cell/ OCEL post below is largely intact although the concrete roof is supported by numerous acro props. There is at least one concrete instrument pillar remaining intact. The position finders and Second World War observation post to the north of Watch House are intact and modern communications equipment is attached to their roofs. Outside the entrance to the battery is a hardstanding with the base and fittings of a flagpole to the centre. To the north-west is a former depressed range finder station of 1904, which has lost its instrument pillar, probably removed in the Second World War to allow a Lewis or Bren machine gun to be mounted as a light anti-aircraft machine gun (LAAMG) on a tripod.

The concrete steps from the South West Coastal Path to Watch House Battery, the modern palisade fencing by the road, and modern equipment attached to the former Second World War Observation Post, are excluded from the scheduling but the ground beneath these features is included.

Unknown, 1870-1894, Unknown (Plan - measured). SDV343516.

Plan at scale of 1:2500 in Plymouth property library.

Ordnance Survey, 1896, WO78/5041 part 1 (Record Office Collection). SDV343513.

Ordnance Survey 1:2500 plan with circa 1910 amendments.

Ordnance Survey, 1899, WO78/2314 (Record Office Collection). SDV343515.

Ordnance Survey map with amendments of1906.

Unknown, 1920 - 1929, Staddon Cottage Lease (Un-published). SDV343514.

Ministry of Public Building and Works, 1969, Watch House Battery and Ditch (Schedule Document). SDV343509.

On a prominent position to the north of Fort Bovisand, and part of the chain of mid-Victorian defences surrounding Plymouth Sound. It formed a small redoubt flanking the connecting scarp and ditch between Bovisand and Fort Staddon. As the fort is used for army assault training, breakable fittings have been mostly broken. One or two derricks still survive. Stretching south from the fort is the deep rock cut ditch linking up with Bovisand. This ditch runs east to Staddon from Watch House. Other details: Map.

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

Watch House or Watch Tower battery was built about 1895, on the top of Staddon Point, as a concrete open work mounting a battery of six inch guns. The guns were in use during World War I, but were withdrawn in the 1930's and the work is now quite derelict.

Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division, 1980 - 1982, SX45SE73 (Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card). SDV343512.

Guy, J., 1990, List of Coastal Batteries (Un-published). SDV15882.

Site of coastal battery at Watch House, Bovisand. Armed with 2 x 6" guns.(Guy).

Woodward, F. W., 1990, Untitled Source, 20,36,37,45,48,49 (Monograph). SDV342725.

Other details: Plans F and H.

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

Site visit 27th February 1992. The present battery was completed in 1904 replacing an earlier earthen redoubt (Watchhouse Brake battery) built as part of the Staddon Heights position in the 1860s. Although not originally proposed by the 1860 commission Watch House Brake battery was completed in 1869 and contained an expense magazine and positions for five guns. Its purpose was to cover the sections of the dry ditch running eastwards towards twelve acre Brake (later Frobisher) battery and Brownhill battery and southwards down to Fort Bovisand. In 1885 it was proposed to mount three 64-pounder Rifled Muzzle-Loading guns there and two of these had been emplaced by circa 1895. Plans of 1872 and 1896 show three apparent gun positions, two facing eastwards and one facing south-east towards the beach. The ditch down to Bovisand was also covered by a musketry caponier below the battery. From circa 1894 three position finder cells were located in the battery together with two others to the north (which belong to the Staddon Heights battery), a group of six to the south of the ditch labelled `Bovisand PF cells', and another probable cell to the west of the ditch. These latter seven were presumably established to direct the fire of the sea-facing batteries at Frobisher (emplaced 1892), Staddon Heights battery (completed 1893), Fort Bovisand (1872 to circa 1900) and Breakwater Fort (armed circa 1880). In 1904 the present watchhouse battery was completed and all the early internal features were either covered over or removed. It was armed with two 6 inch Breech-Loading guns and its purpose was to cover the seaward approaches to the sound. A contemporary plan showed the position of these and the arrangement of their magazines and of ancillary buildings such as shelters, guard-house, artillery store, lamp-room and the Direction Range-Finder positioned to the north. A pair of searchlights were also built on the coast to the north of Fort Bovisand in circa 1906, and were augmented by circa 1910 by two others to the east of the fort on the coast (see under Bovisand battery for description). The position finder cell on the west edge of the ditch below watchhouse was used to as a night direction post for these searchlights. Local defence measures in World War I included the installation of fences around this direction post and the battery and the construction of a small block-house in the bottom of the ditch below it to the south-east. Another observation post and direction/range-finder position were built below the guns. In 1940 it was proposed to build another 6 inch gun position to the north, but this was not carried out and the battery continued in operation with the same armament until it was stood down in 1946. The Depression Range Finder position was probably converted into a machine-gun or light AA gun emplacement, to protect the battery against strafing and a new observation post or DRF position was built immediately to the south of it, together with a brick sentry post at the north-eastern entrance of the battery. Another observation post was added between the two earlier Staddon Heights battery position-finder cells, either to observe the minefield or a boom across to the breakwater. Little remains of the 1860s battery except for the dry moat and musketry caponier. The 1904 battery and its associated buildings remain complete. Most of the internal fittings such as shelf supports, light fittings, cartridge lifts, and the lower parts of the shell lifts however have been removed although they still retain their labels. The gun emplacements are complete and many of the old iron doors to the store cupboards still survive, together with the original guard-rails and also davits which provided an alternative method for lifting up shells and cartridges from the magazines. Most of the various position-finder cells, observation posts and Direction/Range-Finder positions still remain largely complete, although most lack their internal fittings. The World War II ?observation post immediately to the north of the battery has been demolished. The battery buildings are presently used as accommodation by a Bristol school and are relatively well maintained. The 1860s musketry gallery is in very good condition, but some of the walled sections of the dry moat to the east of the battery are collapsing.

Griffith, F. M., 1995, DAP/YX, 2, 4-6 (Aerial Photograph). SDV338096.

Dobinson, C. S., 1996, Coastal artillery, 1900-56 VI.1 & VI.2, 278 (Report - non-specific). SDV323777.

Site of coastal battery at Watch House, Plymouth. Site equipped with 2 x 6in Breech-loading guns (at positions SX48885093 and SX4889590) and a Depression rangefinder (position SX48865088). Other details: AAI.

Pye, A. + Woodward, F., 1996, The Historic Defences of Plymouth, 206-7 (Monograph). SDV167752.

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

Department for Culture, Media and Sport, 2000, Proposed Works at Watch House Battery and Ditch, South Hams, Devon (Correspondence). SDV343511.

Scheduled monument consent granted, subject to conditions, in respect of works concerning the replacement of an existing footbridge by one of an all timber construction.

English Heritage, 2009, Heritage at Risk Register 2009: South West, 111 (Report - non-specific). SDV342694.

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

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. Improving. Principal vulnerability subsidence.

Cornwall Archaeological Unit, 2017, South Cornwall Rapid Coastal Zone Assessment Survey Desk-Based Assessment, 1071 (Interpretation). SDV360825.

Watch House Brake Battery dates to the late 19th century and was built to defend the outer lines of the Staddon Heights military complex.

Ordnance Survey, 2018, MasterMap 2018 (Cartographic). SDV360652.

Eathworks of battery shown.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV15882Un-published: Guy, J.. 1990. List of Coastal Batteries. Typescript.
SDV167752Monograph: Pye, A. + Woodward, F.. 1996. The Historic Defences of Plymouth. The Historic Defences of Plymouth. A4 Paperback. 206-7.
SDV167755Report - non-specific: Pye, A.. 1992. Plymouth Fortress Survey. A4 Unbound.
SDV323777Report - non-specific: Dobinson, C. S.. 1996. Coastal artillery, 1900-56 VI.1 & VI.2. Twentieth Century Fortifications in England. VI.1 & VI.2. A4 Stapled + Digital. 278.
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). 2, 4-6.
SDV342676Monograph: Hogg, I. V.. 1974. Coastal Defences of England and Wales 1856-1956. Unknown. 190.
SDV342694Report - non-specific: English Heritage. 2009. Heritage at Risk Register 2009: South West. English Heritage Report. A4 Bound +Digital. 111.
SDV342725Monograph: Woodward, F. W.. 1990. Plymouth's Defences. Unknown. 20,36,37,45,48,49.
SDV343509Schedule Document: Ministry of Public Building and Works. 1969. Watch House Battery and Ditch. The Schedule of Monuments. Foolscap.
SDV343511Correspondence: Department for Culture, Media and Sport. 2000. Proposed Works at Watch House Battery and Ditch, South Hams, Devon. Scheduled Monument Consent Letter. Letter.
SDV343512Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card: Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division. 1980 - 1982. SX45SE73. Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card. Card Index.
SDV343513Record Office Collection: Ordnance Survey. 1896. WO78/5041 part 1. Public Record Office Collection. Plan.
SDV343514Un-published: Unknown. 1920 - 1929. Staddon Cottage Lease. Unknown.
SDV343515Record Office Collection: Ordnance Survey. 1899. WO78/2314. Public Record Office Collection. Map (Paper).
SDV343516Plan - measured: Unknown. 1870-1894. Unknown. Unknown. Plan.
SDV344777Report - non-specific: English Heritage. 2010. Heritage at Risk Register 2010: South West. English Heritage Report. Digital. 103.
SDV355280Report - non-specific: English Heritage. 2011. Heritage at Risk Register 2011: South West. english Heritage. Digital. 108.
SDV356311List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest: English Heritage. 10/02/2014. Staddon Heights Defences, including Fort Staddon, Brownhill Battery, Watch House Battery, Staddon Heights Battery, Staddon Battery and associated features and structures.. Amendment to Schedule. Digital.
SDV360652Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 2018. MasterMap 2018. Ordnance Survey Digital Mapping. Digital. [Mapped feature: #82035 ]
SDV360825Interpretation: Cornwall Archaeological Unit. 2017. South Cornwall Rapid Coastal Zone Assessment Survey Desk-Based Assessment. RCZAS. Digital. 1071.

Associated Monuments

MDV17323Related to: Fort Bovisand, Wembury (Monument)
MDV48737Related to: Searchlight Emplacement to East of Fort Bovisand (Monument)
MDV48738Related to: Searchlight Emplacement to East of Fort Bovisand, Wembury (Monument)

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events: none recorded

Date Last Edited:Apr 12 2018 1:04PM