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Title:Dartmouth Castle
Originator:Department of National Heritage
Summary:Coastal battery on a rocky peninsula protruding into the entrance to the Dart estuary. Known as the 'Old Battery', it is a 19C artillery fort built on the site of earlier 16C & 18C 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 W embrasure in around 1940 to provide shelter for a 4.7 inch gun. The E 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 3 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 W 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.

Associated Monuments (1)

MDV55300Old Battery, Dartmouth Castle (Building)