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HER Number:MDV8519
Name:Artillery fort at Dartmouth Castle

Summary

Late 15th century artillery fort comprising a round tower and an adjoining square tower.

Location

Grid Reference:SX 886 503
Map Sheet:SX85SE
Admin AreaDevon
Civil ParishDartmouth
DistrictSouth Hams
Ecclesiastical ParishST.PETROX

Protected Status

Other References/Statuses

  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SX85SE/7
  • Old Listed Building Ref (I)
  • Old SAM County Ref: 191
  • Old SAM Ref Revised: 24234
  • Old SAM Ref: 30380
  • Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division: SX85SE15
  • Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division: SX85SE16
  • Tide Project: 16/04/2020

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • ARTILLERY FORT (Built, XV to Late 20th Century - 1481 AD to 2000 AD (Between))

Full description

Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division, SX85SE15 (Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card). SDV172285.

Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division, SX85SE16 (Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card). SDV173179.

Other details: Plan.

Griffith, F. M., 10/07/1990, DAP/SS, 7,8 (Aerial Photograph). SDV177423.

Lysons, D. + Lysons, S., 1822, Magna Britannica, 157 (Monograph). SDV323771.

Adams, M., 1900, The Castle, Manor-house and Church of Clifton, near Dartmouth, 505-9 (Article in Serial). SDV172286.

Wall, J. C., 1906, Ancient Earthworks, 576 (Article in Monograph). SDV341465.

Windeatt, E., 1914, The Borough of Clifton-Dartmouth-Hardness, 421-2 (Article in Serial). SDV173192.

Rebuilt 1509-1547. Castle on site since Saxon period. Staples and ring for chain stretching across the river mouth by night are still attached to the rocks below the castle. They were hove taut by a winch in the basement of the fort.

O'Neil, B. H. St J., 1935, Dartmouth Castle and other defences in Dartmouth Haven, 129-58 (Article in Serial). SDV177411.

O'Neil, B. H. St J., 1945, Unknown, 154 (Article in Serial). SDV173184.

In 1481, the Royal grant of thirty pounds sterling was doubled, a chain was drawn across the River Dart and a tower, the main part of the present castle was built. Under the tudors, the castle was adapted for artillery with the addition of earth bastions. During the Civil War some defences were constructed to offer protection from land attack. The castle remained in military use until 1910.

Russell, P., 1947 - 1949, Dartmouth: Pre-reformation the Castle and St Petrox, 199-200 (Article in Serial). SDV172956.

The Mayor's Account of 1488-1494 record the building of portions of the castle. Details are given of artillery provision and of a fixed defence consisting of harbour chain supported by six boats.

Toy, S., 1953, Castles of Great Britain, 268 (Monograph). SDV173178.

Dartmouth Castle: late 15th century and later Artillery Fort on site of earlier medieval castle. Consists mainly of a tower built in 1481 on the site, and incorporating some material of an earlier structure and a bailey. In time of war an iron chain was stretched across the estuary to Godmerock Castle. The wooden rollers used for easing the chain over the edge of the cliff have been found buried in the floor of the Round fort. Henry VIII refortified the castle and adapted it to artillery defences, the remains of which, on the land side, are still visible, running from cove to cove with turrets or bastions at each angle.

Jope, E. M. + Dunning, G. C, 1954, The Use of Blue Slate for Roofing in Medieval England, 215 (Article in Serial). SDV173185.

Ancient Monuments, 1955, Dartmouth Castle (Schedule Document). SDV340553.

Other details: Map of scheduled area attached..

Saunders, A. D., 1965, Dartmouth Castle, 9-10,24 (Pamphlet). SDV173182.

Higham, R. A., 1979, The Castles of Medieval Devon, 172-4 (Post-Graduate Thesis). SDV336189.

Stone tower built for artillery defence from 1481 onwards. The earliest element in a system of coastal defences later undertaken by Henry VIII.

Kenyon, J. R., 1981, Early Artillery Fortifications in England and Wales, 207-32 (Article in Serial). SDV173193.

Discussion of architectural features given.

Unknown, 1981, Historic Fort Under Siege (Article in Serial). SDV173191.

Dartmouth Castle under threat of closure due to Government cutbacks.

Griffith, F., 1988, Devon's Past. An Aerial View, 84 (Monograph). SDV64198.

Haslam, C., 1990, Landmarks in Coastal Defence, 3-4 (Article in Serial). SDV173195.

The earliest fortifications in Britain to be designed for artillery. Kingswear Castle built 1501-2, was its companion in a unified system of defence for Dartmouth Haven.

Department of National Heritage, 1994, Dartmouth, 2 (List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest). SDV157498.

Dartmouth Castle and gun platforms to west and south . Castle with adjoining gun platforms. 1480-1494, with successive later modernisations. Some local limestone, but mostly slatestone rubble with red sandstone detail; lead roof.
Plan: Double tower. Small round tower begun first or adapted from 14th century fortalice. Square tower built alongside to south-east and the 2 merged at a higher level. Round tower received the Dartmouth end of a chain boom across the estuary, the square tower contained the main armament. Barrack accommodation on upper 2 floors with stair turret projecting from the south side and rising to serve as a lookout. Open batteries each side of the castle.
Exterior: Basement level of square tower with 7 embrasures - large rectangular ports close to water level (originally shuttered externally). Loops for handguns as well as small square-headed windows on the upper floors and provision for more cannon on the flat roof. Crenellated parapet and machicolations above the doorway (20th century but in original
position). Parapet has been raised on the landward side.
Interior: Some alterations to floor levels. Rock-cut basement of round tower has slots for pulley and holes in the rock, probably for windlass for hauling the chain. Much of interior carpentry has been renewed in the 20th century but first-floor barrackshas large moulded crossbeams with runout stops (surely later than the 15th century). Also a hooded fireplace and remains of another. Each side of the castle are open batteries with thick crenellated parapets, remodelled in the 18th century. Originally the castle approach was from the north across a bridge (rebuilt) across a chasm. 18th century doorway through the curtain wall has brick segmental arch and contains a fielded 6-panel doorway. The castle and other nearby buildings make up an important group at the mouth of the Dart valley. An important example of a fort designed for artillery, earlier than the castles of Henry VIII. Scheduled Ancient Monument. (Archaeologia: O'Neil BH St J: Dartmouth Castle and other defences of Dartmouth Haven: 1935-: P.129-157; Saunders AD: Dartmouth Castle, Devon: HMSO: 1986-).

Unknown, 1995, Monument Protection Programme. Archaeological Item Dataset. (Un-published). SDV340555.

Chain Tower situated within an earlier enclosure castle. The Chain Tower includes a circular stone tower (which may in part have formed part of the original enclosure castle) onto which a Square Tower was added during the building work. The Round Tower was built first of large rubble, mostly limestone. Work stopped before the Round Tower was completed and the Square Tower was built beside it. The stones used here are different in size and almost entirely composed of slate. Ultimately this material was used for the upper portions of the Round Tower when the 2 parts were completed together. The Chain Tower is a 3 storied building with an entrance leading directly to the ground floor. The replacement floor within the square room is 1m higher than the original. This room was probably used for defence and accommodation. Eleven small square splayed openings facing the sea may have been used for hand guns. Most of the other openings in this room are probably later. The 3 large openings facing the river are considered to have been for cannon and may have been inserted in the second part of the 16th century. The other 2 lower openings may belong to the late 17th century. The floor within the Round Tower has not been replaced, though this room also has several openings for musketeers. A large opening in the seaward side of this room is the hole through which the chain which stretched across the harbour mouth passed through over a roller. The marks of successive slots for the axle of the roller can be seen in the jambs. The chain seems to have been hauled in by means of ropes, with the aid of a capstan or 2 wheels on an axle. The housing may have been in the holes in the back wall of the room. The internal layout of the tower is not known, although clearly it may have varied through time as military practices and customs changed. Within the basement there are 7 ports for guns in the walls facing the sea. They are considered to be the earliest surviving examples of this type of gunport in England. They are rectangular and splayed internally to allow a degree of traversing for the gun within the external opening. Shutters were provided on the outside, hinged on one of the jambs. The fireplace at the back of the room in the Square Tower suggests that men may have been quartered there; in the 19C this part was used as a guardroom though in later years it became a coal store. Within the Round Tower are four musket openings and 3 gunports. The gunports were inserted through the existing masonry and indicate that they were an afterthought in the defence design. In later years this room was converted into a gunpowder storage area. The first floor room is considered to have been the main living quarters. There may originally have been one large room in the Square Tower, perhaps a common hall. The fireplace at its back has the remains of an oven in one side which suggests that cooking was done here. The windows in this room though primarily designed to provide light could also have been used to discharge muskets at an enemy. In later years this floor was divided up into at least 3 rooms. Leading from this floor is a spiral staircase built into the body of the wall which gave access to the roof. The parapet surrounding the roof space is crennellated to provide protection for the defenders. Sometime after the original construction the parapet on the landward side was heightened to provide a higher degree of protection from a landward attack and to protect the entrance below. On the S side of the roof space is a 2 storied turret which must have served as lookout.The Chain Tower is flanked on both sides by gun platforms. The S gun platform was designed for 3 guns whilst that to the N is capable of providing a base for 5. The surviving embrasures are 18C remodellings. In them now sit cast iron guns of the 17C-19C, all mounted on reproduction garrison gun carriages. These artillery pieces were recovered from Dartmouth Quay where they were being used as bollards. The Chain Tower forms part of a series of defensive positions built from the latter part of the 15C to protect the important natural harbour at Dartmouth. Documentary evidence suggests that building of the Chain Tower commenced in 1481 and was modified between 1509-1547 to take artillery. An iron chain was stretched across the estuary from this tower to a cliff near Gommerock where there is a hole in the rock for fixing the chain. In 1491 and 1492 four watchmen were employed, the hawsers and winding cable were purchased & the chain itself, which was probably stolen some years earlier from Fowey, was being maintained. Other details: 140337.

Horner, B., 1996, DAP/AAX, 30 (Aerial Photograph). SDV320375.

Department of Environment, 1996, Dartmouth Castle (Schedule Document). SDV340554.

This monument includes a medieval enclosure castle, mansion, chain tower and post medieval coastal battery situated on a rocky peninsula protruding into the entrance to the Dart estuary. The enclosure castle is believed to date from the 14th century when a series of documents indicate that various local gentry were commissioned to construct a fort to defend Dartmouth harbour. The chain tower includes a circular stone tower, part of which may have formed a section of the original enclosure castle, onto which a square tower was added. The chain tower forms part of a series of defensive positions built from the latter part of the 15th century. Documentary evidence suggests that building of the chain tower begain in 1481 and was modified between 1509-1547 to take artillery. An iron chain was stretched across the estuary from this tower to a cliff near Gommerock, where there is a hole I the rock for fixing the chain. The coastal battery is a 19th century artillery form built on the site of earlier 16th and 18th century fortifications. In its present form it is a small two tier work of 1861. See Schedule Document for full details. Other details: Map showing scheduled area attached.

Higham, R. A. + Freeman, J. P., 1996, Devon Castles (Draft Text), 6, 10, 14, gazetteer (Monograph). SDV354350.

A mid 14th century castle rebuilt as an irregularly shaped fortification designed for the deployment of artillery 1481-6. Its design is considered to be of national importance.
In 1481 the king ordered that 'a strong tower and bulwark of stone' be completed next to the castle and equipped with guns and cannon, and a chain stretched across the river to control shipping (Kingswear Castle on the opposite side of the river was constructed in the late 15th century). Dartmouth's artillery defences seems to have been built over one corner of the earlier defences and comprise a rectangular and a semicircular tower joined to form a single unit and furnished with handgun loops and large rectangular gun ports. The internal splaying of the embrasures of the latter allows a wide field of fire and are the earliest English examples of their type.

Watts, M. A., 1997, Archaeological and Historical Survey at Gomerock, Kingswear, 1 (Report - Survey). SDV173198.

Horner, B., 1998, DAP/ACC, 8 (Aerial Photograph). SDV173202.

Department of Environment, 1998, Scheduled Monument Consent Letter (Correspondence). SDV173197.

Scheduled Monument Consent granted for the construction of a pumping station.

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).

Mottershead, D. N., 2000, Weathering of Coastal Defensive Structures in South-West England: A 500 Year Stone Durability Trial, 1143-59 (Article in Serial). SDV173200.

Dyer, M. J., 2003, Archaeological Watching Brief During Bridge Removal and Installation of New Fencing at Dartmouth Castle, Devon (Report - Watching Brief). SDV152598.

Archaeological watching brief undertaken during installation of new safety fencing located at north side of castle. Stratigraphy consisted of building rubble; One sherd of 18th century pottery recovered.

Batty, M., 2003, South Devon Coast Path Project: a study of the archaeology along the coast path in the South Hams from Staddon Heights to Sharkham Point, 82 (Un-published). SDV336214.

English Heritage, 2004, Centre for Archaeology Report Summaries Volume 7: January to June 2004 (Report - non-specific). SDV355621.

Young, G. M., 2004, Dartmouth Castle: Phase 2 Condition Survey Works. Archaeological Watching Brief and Recording (Report - Survey). SDV320380.

Repairs and alterations were undertaken at Dartmouth Castle between May 2003 and March 2004. The work involved building recording of the Square and Round Towers together called the 'Gun Tower'. The base of the Round Tower was found to have been levelled off before construction of the later Round Tower but some of the limestone was reused. Above this level it was found that the Round Tower abuts the Square Tower and the major part of its construction is therefore later. The Square Tower was almost certainly begun by 1481 and stood complete and independently for a short period at least, with a north wall intact and the base of the Fortalice below. The dendrochronological analysis confirmed that timber from the boundary of the two towers with a felling date between 1472 and 1508 was installed during the main construction period. It is not certain when the dividing wall between the two phases of towers was removed but it may have been in the late 18th century when the defensive role of the 'Gun Tower' had diminished. Mortar samples and the use of different materials indicated the phasing of the existing fabric.

Mottershead, D. N., 2004, Local Variability of Marine Influence on Coastal Rock Weathering Rates: A Long Term Study, 229-52 (Article in Monograph). SDV173204.

A geomorphological weathering experiment was conducted at historic sites exposed to coastal salt erosion for 500-600 years. The lithology of Dartmoor Castle belonged to the Dartmouth Group with a high rock density but low durability.

Tyers, I., 2004, Tree Ring Analysis of Oak Timbers from Dartmouth Castle (Report - non-specific). SDV173205.

Tree ring analysis by English Heritage in 2004 was undertaken on oak timbers from the 'Old Castle' of 'Dartmouth Castle'. The first floor ceiling contains at least one timber of late 15th or early 16th century date but the three timbers analysed did not match.

Ordnance Survey, 2009, MasterMap (Cartographic). SDV341569.

Sharpe, A., 2016, Dartmouth Castle, Devon. Conservation Management Plan 2016, Gazetteer No. 12 (Report - Assessment). SDV361934.

The Gun Tower at Dartmouth Castle is the earliest purpose-built artillery fort in Britain. It was built in the late 15th-early 16th century to protect a chain boom across the estuary between Dartmouth Point and Godmerock. Although it was quickly outmoded and superseeded by a series of seaward facing artillery batteries from as early as 1540 to 1943, it nevetheless continued to be armed so that it could defend the narrows. The chain boom was last used in 1643 during the Civil War.
The gun tower and the flanking gun platforms became scheduled as an ancient monument in 1909 but were taken back into military service during the two World Wars.
The structure comprises a round tower, the lowest section of which is suggested to have been part of the original 14th century castle defensive circuit, and an adjoining square tower. There are three floors, the floor of the basement being cut into bedrock, and a battlemented roof level.
The tower is the core of Dartmouth Castle, key to understanding its development. Although it has undergone a number of modifications from when it was first built in the 16th century to the 20th century it nevertheless retains its structural integrity.
See gazetteer entry for further details.

Waterhouse, R., Unknown, Dartmouth Conservation Area: Archaeology, 6 (Un-published). SDV355585.

In 1488, the medieval castle, known as Hawley's Fortalice was added to by the construction of a small artillery fort. This survives almost intact and is now known as Dartmouth Castle. A smaller artillery fort was also built at Godmerock on the opposite side of the river and with the addition of Kingswear Castle in 1491 made the Dart harbour entrance one of the best protected in the south-west. Under Henry VIII coastal defence strategy the castles were modified to take heavy cannon, while purpose-built gun batteries were construction on a rocky platform to the south of Hawley's Fortalice and at Bayard's Cove.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV152598Report - Watching Brief: Dyer, M. J.. 2003. Archaeological Watching Brief During Bridge Removal and Installation of New Fencing at Dartmouth Castle, Devon. Exeter Archaeology Report. Project No 4687. A4 Stapled + Digital.
SDV157498List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest: Department of National Heritage. 1994. Dartmouth. Historic Houses Register. A4 Comb Bound. 2.
SDV172285Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card: Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division. SX85SE15. Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card. Card Index.
SDV172286Article in Serial: Adams, M.. 1900. The Castle, Manor-house and Church of Clifton, near Dartmouth. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 32. A5 Hardback. 505-9.
SDV172956Article in Serial: Russell, P.. 1947 - 1949. Dartmouth: Pre-reformation the Castle and St Petrox. Devon and Cornwall Notes and Queries. 23. Unknown. 199-200.
SDV173178Monograph: Toy, S.. 1953. Castles of Great Britain. Castles of Great Britain. Unknown. 268.
SDV173179Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card: Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division. SX85SE16. Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card. Card Index.
SDV173182Pamphlet: Saunders, A. D.. 1965. Dartmouth Castle. Department of Environment Guide. Unknown. 9-10,24.
SDV173184Article in Serial: O'Neil, B. H. St J.. 1945. Unknown. Archaeologia. 91. Unknown. 154.
SDV173185Article in Serial: Jope, E. M. + Dunning, G. C. 1954. The Use of Blue Slate for Roofing in Medieval England. Antiquaries Journal. 34. Unknown. 215.
SDV173191Article in Serial: Unknown. 1981. Historic Fort Under Siege. Western Morning News. Newspaper/Magazine Cuttin.
SDV173192Article in Serial: Windeatt, E.. 1914. The Borough of Clifton-Dartmouth-Hardness. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 46. A5 Hardback. 421-2.
SDV173193Article in Serial: Kenyon, J. R.. 1981. Early Artillery Fortifications in England and Wales. Archaeological Journal. 138. Unknown. 207-32.
SDV173195Article in Serial: Haslam, C.. 1990. Landmarks in Coastal Defence. Fortress. 4. Unknown. 3-4.
SDV173197Correspondence: Department of Environment. 1998. Scheduled Monument Consent Letter. Letter.
SDV173198Report - Survey: Watts, M. A.. 1997. Archaeological and Historical Survey at Gomerock, Kingswear. Exeter Archaeology Report. 97.61. A4 Stapled + Digital. 1.
SDV173200Article in Serial: Mottershead, D. N.. 2000. Weathering of Coastal Defensive Structures in South-West England: A 500 Year Stone Durability Trial. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms. 25. Unknown. 1143-59.
SDV173202Aerial Photograph: Horner, B.. 1998. DAP/ACC. Devon Aerial Photograph. Photograph (Paper). 8.
SDV173204Article in Monograph: Mottershead, D. N.. 2004. Local Variability of Marine Influence on Coastal Rock Weathering Rates: A Long Term Study. Stone Deterioration in Polluted Urban Environments. 15. A5 Paperback. 229-52.
SDV173205Report - non-specific: Tyers, I.. 2004. Tree Ring Analysis of Oak Timbers from Dartmouth Castle. English Heritage Report. 37/2004. A4 Stapled + Digital.
SDV177411Article in Serial: O'Neil, B. H. St J.. 1935. Dartmouth Castle and other defences in Dartmouth Haven. Archaeologia. 85. Unknown. 129-58.
SDV177423Aerial Photograph: Griffith, F. M.. 10/07/1990. DAP/SS. Devon Aerial Photograph. Photograph (Paper). 7,8.
SDV320375Aerial Photograph: Horner, B.. 1996. DAP/AAX. Devon Aerial Photograph. Photograph (Paper). 30.
SDV320380Report - Survey: Young, G. M.. 2004. Dartmouth Castle: Phase 2 Condition Survey Works. Archaeological Watching Brief and Recording. Exeter Archaeology Report. 04.38. A4 Stapled + Digital.
SDV323771Monograph: Lysons, D. + Lysons, S.. 1822. Magna Britannica. Magna Britannica: A Concise Topographical Account of The Several Counties o. 6: Devonshire. Unknown. 157.
SDV336189Post-Graduate Thesis: Higham, R. A.. 1979. The Castles of Medieval Devon. University of Exeter Thesis. Unknown. 172-4.
SDV336214Un-published: Batty, M.. 2003. South Devon Coast Path Project: a study of the archaeology along the coast path in the South Hams from Staddon Heights to Sharkham Point. Mixed Archive Material. 82.
SDV340553Schedule Document: Ancient Monuments. 1955. Dartmouth Castle. The Schedule of Monuments. A4 Single Sheet.
SDV340554Schedule Document: Department of Environment. 1996. Dartmouth Castle. The Schedule of Monuments. A4 Stapled.
SDV340555Un-published: Unknown. 1995. Monument Protection Programme. Archaeological Item Dataset.. Monument Protection Programme. Archaeological Item Dataset.. Unknown.
SDV341465Article in Monograph: Wall, J. C.. 1906. Ancient Earthworks. Victoria History of the County of Devon. Hardback Volume. 576.
SDV341569Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 2009. MasterMap. MasterMap. Digital. [Mapped feature: #108623 ]
SDV354350Monograph: Higham, R. A. + Freeman, J. P.. 1996. Devon Castles (Draft Text). Devon Castles. A4 Unbound + Digital. 6, 10, 14, gazetteer.
SDV355585Un-published: Waterhouse, R.. Unknown. Dartmouth Conservation Area: Archaeology. Digital. 6.
SDV355621Report - non-specific: English Heritage. 2004. Centre for Archaeology Report Summaries Volume 7: January to June 2004. English Heritage Centre for Archaeology Report. A4 Stapled + Digital.
SDV361737Article in Serial: Gaimster, M. + Haith, C. + Bradley, J.. 1999. Medieval Britain and Ireland in 1998. Medieval Archaeology. 43. Unknown. 238.
SDV361934Report - Assessment: Sharpe, A.. 2016. Dartmouth Castle, Devon. Conservation Management Plan 2016. Cornwall Archaeological Unit. A4 Comb Bound + Digital. Gazetteer No. 12.
SDV64198Monograph: Griffith, F.. 1988. Devon's Past. An Aerial View. Devon's Past. An Aerial View. Paperback Volume. 84.

Associated Monuments

MDV127684Part of: Dartmouth Castle (Monument)
MDV58666Related to: Boom Chain Terminal southwest of Gommerock (Monument)
MDV8520Related to: Gomerock Tower, West of Castle Road, Kingswear (Monument)
MDV19561Related to: Hawley's Fortalice, Dartmouth Castle (Monument)
MDV8540Related to: Kingswear Castle, Kingswear (Building)
MDV71167Related to: Northern gun platform at Dartmouth Castle (Monument)
MDV36306Related to: Sounding Lead found offshore at Dartmouth Castle (Find Spot)
MDV71168Related to: Southern gun platform at Dartmouth Castle (Monument)

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events

  • EDV696 - Archaeological Watching Brief During Bridge Removal at Dartmouth Castle
  • EDV697 - Dartmouth Castle: Phase 2 Condition Survey Works
  • EDV698 - Tree Ring Analysis of Oak Timbers from Dartmouth Castle

Date Last Edited:Apr 16 2020 12:38PM