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HER Number:MDV42882
Name:Western tunnel system at Berry Head Fort No. 3, Brixham


One of two tunnel systems dated to the Napoleonic era and which probably functioned as drains/sewers.


Grid Reference:SX 943 564
Map Sheet:SX95NW
Admin AreaTorbay
Civil ParishBrixham
Civil ParishTorbay
Ecclesiastical ParishBRIXHAM

Protected Status

Other References/Statuses

  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SX95NW/4/15
  • Tide Project: 21/08/2020
  • Torbay HER: MTO42882

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • DRAIN (Constructed, XVIII - 1795 AD to 1798 AD (Between))

Full description

Pye, A.R., 1989, Berry Head Fort, Brixham. An Archaeological Assessment, 7, 33 (Report - Assessment). SDV362497.

The overall plan of this system and that of tunnel 2 suggest a relation with the fort structures, as drains/sewers of Napoleonic date. They may indeed be the 'guttering' (surface drains) mentioned by Colonel Bastard, the comanding officer of the garrison (1st Devonshire Militia), in 1798 as unhealthy and offensive.

Pye, A.R. & Slater, W.D., 1990, Berry Head Fort, Brixham, An Archaeological Survey, 23-4, Fig 12 (Report - Survey). SDV362493.

One of two separate tunnel systems dated 1795-98. In good condition. The tunnel runs due south, sloping downwards, from the area of the guardhouse to emerge on the outside of the southern garde foux. It was discovered during excavations by Horsley in the mid 1970s. At the northern end it has three branches, none of which have been fully emptied of rubble. One appears to go under the guardhouse and another towards the building to the south-west. The source of the other is unclear. For most of its length the tunnel consists of roughly dressed rubble limestone walls, which lean inwards towards the limestone slab roof. To the south it slopes steeply and appears to use a pre-existing cave. At the junction of these sections is a portion of mortared wall. The system probably represents drains/sewers of Napoleonic date.

Turner, D., 1997, Unknown (Correspondence). SDV318591.

Following discovery in museum records of a report of a suspected Roman room in the vicinity of the guardhouse, an excavation was carried out in mid 1970's. This revealed a system of tunnels, with drystone walls, roofed with capstones, radiating off a circular shaft. The lowest point reached in the shaft was about 30 feet, which was the level of the tunnel under investigation. At this level it was obvious that there were further tunnels at even greater depths.
At the same time, the bottom of a swimmingpool at a holiday camp in St Marys collapsed into what was described as a 'tunnel with stone walls and roof'. This could not be confirmed as the pool bottom was quickly filled with concrete.
If these tunnels are connected, the system is potentially very complex. The investigated tunnel varied in height from over 6 feet to a tight crawl. There were no finds apart from some Napoleonic debris where the fort constructors had broken through the capstones, and a couple of sherds of very early pot. At one point, where the tunnel was very tight, was what appeared to be a doorway cut out of solid (?) granite (?), surmounted by an arch of Roman (?) bricks.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV318591Correspondence: Turner, D.. 1997. Unknown. Email. Email.
SDV362493Report - Survey: Pye, A.R. & Slater, W.D.. 1990. Berry Head Fort, Brixham, An Archaeological Survey. Exeter Museums Archaeological Field Unit Report. EMAFU 90.10. Hardcopy + Digital. 23-4, Fig 12. [Mapped feature: #126811 Imported from Torbay HER, ]
Linked documents:1
SDV362497Report - Assessment: Pye, A.R.. 1989. Berry Head Fort, Brixham. An Archaeological Assessment. Exeter Museums Archaeological Field Unit Report. EMAFU 89.04. Hardcopy + Digital. 7, 33.
Linked documents:1

Associated Monuments

MDV20080Part of: Berry Head Fort No. 3, Brixham (Monument)
MDV42883Related to: Eastern tunnel system at Berry Head Fort No. 3, Brixham (Monument)

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events

  • EDV7836 - Excavations by J. Horsley & J. Durston

Date Last Edited:Oct 28 2020 9:53AM