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HER Number:MDV55300
Name:Coastal Battery, Dartmouth Castle


A good example of a Victorian commerical harbour defence battery, now called the Old Battery. It was built in 1861 on the site of Lamberd's Bulwark, itself on the site of an earlier open work. It retains elements of an earlier, 18th century masonry battery which was known as Maiden Fort and also has a Second World War gun position at its western end, now the ticket office.


Grid Reference:SX 886 502
Map Sheet:SX85SE
Admin AreaDevon
Civil ParishDartmouth
DistrictSouth Hams
Ecclesiastical ParishST.PETROX

Protected Status

Other References/Statuses

  • MPP Archaeological Item Dataset: 140338
  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SX85SE/37/2
  • Old Listed Building Ref (II*): 387141
  • Old SAM County Ref: 24234(P)
  • Tide Project: 16/04/2020

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • BATTERY (Built, XIX - 1861 AD to 1861 AD)

Full description

Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division, SX85SE50 (Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card). SDV348333.

A gun battery called Lamberd's Bulwark, a part of the armament of Dartmouth Castle (SX85SE16), was constructed in the 16th century on the cliff top above the bathing beach.
In 1747, when it was as Maiden Fort, the battery was rebuilt in stone, for twelve guns in two tiers. There was already a line of communication between the battery and the castle, protected by a masonry wall.
In 1861 a strong battery which came to be known as Old Battery was built on the site of the Maiden Fort, mounting five 64 - pounder guns, three in casements, with magazines behind them and some accomodation for a garrison, and two more guns in open battery above. In 1940 a brick position for a 4.7 inch gun was built on one of the two upper embrasures and platforms.
The batterywas taken into Guardianship in 1955. It is now used as a restaurant and the interior is not open to the public. Some early masonry on the landward side of the building, and on the point, is all that remains of the Maiden Fort. The small battlemented structure of 1940 survives, and one of the original 64 - pounder guns has been mounted in the embrasure.

Saunders, A. D., 1993, Dartmouth Castle (Monograph). SDV174434.

A well-preserved commerical harbour defence battery incorporating fragments of an 18th century battery and with a Second World War gunhouse.
Documentary evidence indicates that there was an open battery in this location from circa 1481, although it is possible that the 14th century castle also had a gun position here. It was rebuilt in 1545-6 becoming known as Lamberd's Bulwark. It was re-armed in the late 16th century and again during the Civil War. The original Lamberd's Bulwark was an earthern bastion but it was rebuilt in stone with in the late 17th century. Its armament was also upgraded with nine guns facing the sea and three covering the harbour entrance.
The battery was strengthened in 1741 in response to a possible threat of French invasion, although it appears the number of guns was reduced as a result of the thickening of the walls. However, the further possibility of French invasion in 1747 led to the battery being significantly remodelled as a two tier structure with six guns on each level. It was also renamed as the Grand Battery, later becoming known at St Petrox Battery.
It was rebuilt in 1860, at a time of renewed tension with France, having become antiquated, poorly armed and vulnerable. The new battery (now called the Old Battery) was a small two tier work typical of commercial harbour defences of the time. Built largely of limestone with granite dressings. It included a guardroom and a ditch to prevent assault from the landward side. The battery was brought into use again during the First World War. It was disarmed in 1918 and became a tearoom.
The Second World War saw the battery in use again as the principle element of Dartmouth's harbour defences. It was renamed Dartmouth Point Battery. A brick-built blockhouse for a 4.7" QF gun was built at the western end of the terreplain, disguised with dwarf battlements. Now painted white this is now the ticket office, approached by a modern bridge.
See report for full details.

Department of National Heritage, 1994, Dartmouth (List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest). SDV157498.

Artillery battery built in 1861 on the site of Lamberds Bulwark, later known as Maiden Fort, and incorporating some 17th or 18th century masonry. Some earlier local rubble on the landward side but predominantly snecked limestone with granite ashlar dressings. Battery, square in plan, contains casemates for three 64-pounder guns pointing south-eastwards towards the sea, with magazines behind and some barrack accommodation and embrasures on top for another 2 guns (one has been restored on a replica traversing carriage). The other embrasure now occupied by an octagonal painted brick emplacement for a 120 millimetre gun which was erected in 1940 and given a castellated parapet to disguise it as an antiquity. A good example of a small Victorian artillery fort.

Department of National Heritage, 1996, Dartmouth Castle (Schedule Document). SDV174435.

Coastal battery on a rocky peninsula protruding into the entrance to the Dart estuary. Known as the 'Old Battery' is a 19th century artillery fort built on the site of earlier 16th and 18th century fortifications. In its present form the Old Battery is a small two tier work of 1861. The guns on the upper tier were in open embrasures on a level space behind a rampart, whilst the guns in the lower tier are in 3 bomb proof casemates built into the thickness of the ramparts. The upper tier included 2 embrasures and provision for latrines, side arms and magazines. The building now used as the ticket office was built on top of the western embrasure in around 1940 to provide shelter for a 4.7 inch gun. The eastern embrasure has not been significantly altered and now contains one of the cast iron guns issued to Dartmouth in the 1890's. It is a 64 pounder rifled muzzle-loader converted from a smooth bore piece in 1874 and mounted on a reproduction traversing siege carriage. The three casemates lie immediately below the upper tier and behind them are the magazines and a lighting passage. Artillery pieces have been placed in each of the casemates for presentation purposes, although only the 64 pounder in the western casemate was part of the battery's armament. The magazines in which the ammunition was stored were separated from the casemates for safety reasons, with the shells being issued through hatches. Lighting for the magazines was provided by a lighting passage which was added in 1868. The magazine lamps were serviced from and vented into this passage, away from the magazines. The lanterns shone through glazed hatches and thus lit the magazines but avoided the danger of direct flames or sparks. The final main area within the Old Battery is the guardhouse which was entered from the upper tier and includes 2 separate rooms. The smaller room was the officer's quarters and the other the guardroom. Ammunition for the upper battery was brought up through hatches in the floor of the guardhouse. Three holes in the floor situated immediately above the main entrance to the battery are murder holes for defending the main door against attackers approaching the battery from the rear down an incline. The detailed history of the Old Battery is known from a series of military documents. The first specific mention of a gun battery on the site is in 1545 when 'Lamberd's Bulwark' is referred to. The only description of this battery was made by a Spanish spy in 1599 who described it as a bastion of earth with 6 or 8 pieces of artillery. The bulwark may have been modified during the Civil War during which time the castle saw action for both sides, but certainly in 1690 in response to a threat from the Dutch the battery was rebuilt in stone and provided with a new guardhouse and magazine. There then followed a period of neglect before in 1747 it was again remodelled as a two tier stone battery for 12 guns. In 1861, a perceived threat from the French resulted in the building of the surviving coastal battery, whose plan was determined to some extent by incorporating part of the earlier stone fort. The result was squinted gun ports which are considered a unique feature. Other details: Monument Number 24234.

Dyer, M. J., 1998, Archaeological Monitoring and Recording at Dartmouth Castle, 1, 4 (Report - Watching Brief). SDV172292.

The castle complex includes the Old Battery, a 19th century coastal battery built on the site of earlier 16th and 18th century fortifications.

Gaimster, M. + Haith, C. + Bradley, J., 1999, Medieval Britain and Ireland in 1998, 238 (Article in Serial). SDV361737.

Summary of watching brief results (see SDV172292).

Ordnance Survey, 2020, MasterMap 2020 (Cartographic). SDV363413.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV157498List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest: Department of National Heritage. 1994. Dartmouth. Historic Houses Register. A4 Comb Bound.
SDV172292Report - Watching Brief: Dyer, M. J.. 1998. Archaeological Monitoring and Recording at Dartmouth Castle. Exeter Archaeology Report. 98.64. A4 Stapled + Digital. 1, 4.
SDV174434Monograph: Saunders, A. D.. 1993. Dartmouth Castle. Dartmouth Castle. Unknown.
SDV174435Schedule Document: Department of National Heritage. 1996. Dartmouth Castle. The Schedule of Monuments. Letter.
SDV348333Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card: Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division. SX85SE50. Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card. Card Index.
SDV361737Article in Serial: Gaimster, M. + Haith, C. + Bradley, J.. 1999. Medieval Britain and Ireland in 1998. Medieval Archaeology. 43. Unknown. 238.
SDV363413Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 2020. MasterMap 2020. Ordnance Survey Digital Mapping. Digital. [Mapped feature: #124629 ]

Associated Monuments

MDV55173Parent of: Dartmouth Point Battery, Dartmouth Castle (Monument)
MDV127684Part of: Dartmouth Castle (Monument)
MDV127771Related to: Concrete platform below the coastal battery, Dartmouth Point (Monument)
MDV36306Related to: Sounding Lead found offshore at Dartmouth Castle (Find Spot)

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events

  • EDV699 - Archaeological monitoring & recording at Dartmouth Castle

Date Last Edited:Nov 29 2023 2:58PM