Written by: D Evans



Abbreviations used in the notes

BH = Berry Head ( Official guide book.) Torbay, n.d.

BM = British Library, the British Museum

DRM = Devonshire Regimental Museum, Wyvern Barracks, Exeter

DRO = Devon Record Office ( Exeter )

PLY = Letter-books, Royal Engineer's Library, Brompton Barracks, Chatham

PRO = Public Record Office (Kew )


Together with those of Maker Heights (now in Cornwall, but part of Devon then) the fortifications of Berry Head form the most impressive defences in the West Country to survive from the time of the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. Their purpose and function is possibly not apparent to the tens of thousands of visitors who come to the headland every year; in part because of the demolition at the end of the Napoleonic War of the temporary barrack blocks which had once filled the site, and of the disappearance of the sea ward-facing batteries which were their raison d'etre, but also because eighteenth-century fortifications are relatively unfamiliar to English people and their purpose not properly understood.

It may, for example, strike the visitor as odd that coast defence fortifications should face inland; yet in such a situation as Berry Head it would have been pointless erecting massive works on the sides facing the sea, as ships' guns of the time would have been unable to elevate their guns sufficiently to bear on the cliff top. Some protection against musketry was all that was required from that angle. The real threat to coast defence guns lay in their being captured by a raiding force which had been landed further down the coast, possibly unknown to the defenders, and the rear of such works therefore had to be strongly fortified.

The visitor may also wonder why two redoubts were constructed, and the knowledge that there was to have been a third might cause further puzzlement. The two redoubts (and the additional works proposed) in fact form a defensive system and are not to be considered as two separate small forts. The principal area to be defended was the tip of the headland, which contained the main barracks, store-rooms and magazine; the sole purpose of the other works was to defend this by presenting positions to an enemy which would have to be taken first. No eighteenth-century fort was expected to withstand a siege indefinitely; nothing, according to received opinion, was more certain than the result of a properly conducted siege.

The redoubts were constructed in response to the French invasion threats of the revolutionary and Napoleonic wars, and so represent a different, earlier type of solution of the coastal defence to the Martello towers familiar to visitors of the Kent and Sussex coasts. In order to see the Berry Head defences in their historical context some account of the defence arrangements made in Devonshire has been given here.[1]

The Board of Ordnance crops up frequently in the narrative which follows. A few words of explanation about this long-defunct Government department are in order here. It was constituted in 1597, at a time when there was no standing army or navy, forces being assembled when required on an ad hoc basis. Only the means of furnishing them with warlike stores needed to be established on a permanent basis. The Master-General of the Ordnance presided over a Board of four Principal Officers, who were individually answerable to the Master-General, there being no collective responsibility. Berry Head was the last fortification to be ordered during the Master-Generalship of the third Duke of Richmond: the design of the redoubts is partly due to him and the defensive scheme would have been much more elaborate if he had been able to initiate his projected alternative design before his fall from office in 1795.

The Board supplied both the Army and Navy, being subordinate to neither organisation. In 1683 the Board was reformed, and its duties increased. In addition to the issue of stores it now had to provide artillery and engineering trains, with the responsibilities for fortification this entailed. This caused a drastic change in the composition of the Board. The personnel were divided into Civil and Military sections, the members of the Board all being civilians originally. However, the great expansion of the Army during the early eighteenth century produced large permanent corps of Artillery and Engineers, and these began to be appointed to posts formerly held by civilians.

By the end of the Napoleonic Wars this process had ensured that the department was largely staffed by Army officers. It consequently began to appear as a duplicate of the War Office, and the situation was rationalised in 1855 (the search for a scapegoat for the failures of the Crimean War also playing its part) by the abolition of the Board, its duties being merged with those of the War Office.

Much of the information which survives about the Berry Head defences therefore naturally comes from the records of the Board of Ordnance. Another most valuable source, which occasionally duplicates the Board's documents, is the sequence of letter-books from the Royal Engineers' office at Plymouth, which preserves fair copies of (not all) the letters exchanged between its commanding officer and the Master-General and Board.

As the Berry Head defences were never called upon to perform in action (the World War 2 anti-aircraft batteries had nothing to do with the fortifications as such) their relatively uneventful history can be best told by the reasonably complete documentation of their construction and disposal.



An improvised obstacle consisting of felled trees, stripped of their leaves, placed with their branches pointing towards the enemy.


Guns are mounted en barbette when they fire directly over the parapet and not through an embrasure.


A projecting part of a fortification, consisting of an earthwork, faced with brick or stone, or of a mass of masonry, in the form of an irregular pentagon, having its base in the main line, or at an angle, of the fortification; its 'flanks' are the two sides which spring from the base, and are shorter than the 'faces' or two sides which meet in the acute 'salient angle'.


A defensive work which projects into or across the ditch and armed with musketry and carronades to sweep the ditch with fire.


A short muzzle-loading gun used in fortifications to fire grape-shot.


A vaulted masonry structure forming a bomb-proof housing for guns or barrack accommodation.


A decorative roll moulding applied near the top of the revetments of an escarp.


The outer wall of a ditch.


A sudden violent attack for the purpose of instantly capturing a position.


A path running round the top of the counterscarp which conceals troops placed there by a parapet.


The portion of the main wall which joins two bastions.


An opening in the parapet for a gun to fire through.


Fire directed from the flank of a line in order to rake its length.


The inner wall of a ditch.


Fortifications improvised in the course of a campaign.


Palisades set horizontally at the top of the escarp as a further obstacle.


Galleries can be placed in the revetted walls of the escarp or counterscarp and provided with loopholes.


An artificially prepared slope leading up to the ditch: troops attacking the defences have to cross it, exposing themselves to the fire of the defenders.


The rear face of a fortification.


Assistant gunner.


The wall which separates embrasures.


The recessed shoulder of a bastion, permitting a greater degree of flanking fire to be provided.


A fence composed of pointed wooden stakes.


Quick-firing gun. A breech-loader; introduced in the 1880's.


An arrowhead-shaped work used to protect a curtain or a gateway. Sometimes referred to as a Couvre Port.


A small enclosed work without bastions.


The flanks of a rampart are said to be refused when they are angled back from the general alignment.


Stone lining applied to the face of a ditch.


Rifled muzzle-loader.


Fort with a star-shaped trace.


The area of rampart behind the parapet where the guns are mounted.


Ground-plan of a fortification.


An earthwork bank on the terreplein placed at right angles to the parapet to provide shelter from enfilading fire.


Obstacles consisting of pits with sharpened stakes in the bottom.

The fortifications are designed

The Berry Head promontory has been the site of coastal defences from prehistoric times to the Second World War. Lysons mentions the existence of an earthwork [2] and Donn's map of 1765 'Ruins of a Danish Castle'. The site was subsequently used by the Romans - coins have turned up in the area, but as far as is known no further defensive works were undertaken until the War of American Independence.

In 1779 the risk of a French invasion was very real, and it was decided to establish coast defence batteries around Torbay. At the time the commanding Royal Engineer at Plymouth, with responsibility for the whole of the Western District, was Lt.Colonel Dixon. He wrote to the Board of Ordnance on November 1:

"Foreseeing a difficulty to arise in the execution of the batteries in Torbay, by depending solely on the inhabitants of the Country to Work ; and being of Opinion they now benefit more by pursuing their Fishery than they would benefit by being employed and paid at the usual stipend of Labourers....I intreat the Board to make an application to the Commander in Chief of His Majesty's Forces, to order for this duty two Companies of Militia, one Company to be quartered in the Town of Brixham for the two batteries intended for the South West side, and one Company to be quartered in the Village of Tor Quay and its neighbourhood for the two batteries intended for the North East side ; by which arrangement of Men, the four batteries may be carried on at the same time.

The first work to be done in the four positions, where the batteries are to be made, is to erect Guard-houses, to serve as a shelter for the men, against the uncertainty of the Weather, in places so much exposed.

As these batteries are intended to cover and protect Ships of War, as they lay at Anchor on each side the bay, I may reasonably suppose the commanding Captain of the Ships would send Seamen ashore to arm the batteries, and to furnish them with Powder; for which reason, I have now in contemplation the making of two Ammunition boxes to be mounted on low wooden Trucks for each battery, to contain no more than twenty rounds of filled Cartridges Per Gun, instead of erecting Magazines to lodge a Quantity of Powder in barrels...."[3]

He requested £500 to pay the men engaged in erecting the batteries. The Board directed him to proceed as rapidly as possible, within his estimated cost of £988.[4] It proved to be necessary to erect a proper magazine; probably the expected naval co-operation was not forthcoming, the relations between the generals and the admirals at Plymouth at this time being very bad indeed.[5] Work began on February 21, 1780. The requested £500, however, had still not been sent by March, and Dixon was forced to write:

"Permit me to remind the Board of an Imprest of £500 not yet granted for the Batteries at Torbay; and as that Service is now in hand; I beg the Board will be pleased to grant the enable me to carry on the batteries with dispatch. I may venture to assure the Board the batteries on the Berry head will be compleated by the time the Swedish Guns with their proper proportion of Stores and Ammunition are sent from Woolwich." [6] Twenty-five 20 pounder guns and carriages were sent in May, followed by two 8" howitzers in June.

Dixon wished the land on which the batteries stood to be purchased, but the Board did not consider that this was necessary for temporary batteries, except in cases where the land could not be obtained any other way. The Lords of the Manor of Brixham applied for compensation for the financial losses caused by the installations; in June the Board approved the suggestion that the sum be decided by arbitration - this matter was to drag on for years before a final settlement was made.[7]

On November 9 Dixon was able to report that "The Batteries on the Berry head, Hardy's head, Old Castle, and Fishcomb point, with their Magazine, guard house and Storehouses, as described by the Plan and Sections which accompany this report, are now compleated agreable to the Board's Order; but the batteries proposed by me to be erected at Paington [sic] red bank and the North east side the bay, will not be entered on, until the Arbitrators have settled a compensation for taking possession of the proprietors lands." [8] The plan has been preserved; it shows the locations of the batteries with sections through each position. [9] The largest was placed at the tip of the headland, with a square magazine behind it, and a howitzer battery positioned on the Torbay side of the tip. The other batteries, Hardy's Head, Castle and Furzdon, became part of the later defences. The map shows not only the associated structures of two storehouses and a house, probably a guardhouse, but also, spanning the neck of the headland, the "Ruins of a Roman Wall". This appears to be the only plan which preserves an apparently accurate record of this now destroyed feature. It is not shown on the 1781 map of Torbay published by the Hydrographical Office, "Tor-Bay surveyed by Lt.Murdoch Mackenzie" which does show four of the batteries, with the exception of the Howitzer battery. [10] During the construction of the present defences some Roman masonry was noted in the earthwork. [11]

£150 was requested for the works in July 1781, and after the second winter some remedial work was necessary. Sergeant Bayne, in charge of Fishcombe battery, wrote to Dixon on February 1 1782 "I am sorry to Inform you that there is about four yards of the sods of the foundation of fishcomb battery on the Northwest side fell down, and some More likely to go the Same Way as it Bulges out very Much." [12] £500 was requested that month; apart from the repair work, preparations were being made for the Torquay batteries. Dixon informed Sir Robert Palk on March 17 that the Board had ordered them to be erected on Palk land, and asked for an estimate of the damage. [13] The peace negotiations of the summer, however, probably prevented any work from taking place. In January 1783 the estimate of the compensation due for Berry Head was sent in; it was claimed that six quarries underneath the batteries had been rendered useless, which used to produce annually eighty-six boat loads of limestone. This was worth five shillings a boat load to the proprietors, a total of £21 10s. They also wished to charge two guineas a year rental for the land occupied. [14]

That autumn the Inspector of Artillery, Major Blomefield, surveyed the coast defences, and as a consequence it was decided in November that all the guns at Berry Head, with the exception of those at Fishcombe, were to be removed to Plymouth, together with all the materials from the buildings. The Hanoverian troops stationed at Brixham were ordered to furnish working parties for this purpose. [15]

The batteries had been dismantled, but the matter of compensation was still not settled. Dixon wrote to the Board in September 1786 about the matter, and arbitrators were finally agreed upon on December 9. [16] By then the Colonel had retired through ill-health. His successor was Lt.Col. Andrew Mulcaster, who reported the final settlement of this affair to the Master General of the Ordnance, Charles Lennox, the third Duke of Richmond. It appears that inflated claims had been made, for "The Estimate of the Annual Damages of £23.10, Sustained by the Lords of the Manor of Brixham, Your Grace will find was very lamely supported for instead of that sum the Gentlemen from the Evidence produced in support of the Claim, thought the Sum of £5 a Year an ample Compensation; and which accordingly has been Awarded them, the time this Ground was in Possession of the Ordnance was four Years." [17]

On February 1 1793 the French Republic declared war on England, and the coastal defences so recently dismantled were now urgently required. Berry Head was earmarked for reactivation, on a much greater scale, this time as a permanent fortification. On April 8th, 1794, the following letter from the office of the Master-General, the Duke of Richmond, was sent to the new Commanding Engineer at Devonport; Lt.Col .Alexander Mercer had only been promoted the previous month. He was to become Major-General in 1796, Lt.General in 1803, and, after leaving Plymouth, full General in 1813, dying at Exmouth on November 10 1816. -

"I am directed by The Master General to desire you will go to Torbay and form a Plan for Fortifying the Berry Head, that is, in the first place, for Erecting such Batteries on that Hill as shall best protect the Shipping and the Entrance to Torbay

2dly. To enclose these Batteries, so that an Enemy landing Infantry in the Neighbourhood may not get possession of them without being obliged to break Ground, and erect Batteries.

3dly. To have Barracks for 600 Men to defend these Batteries, which Barracks may be sent ready framed from London and will then only require putting up, Brick Hogging, Plaistering and Building the Chimneys. Each Barrack is 100 feet long by 22, from out to out, and will contain 2 Officers and 60 Men. The Men are not to dress their Victuals in the Barracks but Cooking Places are to be put up for that purpose according to the Plan which has been tried and found to answer for similar buildings at Hythe, on the Coast of Sussex, which Captain Twiss is to Explain and a Copy of his Description will be sent down to you, as soon as possible.

4thly. If there is no Water in the space proposed to be occupied by these Works, a Tank must be made to receive the Water from the Buildings. These Buildings may be covered with Slate which can be got in the neighbourhood.

The Master General thinks the Ground you are likely to want belongs to the Duke of Bolton, but wishes enquiries to be immediately made, a Survey taken and as much Ground Demanded as is necessary, in which His Grace desires that you will take care to have a sufficiency in front of the Works so that at no time any Buildings may be Erected to incommode them.

The Master General further desires that you will take care that the Works are no where Commanded, altho' this should give the Works somewhat more Extent." [18]

This letter gives a clear explanation of the purpose of the fortification. Coastal defences were usually taken by a coup de main from the landward side by troops which had been landed further down the coast, and the defensive works had to be very strong on that side. In the case of Berry Head, the precipitous cliffs formed a perfect defence on the seaward side. The purpose of fortifications was to delay the enemy whilst reinforcements could be brought up; the fall of a fortress was usually certain, with a competent engineer in charge of the siege, but the operation took time and could not be rushed.

Mercer's plans were ready by July 14, when three sections through the proposed works were sent to the Drawing Room of the Board of Ordnance to be copied. [19] These original drawings do not survive. However, two sets of plans drawn up in 1803 are preserved. One set is Mercer's Autograph, and the other is a fair copy from the official Drawing Room. They are identical except in the degree of finish: the official draughtsmen were Compton and Holberton. The original design, which was executed for the most part, is the sheet dated Feb.24, 1803, captioned "Plan of the Works at the Berry Head as Projected by His Grace the Duke of Richmond" Like its companion drawings, it is an accomplished drawing in ink and watercolour.

General Mercer's design solution, as executed, protects the area of the tip of the headland set aside for two batteries, barracks, stores, parade ground etc. by a revetted wall and dry ditch spanned by a drawbridge. This is redoubt No.3. A separate redoubt, No.1, placed in advance, flanks the approach to No.3, and would need to be taken first in a separate operation by attackers, as its fire, if left unsuppressed, would take them in flank. No cannon embrasures are provided on the side facing No.3, it being assumed that it would be adequately protected by fire from No.3. The masonry revetments are of the same type as those of Redoubts 4 and 5 on Maker Heights, which were largely built according to the Duke of Richmond's designs, the earthworks being completed in 1783 and the revetments applied in 1789-1790. There is no means of providing enfilade fire down the ditch from a secure position. The ends of the ramparts are angled back to provide some measure of enfilade fire being delivered, though at great risk. However, the alternative plans drawn up show that a much more effective design was in fact proposed. Plans of the proposed works, as well as those actually executed, were made by official draughtsmen of the Board of Ordnance in February 1803 from Mercer's originals (which also survive.) These are titled respectively

1) Plan of the Works on the Berry Head as Projected by His Grace the Duke of Richmond. (Signed Tho.Compton, Feb.24, 1803 )

2) Plan of the Works at the Berry Head, with a Couvre Port to the Line no.3, and without the Demi Bastion No.2 and Line No.4. (Signed Tho.Compton, Feb.23, 1803 )

3) Plan showing the proposed Couvre Port [ Plan and Section ]

4) Plan of the Duke of Richmond's Casemates in the Flank of No.2 Demi-Bastion

5) Sections of the Duke of Richmond's Casemated Work of No.2 Demi-Bastion.

6) Plan of the Casemates, in the Flank of No.2.Demi-Bastion with a more Contracted Passage, to obviate the Groined Arches, in the Original Plan. (Signed R.R.Holberton, Feb 24 1803)

7) Section of the Casemated Flank of No.2.Demi-Bastion with the Contracted Passage. (Signed R.R.Holberton, Feb 24 1803 ) [20]

The Duke of Richmond's design adds a third principal work, a polygonal redoubt, No.2, surrounded by a ditch on all sides, in advance of both the other works. This is a strong work with casemated barracks in one of the faces. Behind it another work, No.4, much simpler and not separately defensible, protects the Castle Battery. ( All the old positions of 1780 were re-occupied, on a more permanent basis.) Acting with No.l, these two works would afford a vastly improved protection for No.3.

The other design, with the "Couvre Port" as it is not specifically ascribed to the Duke of Richmond, may be assigned to Mercer. This shows the work as executed, save for the important addition of a ravelin in front of the entrance to No.3. This should have solved the problem of enfilading the ditch of No.3, but quite extraordinarily the ravelin has been made too small for the purpose. Its ditches are swept by the fire of the work behind it, but it has no command over that of No.3. It makes, however, a considerably stronger defence than that actually provided.

Why was such a relatively ineffective fortification erected after all this? The answer probably lies in the disputes and quarrels which the fortification plans of the Duke of Richmond had provoked. In 1785 and 1786 his elaborate schemes for the defence of the dockyards of Portsmouth and Plymouth had been sponsored by Pitt, but had been defeated in the House of Commons after bitter debates and a minor pamphlet war, much of the opposition being on personal grounds rather than military considerations. Following this defeat he had not resigned his office, but contrived to salvage as much of his cherished plans as possible, erecting Fort Cumberland (or rather initiating it: construction dragged on until 1811) under cover of modifying an existing building at Southsea, and revetting two of the redoubts on Maker Heights. Now, at the beginning of the war, he was involved in a quarrel with the Duke of York which would prove fatal to his career at the Ordnance. They had been on very bad terms in 1789 when York had engaged in an abortive duel with Richmond's nephew, and the conduct of the war provided ample opportunities for renewed friction between the two men.

After York had been appointed commander of the British forces on the continent, the Duchess of Richmond wrote in February 1793 to her husband "The Nation must be ruined now that Master Frederick may have a plaything that I doubt he does not know how to manage..." [21] and again in April, (after Richmond had severely criticised the conduct of the war) in a letter which also indicates that the Duke's concern for the defence of England had not abated - "I am much hurt at your fatiguing yourself, for the whims of a foolish Boy....I cannot but fancy your Kentish & Sussex Tour of some little importance for there's no knowing what the French will not attempt, & I need not observe how much hurt you would be at their gaining the most trifling advantages by any neglect of yours - so do pray my Dear Husband consider if that is not more Essential Business for you than what can be done by others." [22]

The capture of Dunkirk was intended, and the planning began after the Duke had gone to summer camp with his militia, leaving the Ordnance in the hands of others. Through some kind of administrative confusion the required guns were never sent for the operation, which was a failure. The Duchess foretold the outcome: "I am happy to hear that you can prove them in the wrong that reflect upon you; i let me intreat you to be guarded on this occasion, for every Body has not the honest fair way of proceeding that you have, & they certainly will try to shufle the fault upon you, partly to save themselves, & perhaps to get rid of you; to be sure it would be quarrelling with their Bread & Butter to do so, but great Genius's now & then overshoot themselves. It seems very odd to me that they shou'd put Artillery Men in Boats without your knowledge; I suppose they will say that your being at Camp was the reason, but I think it none at all as they by Express coud communicate so soon with you. You must insist upon the Kings hearing you, & take every Public Manner of making the merits of the case known in the fewest words possible, for long stories lay one open." [23] Despite being duly made the scapegoat, He remained in office, though confined for some time to his Goodwood estate by gout. His removal from office in February 1795 was to follow from the appointment of the Duke of York to the post of Commander-in-Chief.

Richmond over the years had antagonised people both in the Office of Ordnance and the Royal Engineers, and schemes which he had promoted were perhaps now not favoured. Also economy, always a (not perhaps unreasonable) obsession with the Board, certainly had a part in the acceptance of this mutilated scheme of defence.

Perhaps a deeper reason lay in the lack of training of British engineer officers in the science of fortification, which itself was caused by the British Army's lack of experience in Continental warfare. In the words of perhaps the greatest practical expert on fortification and siegecraft that England has produced, Major-General John Jones (1783-1843) "The happy insular situation of Great Britain, and its maritime superiority, have ever caused but little attention to be paid to land defences at home, or to the service connected therewith.." [24]

Jones was the engineer at many of Wellington's Spanish sieges, the conduct of which he condemned; and, indeed, there was much to condemn. Bravery was used in place of professional skill; men were wholly ignorant of the art of sapping and the infantry were quite uninstructed in the importance of entrenching and consequently unwilling to undertake it, great and unneccesary loss of life being the result.

Not only were British siege tactics defective, but the designs of the forts of the celebrated (and highly successful) Torres Vedras Lines were faulty too. Some of the early ones were star-shaped, which had great deficiencies in providing useful fields of fire, and an amateurish approach was shown in other respects as well: "Many of the redoubts were placed on very elevated situations on the summit of steep hills, which gave them a most imposing appearance ; but it was in reality a defect... for the fire of their artillery on the object to be guarded became so plunging as to lose half its powers ; the musketry could not be made to scour the face of the hill sufficiently… The domineering situation of the redoubts, however, gave confidence to the young troops which composed the garrisons, protected them from a cannonade, and screened their interior from musketry, unless fired at a high angle, and consequently at random. These considerations perhaps justify the unusually elevated sites selected for most of the redoubts on the lines, though they cannot induce an approval of them as a general measure." [25] It is against this background that the Berry Head defences have to be seen.

Construction begins

The Master-General of the Ordnance authorised the construction to begin in a letter of August 16 1794; the Duke of Richmond was an enthusiastic advocate and exponent of fortification and he characteristically suggested an alteration to Mercer's scheme :


I am to desire that you will proceed with the Works proposed to be Erected on Berry Head at Torbay, conformable to the Plans you have transmitted, taking care not to exceed your Estimate amounting to £30.595..0..0.

I would however have you consider the Idea I have already mentioned to you whether in the Execution of these Works some part of the Expence of Excavation may not be saved by making the Ditches nearly Parallel to the different Lines of yr Works instead of excavating them as before a Curtain." [26] It is not clear what Richmond meant by this. Certainly the ditches have not been constructed with a covered way (a pathway on the outer edge of the ditch, protected by a parapet) which the curtain of bastioned fort would have. Work advanced rapidly and on the 12th of September Mercer wrote to the Duke stating "The Money last Impressed being nearly expended, I have the Honor to Request that you will be pleased to grant a further Imprest of £1500....for further proceeding with the Works at Torbay and the general Repairs &c in this Division." On October 17 a further £2000 was requested. [27]

An insight into the cost of labour and materials for the fort is given in a letter of November 27 from the contractor, Mrs.Croad, to the Board of Ordnance:

"...I can with great Truth assure the Honble Board that I should not have presumed to trouble them on light or trivial Ground, or on a few fluctuating Articles, which might soon resume the Prices at which they were formerly purchased, but when so material a loss as upwards of £40 independent of Interest of Money Agency &c has already been sustained by me since the commencement of the Works at Torbay in July last, on the Articles of Labour only and a probability of its being rather worse than better, I am humbly led to hope that the Honble Board on Account of the hardship I at present Labour under will be pleased to allow me the following prices for Labour and Materials in this Division as are herein after particularized...

Masons Prices.

Moorstone at Torbay

2.6 per day

Delabole Slate Rags at Maker, Island,

Staten Heights or Torbay

from 1.2.6 to 1.4.6 supl

Bricklayers Prices for any Work that may be performed at Torbay instead of those at present allowd


" labourers

from 2.8 to 3.0 p dy

" 1.8 to 1.10 "

The Present price for Ragstock Bricks in yr Division is only

3.9 p hd.

The Freight from here to Torbay

Delivered at yr Quay there is at least

0.9 Do

which increases yr Price


4. 6 Do

From whence there is a Distance of nearly

2 Miles to carry then to yr Works,

over a very Steep Hill and a bad Road which

will cost me at least


increasing yr Price if delivered to yr Works to

5,4 p hd.

independent of the Duty now nearly 5d P Cn which is at present allowed us, I therefore humbly request the Honble Board to allow me for Red & Grey Stock Bricks delivered at Brixham Quay including the Duty whether used on Measured or Day Work 4.10 p hd and if delivered on the Works, whether used on measured or Day Work 5.0 Do

Labour and Work done by measuremt.

on straight erect Walls

fm 1.12.0 to 1.16.0 p Rod

Do on Arches

fm 1.14.0 to 2.0.0 Do

I have the Honor to be

&c &c

Susanna Croad[28]

It is noteworthy that some work clearly took place at Berry Head from the beginning of July, before Mercer had completed his plans, let alone received the Master-General's instructions to begin construction. In the absence of the relevant documents one can only assume that it had been definitely decided to to erect some kind of defence on the Head, and the work done in July and early August was the general clearance and preparation of the site.

On March 21 1795 Mercer requested a further £2000 for the work at Torbay and general repairs in the Division; [29] the Ordnance Office in reply told him to be more specific -

"I have to request you will be so good to inform me what part of the Sum of £2000 which you have demanded for Works at Torbay and Repairs at Plymouth is for the Service of Torbay and that in your future applications you will be so good to mention the particular Sum wanted for that Service, as the account must be kept totally distinct from the Repair in the Division." [30]

Mercer replied on the 31st -

"....I beg leave to inform you that the Sum of £800 was designed for this Service; but as all the Bills hitherto made out for Works at Torbay have been kept separate from the other Works & Repairs in the Division, and their Amount distinctly Abstracted in the Housekeepers Account at this Place, I did not conceive it at all material in my Demand to say how much was designed for this particular Service; I will however give directions for keeping the Demands separate in future, as you desire." [31]

By the summer of 1795 the great earthworks began to be constructed. On May 14 Mercer despatched a "Demand of Intrenching Tools for Service of the New Works carrying on at Torbay, and to Request that the Honble Board will be pleased to give directions for

their being supplied...

Pinching Bars


Wedges Small


Gads 1 size


2 "


3 "


Wood Mallets




Wheel Barrows


Hand "



This list of equipment gives some idea of the work force employed on the site. Requests for £1000 were made on May 30 and July 23. [33] Mrs.Croad's attempts to increase her charges seem to have been resisted by the Board, and she appears to have persuaded Mercer to put her case, as appears by a letter from the Board dated August 31. -


I am commanded by the Honble Surveyor General to acquaint you in Answer to your Letter of 10 Inst; that for the Reasons given by you in the said Letter, he consents to Allow Mrs Croad 3s pr Day for a Bricklayer at Torbay all the Year round ; but he desires that Allowance may be confined to Torbay only." [34]

The work was not only carried on by Mrs.Croad's men; a small detachment of Military Artificers were also stationed there. They had been there since August 1 1794, and suffered some ill-health, as the following letter from the Board to Mercer shows:


Having laid before the Board your Letter of 27 Augst last, transmitting Messr Elford and Langworthys Bill amounting to £4.2.8 for Medicine and Attendance upon yr Detachment of Military Artificers under Your Command at Brixham and submitting the propriety of allowing Messrs Elford and Langworthy 2s/6d or 3s p Day for the Time they may attend at Brixham instead of permitting them to make out Monthly Bills....they are to be allowed 2-/6d p Day for taking care of the Detachment of Royal Military Artificers from the 1st of August last..." [35]

Two requests for £500 and one for £800 were made January 7, February 4 and March 31 1796 respectively [36] , and on April 25 Mercer sent the Board "a Bill for Glazier's Works performed by Mr Samuel Hay ward of London on account of the New Works at Torbay." [37] The buildings, then, were complete enough to be glazed.

Further requests for £800 followed on July 11 and October 27 [38] but on December 1 Mercer received this order: "...the Master General and Board...think proper [that] any further Progress in the Works at Torbay and the Berry Head should be postponed for this Year." [39] This was the first break in the construction of the forts.

Mercer replied to the Board on the 4th " Obedience to the Orders of the Master General & Board, I have written to Torbay to Stop all further Progress in the Works at the Berry Head. But I have desired that Detachment of Royal Military Artificers and Labourers may remain to Guard the Works, Materials, and Intrenching Tools &c till further Orders.." [40]

The Overseer at Berry Head was Henry Gillett; he had started his career as a clerk in the Master General's office, and had been made Overseer in 1773. Before coming to Berry Head, he had previously worked on the fortifications of Maker, and so had experience in the construction of revetted redoubts. He was in charge throughout the construction of the defences, being paid 5s a day. [41] He received this order from Mercer: " will immediately upon the receipt of this letter, stop all further Progress in the Works at the Berry Head. You will understand by this that not One Man is to be retained upon that Service; as the Royal Military Artificers & Labourers will remain to Guard the Works & Materials, till further Orders." [42]

It was to be over two years before any significant new works were undertaken. 1797 only records, on February 22, "An Incidental Bill for Coppers at Torbay. £34.4.0" [43] In the summer of 1798 the gun-platforms of the sea-batteries required relaying, and the letters from the Board to Mercer are of great interest as showing that softwood was considered a suitable material for this purpose and that Fort No.1 was in fact cannibalised for the purpose.

"Having laid before the Board Your Letter of yr 30 Ultd transmitting Three Estimates for relaying the Platforms of the Sea Batteries at Torbay.

I am directed to acquaint you that the Board prefer that the Platforms of the Sea Batteries at Torbay should be relaid with Fir conformably to the Estimate you have transmitted Amounting to £448-18s-6d."

"I have submitted to the Board Your Letter of yr 7th Instant respecting the Platforms of the Sea Batteries at Torbay; and I am to acquaint You that they approve of Your Suggestion for removing the 18 unoccupied Platforms in the Redout No. 1 to make good those of the 12 Gun Battery at the Point of the Berry Head, and the five Gun Battery at Fishcombes Point, instead of relaying the Platforms of those Batteries as directed in my Letter of the 4 Instant." [44] On August 16 a request for £50 was made for this purpose. [45]

The barrack facilities which had been constructed were incomplete in many respects, and Mercer wrote to the Board on August 12 "representing the Necessity of erecting an Officers Guard Room in No. 3 at the Berry Head." This was approved in a reply of the 28th, "...but you will take care that the Sum Estimated for that Work be not exceeded." [46]

The inadequacies of the accommodation were about to be pointed out forcefully. Colonel Bastard's 1st Devonshire Militia recorded in its Order Book on 14 Oct 1798 : "The Colonels Major Laroche & Capt Williams Companies, will March on Tuesday morning next the 16th.,.to the Berry Head." [47] Their comments upon the living quarters were uniformly unfavourable, and Bastard wrote at once to the Board of Ordnance:


Part of the Regiment under my Command being destined to Winter at Berry head, I ordered the Major to visit the Barracks there and report to me his observations on them. He informs me there is no Mess room, or Kitchen, No store Room for the Regimental Stores, not even for Powder, no Hospital, No place for the coals which are flung loose about the Kitchens. I need not point out to you the necessity of these things, but I think is right to state the local Situation of the place renders it impossible in the Winter, to move a Sick Man without great danger to the Patient, which I am sure is all that need to be stated to you on that subject, I beg also to State to you that I will readily permit as many men as you may wish... to work on any buildings, that are to be erected, so that they may be finish'd before the Winter renders their work precarious, The Major further reports, that an Alteration is wanted in one of the Gutters, and is extremely unhealthy, & offensive, That one of the Tanks is spoiled, that the Tank doors are beginning to decay, & will soon be dangerous for if they give way on any Person crossing them would be drowned, That the Barracks want White washing, for which purpose we can supply you with the Men used to the business. & that there are no Racks for the Musketts which are at present hung on a Nail by the Guard of the Trigger, that the Barrack No.l leaks under the Windows, and that the Chimney No 3 Smoaks.

He also informs me that ColoL Grege, who now Commands in the Barracks told him, that he had not been able to procure any good Beer from Brixham, Since he had been there. I should suppose the Complaint might be remedied by procuring the Beer either from Totness or Dartmouth, tho' it would be attended with some increase of expence in the Carriage. If you will be so obliging to lett me know what your determination on these subjects is, and what men you would wish to employ on the Buildings, before the Regiment Marches from thence, which will probably be the latter end of this Week, I will take care that proper people, of the descriptions wanted shall be stationed at Berry Head.

I have the Honor to be

with great respect


Your Obedt Humble Servt

J.P.Bastard Lt.Col.

Plymouth Dock Barracks,

Octr 8th 1798.

To Gen.De Lancey." [48]

Some mitigation was in prospect ; on the 27th Mercer requested "the Sum of £100 for proceeding with the Erection of the Guard House within the Line No.3 on the Berry Head." [49]

The 1st Devon Militia maintained several detachments there during 1798 and 1799, during which period the Headquarters of the Regiment were established at Totnes. The scanty glimpses of life there given by the Regimental Order Books tend to show that no great improvements had taken place, as militiamen were usually sent there for disciplinary purposes.

31 Oct. 1798.

Geo.Chubb of the Lt.Col's Company, is ordered to the Berry Head, to be bill'd up and Drill'd there till further Orders for being Disgracefully Drunk in the Streets of Totness last Night between nine and ten o'clock he is moreover to mount two Extra Guards besides his regular rotation of Duty in that Garrison.

17 Dec.1798.

Lance Corpl. Pascoe is appointed Corporal in the Room of Corpl.Jnr Warren reduced by the Colonels Order for Gambling with the private Men in one of the Hutts at the Berry Head.

19 Jan. 1799.

The three companies at the Berry Head will be in readiness to parade with Arms on Monday Morning next at Eleven o'clock if the weather permits.

15 Feb. 1799.

The Colonels Major Laroches & Capt Bidgoods Companies will March to the Berry Head.

20 March 1799.

The Colonels and Major Laroches Companies will hold themselves in readiness to March from their present Quarters at the Berry Head to relieve the Lieut Colonels and Capt Fulfords Compy on Sunday next the 24th Instant.

12 May 1799.

Lt Colonel Bastard orders that Geo.Chubb of his own Company be sent as a prisoner to the Berry Head, and be Confind in the Black Hole 48 hours on Bread & Water, and also to be Bill'd up and Drill'd in the Garrison till further Orders, for being Drunk on the first parade he was Ordered to attend after his arrival at Totnes.

15 May 1799.

Liet.Col.Bastard orders that Jnr Dawson Drummer be sent as a Prisoner to the Berry Head to be Confin'd in the Black Hole for 48 Hours on Bread and Water, for being Disgracefully Drunk and seditious in a publick House in Totness on Wednesday the 15th....and that he be March'd back a prisoner to Totness when his Time of Confinement is Expird.

18 May 1799.

Captn.Brown and Captn Bulteels Companies to the Berry Head and remain until further orders.

5 June 1799.

[ ? ] Melhuish of the Lt.Colonels Company is ordered to be confined in the Guard Room at the Berry Head on suspicion of making away with his necessaries and for Mutinous & Riotous Behaviour in the Town of Totness on Tuesday Evening.

23 July 1799.

The two Companies to be under Arms with packs & necessaries in Order for Muster to morrow morning at 8 o'Clock afterwards they will march to the Berry Head.

24 July 1799.

Priv Frost is Ordered to be bill'd up and Drilld till further Orders at Berry Head and to have no Furlough when the[y] are usu[a]lly granted for having Absented himself from Work and leaving the Cantonments of the Regiment when he had only Working Leave.

Corporal Concanen is Ordered Six Extra Guards and to be Billd and Drilld at Berry Head till further Orders for having reported that he had visited Priv Frost at the place he had Leave to work at when he had left the Cantonments of the Regiment.

The Colonel hopes that a Similar Circumstance will not happen again as it would be the means of preventing the Indulgences he is enabled to give from the General good behaviour of the Regiment." [50]

Other regiments, as well as the Gunners, were of course based there as well. The historian of Tiverton, Martin Dunsford, visited the area around this time; his brief mention shows that some guns were in position on the sea batteries. "Here was a battery of twelve pieces of cannon, forty-two pounders, each gun sixty-five hundredweight, and two or three smaller batteries at several places, on the descent towards Brixham, with the guns pointed in different directions towards the Bay. Within the fortifications on the summit of the hill are five barracks for about five hundred men, the Berkshire Militia were in them at this time, and had a fine band of music." [51]

The Board of Ordnance had little enthusiasm for spending money on barrack accommodation, and with the departure of Napoleon for Egypt felt no pressing reason for completing the fortifications themselves. They therefore wrote to Mercer on March 18 1799:

"Of the Works proposed at the Berry Head Torbay it appears that building a Guard House at No. 3 Estimated at £727-1-2, has already been ordered; And the Lieut. General and Board approve of your executing the Artillery Store & Guard House together with the Expense Magazine proposed at N° 1 The Amount of these put together will be £573.0.0.

The Completion of the Field Works on Berry Head is for the present to be postponed, but the four small Furnaces for heating the Shot at the Sea Batteries are to be executed, and the Expence defrayed out of the Money remaining unexpended.

The Amount of the Estimates will therefore be as follows




No. 1 Estimate




No. 2 Do not alter'd




No.3 Do



2 ¼



11 ¼

The Mess House, Coal Yard, Beer Cellar, and other accommodations mentioned in the latter part of your Letter, as wanted by the Troop stationed on the Berry Head, should be supplied by the Barrack Department." [52]

On April 29 Mercer requested £200 to proceed with the works at No.1, and a further £40 on November 6. [53] No new works were undertaken during 1800, though on September 23 the Board wrote to Mercer that "Lieut Colonel Stephens Commandr the Royal Artillery at Plymouth having reported to the Board that all the Guns and Carriages at Berry Head, from Their being so much exposed requires Painting,

I am commanded by The Board to acquaint you therewith, and to request you will transmit an Estimate of the Expence that will attend the Painting of them." This was reckoned at £18.19.9, and the guns were "puttied and painted" accordingly. [54]

The gentry prepare for invasion

During the early stages of the construction of the fortifications many schemes of defence, supplementary to the militia, were being hatched by local magnates. The levies their plans proposed to raise would very likely have been called upon to serve in the redoubts of Berry Head, as part of the value of fortifications was considered to be as an efficient way of employing partly trained men. As a former Surveyor-general of the Ordnance put it "Veteran troops only could be opposed to veterans in the open field, and superior numbers of the enemy must probably succeed; but within forts, militia, seamen, almost any stout brave fellow might be as useful in the article of defence as the most experienced soldier." [55]

It was realised that the militia alone would be insufficient to provide the required force, and on April 17 1794 an Act was passed "for encouraging and disciplining such troops, or companies of men, as shall voluntarily enrol themselves for the defence of their counties, towns, or coasts, or for the general defence of the kingdom during the present war." This had four main provisions.

Volunteers duly recruited and officered were entitled to pay at the same rates as Regulars if and when they were called out to resist invasion or to suppress "riots and tumults"; in such cases they were to be subject to the same military discipline and laws as the Regulars and the Militia, but the Courts Martial were to be composed of Volunteer officers only.

NCO's and drummers were to be entitled to billetting if called out. Commissioned officers disabled in service were to be entitled to half-pay, and if killed their widows would receive a pension for life; NCO's and privates who were disabled were to be eligible for Chelsea Hospital.

Volunteers were to be exempt from the Militia ballot and service if they had for the previous six weeks punctually attended at all exercises.

With this encouragement, the following years saw many local organisations promoted in Devon. Some of the plans remained unfulfilled: one such was the following proposal for volunteer artillery sent on March 1st. 1797 by Sir John Coxe Hippisley to the Commander in Chief, the Duke of York:


At a crisis so serious as the present I believe there are but few of his Majesty's Subjects whose contemplation is not fixed on the same object. Even where the Spirit of genuine Patriotism is slow to be roused, the principle of self preservation at least will naturally be alive in all. In this persuasion Sir I take the liberty of submitting to Your Royal Highness the rude Sketch of a project which appears, in my humble judgment, to be capable of being moulded by Professional hands, into a form of immediate public utility.

The moment when we have fresh on the public mind the spirited and efficacious exertion of the Welch Peasantry [56] seems to be well salted to inculcate similar exertions directed to the easy formation of a solid defensive Cordon, of formidable annoyance, extending throughout all the Coast of Great Britain, which may be accessible to the smallest veasels of transport.

I will suppose, Sir, that each Parish (or Association of parishes when they are small) to the extent of thirty or forty miles within the coast were provided, by means of a voluntary subscription or by a County Rate, with two or more Field Pieces (or Howitzers), and for such service of emergency even Ship Guns mounted on Field Carriages hastily provided from the nearest Royall Yards, Arsenalls, or Sea Port Towns might sufficiently answer the purpose, accompanied with Stout Carts fitted as extempore Tumbrils with appropriate Ammunition &c. All which to be deposited in the Parish Church,.. Training to take place, perhaps under the direction of a Chelsea Pensioner, after Church Service. The Parish Officers authorised to allow on such occasions a moderate quantity of Beer to drink the Health of his Majesty &c.

Some Horses might be attached to this Rustic Artillery in aid of the Peasantry, though I need not suggest to your Royal Highness that their habits of life, accustomed to the Plough and the Spade and to draw and lift considerable weights, are much better suited to exertions of this description, than as Horsemen.

Pioneer's tools might also be kept, the labourers would require no training in their use ... The Principle seems to offer a much more efficacious and formidable defence than can be expected from the desultory exertions of our Provisional Cavalry on the present System.

The Strength and Activity of the Peasantry may be thus called forth in the mode most congenial with their habits of labour, and by establishing Signals from Parish to Parish, a powerful accumulated Battery might be brought to bear on an adventurous Enemy, at the confused moment of disembarkation, before they could possibly form on any part of our coast, to our serious annoyance.

Volunteer Associations of Gentlemen and the superior Yeomanry might officer these Patriot Bands, and at certain Stations on the Coast some Invalid Artillery Officers. Mattrosses or Chelsea Pensioners might be advantageously stationed, connecting this Cordon ...

I might add Sir that in Great Britain a great number of Gentlemen on the Coast (indeed there is scarcely a River or a Harbour where they are not to be found) - keep Pleasure Vessels generally well equipped and fast Sailers, which by a little spirited regulation and concert might on an

emergency, convey intelligence from Post to Post with great obvious advantage." [57]

These plans were not all mere paper theories suggested to the authorities : some local gentry brought local defence organisations into being, though the enthusiasm for the project was often restricted to the organisers, as the example of the retired Admiral Ourry at Ugborough shows : in March 1797 he printed and circulated 200 copies of the following leaflet to the principal citizens of the area -

"It was proposed to the Parish of Ugborough, the 19th of last March, to come to the following Agreement ; the Utility of which being fully explain'd, and perfectly well understood, to the Satisfaction of a full Meeting of the principal Inhabitants of the said Parish, by GEORGE OURRY, Esq, the said Agreement was unanimously sign'd, with Readiness and Loyalty, the 21st of the said Month ; since which, a Number of other neighbouring Parishes have entered into the same Agreement, as it gives Regularity to the Parishes, Security to Property, Strength to the Army, no Expence or Demands on Government, and will give great Force to the Country, if it be made general, of which there can be no Doubt, as it is much approv'd of by the Lord Lieutenant of the County, the Duke of Portland, Bishop of Exeter, Commanding Officer of his Majesty's Forces, Clergy, and Gentlemen at large in this Part of the County, as well as all the Farmers of those Parishes, who have join'd Hand in Hand, and pledg'd their Faith to each other, in the true Prosecution of the under Agreement ; the said Parishes are induced, for those Reasons above given, to recommend it to their Country, as no Man, that is a true Friend to himself, his Neighbour, and Old England, can object to so laudable and loyal a Scheme, as it will make us appear prepar'd to receive the enemy like true Britons.

The Articles of Agreement are

The principal Inhabitants and Farmers shall voluntarily divide themselves into Companies of eight or ten Men in each, and a respectable Inhabitant or Farmer to be their Chief or Captain.

When class'd into Companies, at the North, East, South, and West, as it may be most convenient to them, taking their Labourers as part of their Company; they will then be told where they are to assemble when the Alarm is given, and will be wanted to defend, what is most dear to them, from the Enemies of our gracious KING, and GLORIOUS CONSTITUTION.

They shall not be obliged to go out of their Parish on any Pretence whatever, but by their own free will and Inclination, but to do within the said Parish all such Work or Labour as shall be requir'd of them, by the Commanding Officer of his Majesty's Forces, then and near the said Parish, in case of an Invasion.

The Work requir'd of them will be to cut down Trees, break up Roads, make Breast-Works, in short, all such Works the Labourer is capable of, within the said Parish, for which he shall be paid, and agreed to be so, by the Parishioners.

As it will be very proper if the Enemy should land, to remove from the Sea-shore all live and dead Stock of every Kind, that it may not be made Use of by the Enemy, the Parish next to the Sea shall drive that Stock to the next Parish, and so on to the next, until it shall be out of the Power of the Enemy, and it may be saved for the proper Owners.

It shall be the Duty of said Parishioners to aid, assist, and succour all Convoys of Stores, Provisions, &c. going to, or from the Army, from their Parish to the next.

All the above being agreed to, and Time fix'd for its Duration to hold good, (which is six Months, or during the War) all the said Parishioners so agreed, Join Hand in Hand, pledging our Faith to each other, to assist each other in the true Prosecution of this our Agreement.

GOD Save the KING."

The Devon Record Office copy has an addendum in the Admiral's hand: "It is Requested that those Parishes which come in to the said Association shall Display a Union Flag on Top of the Church every Sunday, & in Case of Invasion to display it every Day, by which means the Army will know where to Expect the Assistance Proposed."

Unfortunately for the Admiral, the enthusiasm of his parishioners for this project was short-lived. On April 2nd 1798 he wrote to the Lord Lieutenant:

"My Lord ;

Inclosed is the agreement the Parish of Ugborough enterd into the 21st of March 1797, which was to continue for Six Months, to be renew'd if necessary ; at the expiration of that time I requested to renew it for the Duration of the War, which was refused by a great majority...[they said they would support] Government with their Lives & Fortunes, &... use every effort in their power to repel & annoy the Enemy, should an Invasion happen: but were determined not to enter into any written Engagement, which they were doubtful they could not fulfil. In consequence of their refusal, I desired the Union Flag might not appear any more on the Church, as the Army must not be deceived by false Colours..." [58]

More seriously, enthusiasm for the conflict was no greater within the armed forces. The mutinies of the Fleet at Spithead and the Nore are well known: but these were merely the overt part of a general disaffection. Lt.Col.J.P.Bastard of the 1st Devonshire Militia wrote on July 16 1797 to the Lord Lieutenant stating that morale in the Fleet had risen (he was wrong: severe disturbances were shortly to take place in the Hamoaze) but "I wish I could give you as good an account of the Marines, whose officers are certainly attentive and determined; ...but the Truth is, there are about Two hundred of them, who it is not thought prudent to trust with their Arms." [59]

Nor was the threat an illusory one. The Directory had decided on the expedition, and appointed Napoleon the Commander of the Army of England; the official order to that effect was issued on October 26 1797. Some fifty-six thousand men had been massed on the coast of France, though they were also needed for maintaining order there.

In these circumstances the role played in Home Defence by the Militia was an important one: the few records illustrative of service life at Berry Head come from the records of the 1st Devon Militia. Their commander, Colonel Bastard, was a forceful and capable man: interestingly, he had little belief in the value of fortifications, having spoken violently in the House of Commons in 1785 against Pitt's proposal to fortify Plymouth Dockyard. He was to suppress serious rioting at Plymouth in 1801. [60]

Not surprisingly, he also had a scheme for defence against invasion; the correspondence dealing with this has survived. Bastard made his original proposals in a letter to the Commander of the Western District, Lord George Lennox :

"My Lord

In the present New, & extraordinary Crisis, I trust I shall not be impertinent in asking your Lordship, If I from local circumstances, & connections, can render any assistance to your Lordship in the Defence of Plymouth, & Its Environs. If your Lordship considers the Military which can be spared, in the General Distribution of the National Force, for this District sufficient for that purpose, I have only to apologize for giving you this trouble. But If on the contrary you wish it, to be strengthened by the Exertions, & Cooperation of the country, I beg to offer my services, in any way your Lordship thinks they can be employed with Effect. Which is all I should presume to state, if it were not for the Local Circumstances, in which I happen to be placed, and in which the 1st Devon Militia is likely from your application to remain. I am led to the following Statement, from a conviction That the unheard of Exertions of the Enemy are only to be counteracted by exertions of a similar nature.

I therefore would propose to your Lordship, to establish Depots of Arms for several Thousand Men, ready to be delivered to such as would engage to take them, under the direction of the Neighbouring Gentry, Clergy, & Yeomanry properly authorized. Which should put Government to no other expence than the Arms, until the Men were actually called on, to use them to repel Invasion: to appoint to every one his station, & employment, whether that of harassing the Enemy, guarding Prisoners, driving Cattle &ca., breaking up Roads, or any other purpose Your Lordship might point out.

In short If I may be allowed the expression, to organize the whole Mass of the Coast from the Dart to the Plym; commonly called the South Hams; and to hold it in readiness to obey any orders your Lordship may issue, between the former place and the Thames. If your Lordship wishes such a Plan to take place, I shall be ready [ to ] give my assistance to a [ sic ] in any way I can, to anyone whom Geoverment [ sic ] chuses to authorize to carry it into effect. If it is thought necessary I should undertake any part of it myself, I am equally ready to do it, provided no possible Reward or Emolument of any sort, could possibly accrue to Myself.

If I am called on to execute any part, I should propose to your Lordship to permit the Regiment I command, or any part of it you could Spare to give that assistance, & Support to the Whole, which might be necessary to inspire confidence in the People, to direct their Movements with some kind of Regularity, as well as provide for their Wants &ca in a Military View. And also that we should have allotted to us the Three Troops of Provisional Cavalry which belong to this Neighbourhood. The Gentlemen who are destined to Command Them are desirous of it, and the Advantages of having them with us, arising from their Characters, & Connections with the People, and with Myself, as well as their perfect knowledge of the country would be Incalculable.

To enter into Minute Details of such a Plan would only be wasting your Lordship's Time. For as serving the Country is the only Object I have in view;They might be regulated in any way your Lordship approves, as the only Condition, I have to offer is that every one, Myself excepted, should if called out be provided for according to their Stations, during the Time they were in Actual Service in the Field, or should be wounded; in the same manner, as his Majesty's Forces are. And that the Families of the Privates should be subsisted while the Men are in Actual Service.

Kitley January 30th 1798" [61]

Bastard also sent a copy of this letter to Lord Fortescue, who forwarded it to Henry Dundas (secretary of war, 1794-1801.)

Dundas replied to the Lord Lieutenant :

" Parliament Street

10 March 1798

My Lord.

I have received the honor of your Lordship's Letter of the 7th instant inclosing a Copy of one from Lieut:Col.Bastard to Lord George Lennox - It appears to me that the ideas suggested in Col. Bastard's Letter are entitled to serious attention. Viewing then in that light, I cannot help Expressing to your Lordship my earnest wish, that as soon as it may suit your Lordship's convenience, the proper steps may be taken for bringing them under the consideration of the Deputy Lieutenants and Magistrates of the County of Devon, when I shall be glad to receive from Your Lordship a detailed Report of the Suggestions that may occur to them on Col .Bastard's Proposal, and their Opinion with respect to the most effectual mode of carrying it into execution, either in its present Shape, or with such amendments and alterations as it may appear to them to require." [62]

Fortescue apparently considered the plan to be too vague to be discussed in its present shape, and Dundas' reply showed that the administration had eventually got round to formulating a general plan, not intending to depend upon ad hoc arrangements.

"ParIt. Street

16 March

My Lord,

I have had the honour of receiving your Lordship's letter of the 13th instant, stating the reasons why it appears to you to be inexpedient to convene the Magistrates and Deputy Lieutenants of the County of Devon without being enabled to lay before them some more distinct and specific Plan than is contained in Mr .Bastard's letter....I shall have soon to signify to your Lordship His Majesty's commands respecting a plan proposed to be executed in the Maritime Counties for the defence of the Kingdom against Invasion." [63]

This appeared in the form of a lengthy government circular dated April 6 1798. This dealt with recruitment, organisation, pay, and training : the preparation of lists of those willing to serve as pioneers for road breaking, etc. Local associations such as that advocated by Admiral Ourry were to be encouraged, and routes for the evacuation of live and dead stock, women and children were to be planned so as not to conflict with military movements. Depots for the evacuees and the stock were to be arranged, together with arrangements for supplying the army. [64]

Bastard was not pleased with the rejection of his plan, and clearly felt little confidence in the official arrangements. On April 12 he wrote to a friend in Dundas' office: the letter shows that all was not well in Devonshire.

"Dear Hanley

I inclose you as you desire a copy of my letter to Lord George Lennox, who as well as General Simcoe pressed the Adoption of it in the Strongest Manner, as the best mode of giving security to Plymouth. Lord George also desired an early Determination on it, as He had prevailed on me to Plymouth for the purpose of carrying it into immediate Execution. After waiting Six weeks, without any notice being taken of it, I came to Town and about the last week in March was informed by Lord Fortescue in Bond St. that Mr.Dundass, had the Day before, notified to Him that as a General Plan was in agitation, no particular Plans of Defence would be considered. You will observe at the Time I wrote that Letter, not only the Gentlemen & Yeomanry had been applied to by me, but also the Corporation of Dartmouth and smaller Towns, who all then determined to carry it into effect. Of course I was obliged to communicate to Them Mr Dundass answer. What the views of that neighbourhood are now, I cannot answer for. I know in Parts of Devonshire some disagreeable things have happened and I am sure that the Manner in which things have been conducted as to Defence &ca have by no means added to the security of the country. I am perfectly ready to explain myself, if your Friend wishes it. For I cannot help feeling it, of serious consequence. And I cannot abstain from giving my opinion now on the merit of arming &ca proposed to be adopted viz : That you may perhap, but of that even I am not sure, have a Magnificent return on Paper but one that cannot be effective in Service. I say this from the Experience I had personally in carrying into Effect something Similar to the Plan now Proposed, last War. When we actually were called into Active Service, and Marched forty Miles from our own Homes with the French Prisoners. I mention this circumstance only to show you I do not speak at Random on the Subject.

Yours &ca


April 12th 1798" [65]

Arrangements for defence now went ahead and an official circular of May 9 1798 reported that 3779 muskets were available for the volunteer corps in Devon. [66]

Napoleon sailed for Egypt on May 19, but the immediate threat was not considered to have abated for some months.

In July Lt.General Simcoe, commanding at Exeter, sent in a return of the volunteers: "Persons who have voluntarily returned themselves as willing to serve in the Classes as specified....for such Military Purposes as may be necessary in case of an Actual Invasion of Britain, or of an Insurrection therein -."

The totals were 934 Cavalry, 17666 Infantry, 7977 Pioneers. The areas showing the largest returns were








West Budleigh












East Budleigh





During 1799 the Lord Lieutenant circulated fresh instructions for the action to be taken in the event of invasion. The countryside, within fifteen miles of the coast, was to be "driven" so as to leave nothing for the enemy.

This was well organised. Two men from each parish were to be appointed as guides for leading the animals, etc. by non-strategic roads: each was to have a good horse, a light fowling-piece with ammunition, a hatchet or billhook and a sharp-pointed knife, and a blanket. The guides were to be officered and paid as Yeomanry and were to assemble at the local army headquarters. Pioneers, who were to repair communications for the army or destroy them before the enemy, were not to be armed, but organised in bodies of at least 25, and were to be equipped with six pickaxes, nine spades or shovels, four billhooks and six felling axes for every 25 men. They were to remain in their parishes for local service, unless sent elsewhere to erect fortifications, and were to be paid for at local labour rates, with the leader of a gang of 25 receiving 3 shillings per day, and a captain of 50 5 shillings.

Printed forms were to be issued to parish authorities for giving and recording the following information : Owners of waggons for removing the sick and infirm were to provide two days provisions for the horses and the driver, shoes and nails for the horses, tools to breach hedges if necessary. To be filled in were the names of the driver, the passengers, the pick-up point, and the name of the Conductor. ( Conductors had the charge of up to ten wagons, and were to move them by the designated routes.) Conductors of stock were to take provisions, a blanket, and hedge-breaking tools, and were to take the route given by the Superintendent of the parish. Owners of stock were to fill in the name of the driver, the place to join the Conductor, and the name of the Conductor, Persons in charge of dead stock were to remain in the parish and await orders, but in an emergency if the enemy approached they were to destroy corn, hay, cattle, horses and vehicles which had not been moved j the owners were to be compensated if co-operative. [68]

The fortifications completed

Napoleon massed another invasion army in the summer of 1801. This was to be a more seriously prepared attempt: in March he wrote to the Minister of Marine for information about the length of time it would take to assemble a hundred gunboats at Boulogne, and further information about the craft available. On March 13 he instituted the organisation of these boats into a flotilla whose crews were always to be on board and ready. Mercer responded by putting forward suggestions for further work on the defences. The Secretary of the Board replied on May 14th "I have received and submitted to the Lieut General and Board Your Letter of the 10th Instant, reporting Your Opinion upon the Defences of the Berry Head and of what is wanting, particularly to the Line embracing the Berry Head, and the Redoubt No.1 for Security and better Defence: and I am directed to desire you will proceed to carry into Effect the several Services which you represent to be necessary for completing the Works described in your Letter into a state of Defence taking care not to exceed your Estimate of the Expence of such Services which you state to be £580." [69]

Lt.General John Simcoe had been appointed to command the Western District on January 9 1801. He wrote to the Commander in Chief (the Duke of York) on July 28 urging the completion of the defences:

"I am so forcibly impressed with the propriety and necessity of establishing the Fortresses of Pendennis and Berry Head without delay that, I trust Your Royal Highness will permit me to state to You the reasons that lead to this opinion....Berry-Head has much of the quality of Pendennis ; as in some measure protecting the great commercial and Naval Anchorage of Torbay, and secondary to Plymouth (the great Arsenal of the West of England) may be made the Arsenal of Devonshire - The present and future situation of this Country, in my most humble opinion, calls for the proper completion of the Fortress of Berry-Head, and the occupation of Pendennis in the most judicious manner." [70]

The Duke of York concurred with Simcoe on this matter, as is shown by the preservation of a letter written from the Horse Guards on August 13 by the military secretary, Col. Brownrigg to Lt.Col.Hadden, secretary to the Master General of the Ordnance, telling him on the Commander in Chief's orders to lay Simcoe's proposals, which were now set out in book form, before the Master General.[71] This document does not appear to have survived, but a letter of October 7 from Simcoe to Lt.General Morse, the acting Chief Engineer (who the next year was to be appointed the first Inspector-General of Fortifications) shows that it included plans for rendering the fort useless to the enemy should it have to be abandoned : "In regard to Berry Head in the copy of your letter which I have received, the Word Flank is mistaken for Tank. It was the Tank, should the place be dismantled, that would be necessarily destroyed, as the distance from Water would preclude any Enemy from maintaining themselves in the works of Bury [ sic ] Head, unless by means of the Tank or Cistern." [72]

Men of the 1st Devonshire Militia returned to Berry Head the next month, an order of November 21 1801 from the Plymouth Dock Barracks reading : "A Detachment Consisting of Capt 1 Sub 2 S 4 D 2 R & File 100 from the E Devon Militia will be in readiness to March to Berry Head on Tuesday Morning next agreeable to a Route that will be given them. This Detachmt will furnish a Guard to the Naval Hospital at Penton Consisting of Sub 1 S 2 D 1 & R & File 40." They marched on the 24th,, but their period of duty at the Naval Hospital was extremely brief : an order of the 26th. reads "The Guard at the Naval Hospital at Painton to be relieved by a Detachmt. of Marines from H.M.Fleet.

M.Genl England [the Commander of the Plymouth Garrison] will be pleased to make any Alterations in the Numbers detached from Plymo Garrison to Berry Head as He shall think Proper.

The Garrison at Berry Head & the Dragoons at Modbury & Totness are to Report unto M.Genl.England untill further orders." [73]

The Board decided in the spring of 1802 to finish the forts, with some minor omissions. Mercer received a letter dated March 5 asking him to prepare a set of estimates.

"....There are....two Articles....which, if not yet completed, The Master General and Board desire may be postponed. One at the Berry Head, Torbay amounting to £580... .These Works consisting principally of Palisading and Fraizing, which are very expensive having been ordered under the Impression of guarding against an Assault, may, in the Opinion of the Master General and Board, now be dispensed with : and as His Lordship and the Board considered the present to be a very proper Time to complete the Works at Torbay upon a permanent Construction, I am directed to desire you will prepare and transmit an Estimate of the Expense of finishing these Works according to the original Project, unless you have any Alterations to recommend.

I am further to acquaint you that the Master General and Board agree with you in Opinion upon the Necessity of taking up and putting under Cover the Palisades lately planted at the Berry Head, as well the Wooden Palisades in general, which They desire may be done as soon as the Guns and Carriages are withdrawn and upon all the permanent Works hereafter His Lordship and the Board are of Opinion Stone Platforms should be layed." [74] At the time negotiations were taking place which led to the Peace of Amiens on March 25; this would provide the opportunity for the withdrawal of the guns. Mercer then costed out the work, in a memorandum "Estimate of the Expence to complete the Works at the Berry Head, Torbay, agreeable to the original Project of his Grace the Duke of Richmond." This, taken in conjunction with the documents reproduced above, shows how far the construction had advanced by the date of writing, April 3 1802.

"To Complete the Demi Bastion No.l. on the Berry Head.

4M Rod Cube of Rubble Work in Mortar to complete Counterscarp Wall

at 90.0 p Rod

21  7  6

965 feet Supr of Rough Knobling on face of Do

at 0.3 p ft

12  1  3

35 ½ Rods Cube of Rubble Work in Garde Foux

at 90.0 p Rod

159 15  0

7403 feet supr of Rough on face of Do.

at 0.3 p.ft.

92 10  9

3800 yards Cube of Rock & Rubbish to be excavated, removed & formed to complete the Glacis 1000 yards Do of Do to complete Terreplein Banquetts and Ramps

at 2.0 pr yd.

480  0  0

765 14  6

Add £10 per cent for Contingencies

76 11  5

842  5 11

To Complete the Line no .3.

36 ¼ Rods cube of Rubble Work in Mortar to complete Counterscarp Wall

at 90.0 pr Rod

163  2  6

5733 feet superficial of rough Knobling on face of Do

at 0.3 pr foot

71 13  3

109 ½ Rods Cube of Rubble Work in Mortar to complete the Garde Foux or Line of Musquetry with Redans

at 90.0 pr.Rod

492 15  0

16957 feet superficial of rough

Knobling on face of Do

at 0.3 pr ft

211 19-3

4000 yards Cube of Earth and rubbish to be Excavated and removed for forming the Parade

at 1.0 pr yd.

200  0  0

2298 Yards Do of Excavation for walls of Garde Foux forming Banquetts and for Levelling and Dressing the whole of the Interior

at 2. 0 Do

229 16  0

15146 2/3 Yards Cube of loose Rock and Rubbish to be Excavated filled in and Leveled in Glacis

at 1.6 Do

1136  0  0

To Scarpe and give more security

to the Flanks

100  0  0

Add £10 per cent for Contingencies

260 10  7

2865 16  7


£3708 - 2 - 6

Original Estimates for the Demi Bastion no.2, which has not been proceeded with [breakdown of figures given here]

£10721 14 7¾

[This was for the defences alone. The cost of the buildings would have been]

One Barrack as at No.1

339 - 2  11

One Kitchen

133  13   6½

One Expense Magazine

384  14   3½

One Reservoir

174   1  7½


77 - 3   8 ½

Guard House

189 - 9 - 0


£2019 19  8 ¼

On a Supposition that the whole Flank of this Demi Bastion was to be Casenated, agreeable to His Grace the late Master General's Plan and Section, the Expence would be increased ( as pr Estimate transmitted to him on 19th Novenber 1794 ) by the sum of

5450  0  8

As also by a very considerable difference between the Price of Brick Work at the Time this Estimate was made, and the Price at present….

1092  0  0

Estimate of No.4 Line, not begun [ the breakdown given shows this would have been largely earthworks ]

318  4  2


£22583  7  0¾

Estimate of the Expence to erect a Couvre Port at the Line no 3. [breakdown of figures given here ]

£1374 19  4


War was declared again in May 1803, and the most serious invasion threat of all now followed. The boats which had been earmarked for the attempts of 1798 and 1801 were now mostly in a very bad state, and a new armada of purpose-built ships was constructed. This time some 150,000 troops were concentrated, and the expeditionary headquarters was established at Boulogne.

This renewed crisis produced a spate of legislation to strengthen the national defences. Fox described the Army of Reserve Bill as "the first measure which I could, consistently with my own opinion, come down to support, being a measure for the defence of the country." He did not look to "the regular army, but the mass of the country; acting, not in single regiments, but the great mass of armed citizens, fighting for the preservation of their country and their families…"

Under the provisions of the Levy en masse Act a census was made of all men between the ages of 17 and 55 with the exception of the infirm, ministers of religion, doctors, Quakers and those already serving, who were divided into four classes: between 17 and 30, unmarried, or with no child under ten; between 30 and 50, unmarried, or with no child under ten; between 17 and 30, with not more than two children under ten; and all others.

The first three classes could be compelled to undergo military training if sufficient volunteers were not forthcoming. Those giving false returns were to be fined £25, and those attempting to bribe the census taker £50. Parishes were directed to provide weapons at their own expense, and the men were to be drilled at least for two hours a week, and more if necessary.

Patriotic enthusiasm, however, had its limits, and in Devonshire Lord Rolle was severely tried at this time. In the words of the brief later drawn up for him, "On [Woodbury] Common his Lordship has many plantations and it is skirted by his Woods and Coppices, and is in the immediate neighbourhood of his family seat at Bicton...This common had been the Object of Notice to his Lordship's Family for many Generations, & his present Lordship was extremely attached to it and had intended by building cottages &c to render it an Object of Rural Beauty and Improvement but Lieut.General Simcoe from some motives of ill will known only to himself we believe in the Year 1803 fixed on this very Spot for the purposes of an Encampmemt."

Rolle had been prepared for some land of his to be used, assuming that his own regiment would then be encamped there; but his South Devon Militia were marched to Cornwall in August and the very next day the camp was set up, to the great annoyance of his family and the loss of considerable quantities of game. The matter did not end there. The next year Simcoe proposed to camp there again, but was compelled by the Lord Lieutenant and others to place on the alternative, and in Lord Rolle's view far superior, site of Aylesbeare Hill. In 1805 Simcoe again intended to camp on Woodbury, though offered Aylesbeare again by Rolle, and was notified that he would be prosecuted for trespass if he did so. The camp was duly established, and Rolle took legal advice. [76] In the meanwhile some changes had been proposed to the gun emplacements at Berry Head. On October 8 1803 a letter was sent from Berry Head by the Colonel of the Royal Miners (the popular name of the Cornwall & Devon Miners Artillery Militia) to a Captain Elphinstone, who was the commanding Engineer at Plymouth in Mercer's absence :

"Corporal Jone, R.A. has informed me that two 24 pndr Carriages are unserviceable, & desires me to report it to you, I beg leave to mention at the same time that some covers are wanting for the Bellows at different Batteries

When Col. Seward was here, he fixed on a Point where he wished to have a Gun on a Travelling Platform, & thought that many Guns might be brought from the outward Batteries if the remainder were mounted in that manner. Mr.Gillett has not the Model, & also wishes for your order, I should think myself Obliged if you would mention the Business to Col S. & give the Directions accordingly." [77]

On November 21 and 29 there are references to quantities of timber being shipped from Plymouth [78] and the defences were largely complete by the summer of 1804, when Mercer sent the following memorandum, dated July 3, "General State of the Works in the Western District" to the Board of Ordnance.

"Torbay - The Sea Batteries are well armed, & in a good State.

No.3, or Line, of the Berry Head, has a good, and entirely Revetted Escarp, with a strong Palisade in Front - It is well Armed, and Capable, with a proper Garrison, of resisting any Assault, and of forcing the Enemy to Break Ground, and to bring up Heavy Guns and Mortars - The Flanks, of this Line, have been lately secured by Scarping, and we are proceeding with the Garde Foux and Line of Musquetry upon both Flanks. No.1 Redout has a good Ditch and Escarp, and is in a State to be defended, provided a Garrison is given of about 200 men." [79]

The barrack accommodation was also being expanded. One John Scoble was paid £3150 for this work in 1804. [80]

The crisis continued. In August, on his birthday, Napoleon reviewed eighty thousand troops of the Army of England at Boulogne in a spectacular ceremony. By September the invasion flotilla stood at 1099 vessels.

Units of the 1st Devonshire Militia were ordered to Berry Head from Plymouth Dock again on September 24: "A Detachment from the 1st Devon Militia consisting of Captn 1 Subt 2 Sgts 3 Cpls 3 Dms 2 Privates 50 will March on Wednesday Morning next the 26th instant to Berry Head, to do Duty there until further notice. -

The Captain Commanding the Detachment will report his arrival at Berry Head to Lieut Colonel Lorack A.A.G. at Exeter, for the information of Lieut General Simcoe whose orders he is to recieve.

The Lieut General states that he is in hopes in a short time to Garrison that fortress with a Detachment of the Volunteer Force.

A Route will be this day sent by Major of Brigade Nixon to the Officer Commanding the 1st Devon Militia, for the March of this Detachment...

Capt Pitman, Lt.Watson, & Ens.Willett, are the Officers for the Detachmt to the Berry Head..." [81]

The danger of imminent invasion was fully realised. On September 29 General Simcoe wrote to Mercer: "I shall hope to see you in a few days,.,.and to talk very seriously on the State of Plymouth - I was in hopes some efficient Plan of Fortification would have been adopted - The Second Act of Bonopartes preparation will soon Commence, and Spain and Cherburg will present a more formidable Aspect than the Trash collected at Boulogne." [82]

On December 31 the Board sent some observations on the state of the batteries to General Morse, noting that at Berry Head "The Brigade of Field Artillery is exposed to the weather for want of sheds" - Morse was asked to write to Mercer for a report on the best means of providing them. [83] This simple task took some time to perform; on August 9 1805 he was asked to "...cause the Five 24 Pounder Gun Carriages at the Berry Head requiring repair to be repaired by...Artificers" [84] and it was not until October 11 that the Board wrote to Morse that they approved of Mercer's plans and wished him to proceed to erect Field Train sheds at Berry Head, Plymouth and Pendennis. [85]

Mercer wrote to the Inspector-General of Fortifications on October 13 1805 : "By the Mail Coach of this day, You will receive a small Box containing Plans, & Estimates, of the Sheds, proposed to cover the Field Train, Waggons, &c; at this Place [ Plymouth ], at the Berry Head, & Pendennis Castle....

In the Plans, proposed for the Berry Head, & Pendennis Castle, I have considered the very exposed Situation of both Places - But, as nothing is yet Ordered to be done, at those Points, the Plans are open to such Remarks, and Alterations, as you may think proper to make." [86] Morse replied on the 15th : "I have no doubt the Plans proposed are well calculated for the purpose and I have to desire you will Cause the same to be proceeded upon.." [87]

By this time, as a consequence of the failure of the French navy to execute Napoleon's designs to secure the Channel for the safe passage of his invasion fleet ( which now comprised 2343 boats ) the Emperor had marched the Army of England (now the Grand Army) to Austria for his brilliantly successful campaign there. On October 21 Trafalgar removed the threat of invasion, and the tension began to ease.

In June 1806 some of the gun platforms-were in need of repair: [88] work was still taking place there the year after as a document of May 20 1807 allows 10% extra for materials and labour there. [89]

The outstanding deficiency at Berry Head after these ancillary sheds had been provided was the lack of a Hospital building. The Board wrote to Morse about this on April 18 1808. [90] He asked Mercer to locate a suitable spot. The available space within the forts had now been filled, and Mercer notified the Board of Ordnance on April 23 1808 that he had selected a site outside the fortifications:


I acknowledge the receipt of Your letter of the 3rd inst, with its enclosures, and have to state, for the information of General Morse, that a Situation, for a Hospital, cannot be given within either of the Works at the Berry Head, as the Defences are already Choked by Barracks, & Buildings, of every description - I however transmit a rough Sketch of a part of the Ordnance Lands, in Advance of the Berry Head, upon which I have Marked a Situation for the proposed Hospital - And this Spot may be given up to the Barrack Department, for that purpose, without Injury to the Service - The Situation is, in all respects, Eligible, as it is in a Valley between the 4 and 3 Gun Batteries, and from 50 to 100 feet under all the Lines of Fire -And another advantage is, that any Aspect may be given to the Front of the Building." [91]

The wooden bases for the 3 and 4 gun batteries were finally replaced by stone ones in 1809. This involved some friction between Mercer and the contractor: on February 15 Mercer wrote to the Secretary of the Board -


Having in my last year's Estimates found it necessary to provide new Moorstone Platforms for the 3 & 4 Gun Batteries at Berry Head Torbay, & a continued Platform for the Battery at Furzham, in lieu of the old wood one, which was totally decayed; an order in consequence was given by me on 17th May last, to Mr Isbell, late Master Mason, in this Division, for providing & laying them. His reasons for so doing, are stated in his Letter, which accompanies this, & upon which I am not aware of the mode that the Board would wish me to procure, I so request their Directions.

And here I beg leave to state, that as the Estimate originally framed for this Service, was Monied at Mr Isbell's Price for Gun Platforms laid, which is certainly very inadequate for the Purpose, it will be impossible for them to be laid by the Office without incurring a considerable Expense above the Estimate ; probably not Less than 4d p foot superficial. However as the Batteries in question are at present in a useless state, it becomes necessary for them to be laid by one or the other."

Mercer enclosed Isbell's letter of February 10:


Being informed that it is expected that I would proceed to lay the moorstone Gun Platforms, which I have delivered on the Batteries on the Berry Head & Furzham, I humbly beg leave to observe that on receiving orders to provide the same, I used every possible Dispatch, but owing to the scarcity of vessels, &c - &c a Delay unavoidably arose but which it was out of my power to prevent...My contract was put an end to by the Rt Honble Board on the 30th Septr last past, & I trust that it will not be expected that I shall lay the Platforms at Berry Head & Furzham, which would cause a very serious Loss to fall on me, in addition to what I have already sustained by delivering Stone on the Spot, the distance from the Water Side to which is great, & the road leading thereto being very bad; and as in my late contract with the Rt Honble Board there are two Prices, one for "Platforms Laid" and another "not laid" I humbly hope that there will be no objection to my availing myself of the former Price, and declining the latte." [92] The Board replied on the 17th that Isbell should be compelled to lay the platforms at contract price, and a copy of this was forwarded to Isbell. Ho answer had been received from him by March 10. [93] It is not known how the affair ended.

On March 7 the Clerk of the Works at the Plymouth office wrote to Gillett that a complaint had been made about the condition of the magazine. It was alleged "that the Magazine at Berry Head is in a very damp State, & that if some remedy is not speedily adopted, the Powder will be all will, so soon as possible, particularly Examine into the State of the Magazine in Question....But as the General is not aware that it can possibly be in the state represented; He desires you will particularly inquire whether the Person in Charge of the Powder has taken the precaution of frequently rolling the Barrels, which, it is apprehended, will be of essential Benefit to the Powder." [94]

At this time the Board conceived the idea of planting walnut trees on suitable areas of Ordnance land, the Plymouth office receiving this directive on February 9. "I have it in Command to desire you will immediately report to the Board whether there is any & what quantity of Land belonging to the Ordnance at Plymouth, upon which Walnut Trees could be planted..." They also asked for information about local nurseries and prices. [95] A reply was sent on the 21st : "...The whole of the ordnance land on Berry Head Torbay, is an Entire Rock of Limestone, occupied by No.3, the Lime embracing the Berry Head; no. 1...Redout upon the Left Flank, & the Glacis of both - This therefore, if the soil was proper for Planting Trees, of any Description, cannot be recommended - But in advance there is a small valley, occupied by some broken Fields, and here, we are of opinion, that Walnut Plants might Thrive as Plants only, but that, from not having a sufficient Depth of Soil, with a substratum of Lime Stones, they would not Grow to Timber of Scantling - Should The Board however think it advisable, this spot will contain about 260 Plants without obstructing Defence." [96] Walnuts were certainly planted at Pendennis in response to this request, whatever the outcome may have been at Berry Head.

Nothing had been decided hastily about the hospital, and after an exchange of correspondence the Board sent a letter to Mercer on March 10 1809 asking for a report on the best situation. Alternative views had been expressed, and Mercer replied on the 19th " reasons for Chusing that Situation were; because, being about 100 feet below all the Lines of Fire, it Obstructed no defence.." [and was also sheltered from the weather. Brig .General Browne had chosen another spot, which was in the line of fire of Redoubt No.1] [97]

On September 30 Morse wrote to Mercer asking, in response to a Commission of Enquiry, what buildings had been erected in the Plymouth Division since January 1, 1805. Mercer's reply of October 10, when referring to Berry Head, only names the Artillery Shed, which had been constructed under his superintendence for £698.13.11¾ . [98]

A letter from the Assistant Inspector-General of Fortifications, Lt.Col.Rowley, to Mercer's office of October 13 introduces the name of Roger Hyne into the story for the first time, and shows that the construction of the Hospital was about to commence.


Mr Roger Hyne, of Brixham, having stated to The Board of Ordnance, by letter dated the 11th Instant, that he has engaged to build an Hospital at Berry Head, for the Commissioners for the Affairs of Barracks, on a Piece of Ground pointed out by Lt General Mercer, Commanding Royal Engineer in the Plymouth Division, and having in consequence request to receive The Board's Permission to quarry Stones, build a Small Lime Kiln and to dig Sand, on the Land where the said Hospital is to be erected ; -I am commanded to acquaint you therewith, and to signify the Board's Desire, that you will require from Lt General Mercer, an Opinion whether the Request...may be granted without Detriment or Inconvenience to the Service of the Ordnance." [99]

Mercer replied on the 16th giving his permission, and a Board letter of the 23rd made the official confirmation. The Inspector-General's office wrote to Mercer on the 25th to inform him [100] and on the 28th Mercer sent the fallowing letter to Gillett at Berry Head. -

"You will inform Mr. Roger Hyne that he has the Board's permisssion to Quarry Stone, Dig Sand, and erect a small Lime Kiln, near the Spot, pointed out by me, on which to erect a Barrack Hospital - The spot is upon the low ground between the 4 Gun Battery, & the Horse Shoe Battery.- And you will take care that the Service of The ordnance is not injured by the grant." [101] Presumably Mercer designed the Hospital as well as the fortifications.

The Board appear to have been considering extending their land holdings in the area at this time, as on November 9 they requested information on "what manner the Common at Berry occupied, and by whom." [102] This is consistent with their writing on November 15 "...Mr Furze of Brixham has been informed, in answer to a proposal he has made, to rent the land described, that the Board have no Intention of letting the same." [103] On December 21, in a listing of foreign timber required for works in 1810, 20 feet of Fir and 20 3 inch x 12 feet of yellow Deal are specified for Torbay, probably for the Hospital. [104]

After some fifteen years in residence, Mr.Gillett was at last moved from Berry Head in 1810. On January 13 Ben Johnson, the Clerk of Works at Plymouth, wrote to him : "I am directed by Lieut.General Mercer to acquaint you, that you are to hold yourself in readiness to remove from the Berry Head to the Royal Artillery Depot near Exeter, in order to superintend such Repairs as may occasionally be wanting at that Place..." The order to leave came on the 17th; everything was left in charge of the Foreman, Johnson's brother. [105] Gillett died on October 26; he had spent some twenty years living on wind and rain-swept sites, first at Maker and then at Berry Head.

The Board were notified on March 20 that some repairs were required: "...a new Lock and some trifling Repair to the Magazine at the Redout No.1, and to the Roofs of other Buildings at the Berry Head, Torbay, the whole of which, it is apprehended, will be within reach of the Contingent Sums asked for those Services in the present year and which if now repaired, may be the means of preventing further Damages..." [106]

A "List of all the Houses or Apartments belonging to the Ordnance in Charge of the Engineer Department at Plymouth, and by whom the same are occupied" drawn up on March 24 includes a "Shed at the Berry Head...Built while the Works at this Place were carrying on and the Foreman in Charge of the Works [lives] there.... [it has not] independent of the Common Fixtures....been provided with any Furniture whatever, at the Expense of the Public." [107]

The final stages in the completion of the forts are recorded in a document of April 4, "Account of Expense incurred...,in Building....Repairing and Making Fortifications....between 1st June 1803 and 5th January 1809." It lists "Contingent Repairs from 1st June to 31st Decr







0 ¼




















9 ½

1st to 5th January 1809



9 ¾

Relaying Wood Platforms on the different Batteries which had been taken up in consequence of the late Peace



7 ¾

Scarping Rock & Erecting a Garde Faux, & Line of Musquetry on the Flank of the Line No. 3.



3 ½

Repairing Wood Platforms of Batteries at the Line No. 3








The final scrap of information concerning the construction is given in a "Statement of the Number of Powder Magazines in the Plymouth Division,." of July 7 1810, which states that both the Berry Head magazines were built by day work. [109] With the completion of the Hospital the Berry Head complex was finished. Mercer made a report on it on March 31 1811 ; this does not survive among the fortification reports, but the plan of Fort No.3 which accompanied it has been preserved. [110]

Peacetime aggravations

After the peace of 1815 most of the coastal defences were wound up. A policy decision on this was made in 1817:

"A Statement of the Batteries and Forts in Great Britain...which the Board have ordered to be dismantled...

On the 5th September 1817 the Board on the Recommendation of Lt.Genl Mann ordered the whole of the Batteries in the Western district to be disarmed except those at the following which were to be kept up viz.

Dock Lines

Plymouth Citadel

St Nicholas Island

Western King Battery

Stadden Heights

Pendennis Castle

St Mawes Castle

Scilly Islands

Upper Sea Batteries at Dartmouth

[The armament of the forts at this time was ]

2 5½ in Mortar

2 42/5 do

10 42 Pounder

13 24 "

9 12 "

The Guns to be left on Skids, to be removed into store whenever it may be most the Depot at Plymouth." [111]

The prefabricated barracks were removed and the forts reduced to a "care and maintenance" level.

In 1818 trouble arose over a piece of the Ordnance land. Having constructed the Hospital, Hyne rented some land from the Board, and part of this had been appropriated by a Mr.Underhay. It is clear from the tone of the correspondence that Hyne at this time had the confidence of the Plymouth Office, now in the charge of Col.Morshead. He wrote to Hyne on April 6:

"I have received your Letter of the 2cl.Inst with reference to the small plot of Ground taken possession of by Mr.Underhay at Berry Head. From the Plans of the Ordnance Land in the Office at this place, I cannot trace to whom the Ground in question belongs, but an immediate enquiry shall be made of Mr Johns, formerly Overseer at Berry Head.

As soon as I have ascertained from Mr .Johns to whom the small plot of Ground in dispute belongs, I shall lose no time in reporting the Trespass to Mr. Crow; in which case Mr.Underhay, I have no doubt, will be prosecuted by Government unless he can prove a satisfactory title to the same; and I think you would do well to read this letter to Mr.Underhay, and caution him against interfering with the Ordnance Lands, as the Board have, no doubt, a correct map of the Grounds, purchased by them in the year 1794.

I can only repeat that if Mr Underhay has taken possession of the Ground that does not belong to him, but to the Board of Ordnance, he must be responsible for such conduct and trespass, as the Board are rigid in preserving their Rights against any attack that may be made to the injury of the Government Property.

N.B. If you should visit Plymouth or be on your own business, I should be glad to see you at the Engineer's Office."

Johns wrote to Hyne on the 7th asking for further particulars about the land in dispute, and on the 20th sent him this letter:

"It.Colonel Morshead desires me to transmit the enclosed Letter to you....and to request you will have the goodness to deliver it personally to Mr. Underhay at his House, and at the, same time taking a witness with you: the letter has been framed on the information afforded by my Uncle. P:S: When you have delivered the inclosed paper, the Colonel will be glad to receive a letter from you, saying that you have so done.

[Enclosure ]


I am informed by Mr.Roger Hyne, that you have taken possession of a small Plot of Ground of about ¾ of an Acre, rented by Mr Hyne of the Ordnance for some years past, and which from an inspection of the Map of the Lands purchased by Government about the year 1794, at Berry Head, that plot of Ground was included in the purchase for the defences then carrying on by the Ordnance Department.

I have also caused a reference to be made to Mr Alexr .Johns, formerly overseer of Works in the Engineer Department at Berry Head, who succeeded the late Mr.Gillett in that Capacity; and the information I have obtained from Mr. Johns, leaves no doubt, but that the plot of Ground taken possession of by you at Berry Head, is the property of Government and belongs to the Ordnance Department.

I have in consequence considered it my duty, in the first instance to make a proper representation to you on this subject, previous to any more decisive legal step being taken, as touching this matter; - and I hope that the answer I may receive from you, upon due consideration, will preclude the necessity of my representing the case to the Board of Ordnance, who will, no doubt, immediately commence a Civil suit against you for the trespass in question, the whole expenses of which must eventually be defrayed by you, in addition to the surrender of the Ground.

I have sent this Letter thro' Mr.Roger Hyne of Brixham, so that I am assured of its being duly received by you." [112]

Underhay's name does not occur in the later dealings concerning the lands.

The forts were not left completely deserted, as shown by a document of 1826:

"Return of Towers, Batteries, Castles & Coast Defences in Great Britain, shewing the number of men that can be accommodated, and the numbers actually in them." The figures for Berry Head are 12 and 1 respectively; the solitary occupant was an NCO pensioner. [113]

This man was to be the agent for triggering off the greatest controversy connected with the forts. On August 1 1828 Col. Morshead, the Commanding Engineer at Devonport, wrote to General Mann, Morse's successor as Inspector-General of Fortifications. He reported on the quarrying, which had been in operation since 1798, from 200 to 240 barge loads being despatched each year, producing £50 to £60 per annum. "I am of opinion, that it would be expedient to put a stop to the further progress of cutting away the Limestone Rocks...because in the course of years, considerable portions...will be cut away to the prejudice of any object His Majesty's Government may eventually have in view.." [114]

The Board of Ordnance clearly concurred in this view, for on August 16 the Storekeeper at Devonport wrote to them inclosing this letter from Corporal Sutton:

"Berry Head

15 August 1828


Your Letter of the 13th Instant I received this morning and in compliance with your order I have stopt the working of the Quarries." [115]

The Board had underestimated the importance of the quarry in the local economy, and four petitions were sent to them in protest. These were from 1) Landowners, Occupiers of Land, Shipwrights, Rope and Sailmakers, Mariners and other interested parties, 2) the Quarrymen, 3) the Limeburners. The fourth was the most impressive, formally drawn up on a large parchment.

"To.the Right Honourable Charles, Marquis Cornwallis, Master General of the Ordnance.

The Humble Petition of the Undersigned Respectfully represents,

That an order having been issued by the General commanding in the District, prohibiting the further working of the Lime-Stone Quarries, on the Berry Head; very serious Injuries will arise, if this Prohibition be continued, as nearly Fifty Sloops, and Lighters, are constantly employed in conveying from the Quarries, in Torbay, to the Port of Topsham; and the Coasting Trade; and Revenue, now derive considerable Advantage, by the importation of Culm, from Wales, for burning the same - And Lime being the principal Article for manuring Land in these Parts, the Injury which Agriculture will also sustain from this Prohibition may be, in some measure, conceived, when it is considered, that about One Hundred Thousand Hogsheads of Lime, are used annually, in the Improvement of nearly Twenty Thousand Acres of Land, whereon upwards of Four Hundred Thousand Bushels of Grain, may be grown, or Sixty-five Thousand Sheep, and Black Cattle in Proportion, be pastured :

Your Petitioners also humbly represent, That the several Lime-Stone' Quarries, on the Berry-Head, have been workd for Time immemorial; and may be still worked for a Century to come; without the least Injury to the Military Works there erected, as the Rock slopes from the Foundation of the said Works to a considerable Distance into the Sea :

Wherefore, your Petitioners humbly intreat your Lordship to take the Premises into Consideration, and grant them such Relief herein, as to your Lordship's Wisdom shall seem meet." [116]

The Board conceded that limited quarrying would be permitted, and on December 13 Morshead submitted a plan showing the permitted area, which was restricted to the Torbay side of the headland. On December 31 the following order was drafted :

"The operation of quarrying the Lime Stone at Berry Head, shall be carried on within the Lines of Demarcation, on the North and Eastern sides of the Ordnance property, facing and adjoining the Seashore of Torbay, only, according to the definition of those lines by the Commanding Royal Engineer. The quarrying of Lime Stone on the East and South East Sides of Berry Head, shall from henceforth finally cease." [117]

Roger Hyne had leased the Common, together with the Hospital and a cottage, from the Board since 1823. On March 5 1830 he wrote to them requesting for the lease to be renewed:

"Honourable Gentlemen,

Having rented the common at Berry Head for the last seven years and my term expiring at Midsummer I beg to enquire if your Honorable Board will allow me to renew it for the ensuing seven years for which time I promise to continue my rent according to the last arrangements at Quarterly payments

Your reply will much Oblige

Your Honors Hble Sert.

Roger Hyne. [118]

The Board were clearly uncertain about the future of the Berry Head site, and the best means of deriving revenue from it in the mean while. Instead of accepting Hyne's offer, they wrote to the Devonport Office of Ordnance to enquire about his tenure of the property. A reply of March 17 stated that he had paid his money regularly, but submitted that when Morshead's successor, Col .Birch, next visited Berry Head he should make enquiries which would enable them to Judge.

Hyne had received no reply by June 8, and wrote again to the Board offering "to paint all the windows on the outsides of the Hospital with white Lead and oil 64 in number I had the honor of building the same in 1810 and the windows have not been painted since or the glass puttied -" [119]

On June 19 Birch despatched a report to the Board. He stated that he had found the fences in poor shape - Hyne had immediately promised to repair them. The Hospital remained in the same state as when Hyne had leased it - "at that period part of the Colonnade in front and one of the wood columns had sunk, and so they now remain." The accompanying letter stated "We are of opinion that it would be advantageous to the Public Service, that this Land should be let by Public Tender." This could be done either in one Lot, or the Hospital could be let separately. They pointed out that a clause in Hyne's lease enjoined him to keep the Hospital and the Cottage, as well as the fences and drains, in repair. Hyne, however, did not consider it was his job to maintain them. The relevant extract from the contract was appended : this was minuted by a Board member "I think there can be no doubt on this point. He must keep them in repair." [120]

These reports determined the Board to submit for tenders. On August 25 the Plymouth office conveyed the results to them :

"In obedience to your orders of the 25 June 1830..We have called for Tenders....and we beg to transmit Two Tenders, being all that have been sent us.

It appears Mr Hyne has offered the highest terms, namely £35 per annum for the Land and Cottage, but if the Hospital is to be included, he will not give more than £30 p.a.

We therefore beg to submit that Mr Hyne's offer be accepted without the Hospital, and whether Corporal Sutton may not reside in the Hospital to keep it aired and look after its preservation, he now residing in a Guard Room which might be locked up." This suggestion is minuted "Approved."

Corporal Sutton was not, however, to relinquish his windswept situation for the more sheltered and spacious quarters of the Hospital, for on September 11 Hyne raised his offer to £35 p.a., and keeping the Hospital in repair. This seemed a better proposition to the Plymouth office than putting the Corporal in as caretaker, and on the 14th. they recommended to the Board that this offer be accepted. A new lease was prepared, dated the 17th., for the term of seven years. [121]

This piece of business clearly stimulated further thought on the future of the Ordnance land, Large parts of it had never been fenced off properly, and Col.Birch in a memorandum of November 12 1831 recommended that this be done at an approximate cost of £70, the tenants being given notice to quit as this property improvement would enable the lands to be let at a higher rate. A plan showing the land involved accompanied this. [122] The scheme was approved, the tenants being allowed to remain in possession till Michaelmas 1832 so as to harvest their crops-.

The future of the defences in doubt

The Board now wondered whether it might be more advantageous to sell the land outright, and asked Birch to provide a full report on the Berry Head defences to enable them to come to a decision. This report, addressed to the Inspector-General of Fortifications, Major-General Sir Alexander Bryce, is a most valuable document, being by far the most extensive account of the fortifications to have been preserved. It is severely critical of the positioning of the batteries, and recommends the abandonment of redoubt No.1 and the construction of self-contained batteries on the head which would make the manning of the rampart of No.3 unnecessary. The proposal to close one of the batteries "with a Tower or good defensible guard house" shows the persisting success of the tower, as exemplified by the Martello towers, as an effective design solution, much more economical in men and weapons than a rampart. It is dated February 20, 1832.


In obedience to your orders of the 31st ult to report whether the 120 Acres of land and Hospital at Berry Head at present let for £62-13s-3d per annum might be sold without prejudice to the defences or to the public service generally, and after reporting on the same to offer such information and observations as I may be enabled to afford on the subject,

I have to submit in respect to the Hospital, which is a substantial stone building for 64 patients erected I believe somewhere about the year 1810 by the Barrack Board, that as all the Barracks at Berry Head have been pulled down and sold, they having been temporary wooden buildings, I conceive the Hospital should not be disposed of, because that in case of war it might serve and be required for Barrack or Hospital accommodation for the troop - and that - even if it should not be thought proper to reserve it with a view to such accommodation, still that it ought not to be sold, as it might be useful to the navy who have a watering and small victualling establishment at Brixham, and who in the late war hired an Hospital in Torbay - at Paignton.

In regard to the land, I beg to state that as it comes close home to the front of the Works, and was purchased in the view that the works might have that space free of buildings in front of them, I consider the sale of it would be prejudicial to the defences as they at present exist.

But on these defences I have agreeable to your instructions, to offer some observations and explanations as to their nature and usefulness - and also upon the present disposition of the sea batteries - to the effect that I think the present disposition of these is not a good one - that a new disposition of them will have to be made, and some of the batteries reconstructed - in doing which, I conceive defences should be provided for them, by means of a Tower or defensive guard house and closures, so as to render unnecessary the armament and occupation of the present very extensive closed works, and so as to dispense with one of them and allow of its entire or partial destruction - in which view of the case, if approved, I think part of the land might be sold.

The Works at present consist of two Forts nos 1 and 3 and 5 sea batteries. No.3 Fort, the principal one, is formed by a rampart of about 700 feet in length across the Headland, with a scarp of about 20 feet high raised entirely from the level of the ground, that is without any ditch whatever, excepting just at the drawbridge - the rest of the contour of the work being the high scarped cliffs - it embraced a powerful sea battery at the Head ( now dismantled as the other batteries are ) for 12 heavy guns looking entirely to seaward and not at all within the bay - three of the guns on the right of the rampart looked in this direction, and there were besides two sea batteries on the cliffs outside the Fort, together for seven guns for the same purpose, and also one at Furzham beyond Brixham of five guns for the same - total 27 pieces in sea battery, with nine lighter guns, 12 prs. on the ramparts of the two Forts - altogether 36 pieces.

The other Fort no 1 has a larger extent of formed rampart than No.3. viz. about 770 feet - the rest of its contour being the cliff - it has a smaller scarp, but has a good ditch and counterscarp - this work must be reckoned almost solely as an advanced protecting, and flanking work to No 3, as, in other respects it only sees a small landing place or bay called Mudstone sands, open to the eea, about a mile distant from it.

Two other advanced works nos" 2 and 4 were projected on the right of no.l. in the original project for the formation of these works made in the beginning of the year 1794 - before Lord Howe's victory.

The object of them all was, agreeable to the instruction for their formation of the then Master General, the Duke of Richmond, a copy of which is enclosed, to defend the batteries protecting the shipping and the entrance to Torbay, so that an enemy landing infantry in the neighbourhood might not get possession of them without being obliged to break ground and erect batteries - on account I suppose of this project being reckoned too extensive and disproportionate to its object, as I think it evidently and undoubtedly must be, and the more so as the ground is a table Land of rock almost to its surface, the completion of it was suspended about 1796 after the erection of the present two Forts. Of these two works I think it may be said that in extent they are of themselves quite and altogether beyond the defence they afford to the batteries, the extent as mentioned before being so considerable, and the defence afforded being very imperfect, incomplete and partial, from the principal work No 3 not having any flank within itself, and being without any ditch, and not protected by the works intended in front to cover it - and from its embracing only the batteries on the Head, which, for the object in view, I think will appear not to be the most important position for them. That object according to the Instruction quoted is the protection of the Shipping and the entrance to Torbay - the Shipping being placed first as the principal point to be attended to, it being only possible from and about Berry Head to protect the Shipping in the anchorage near to it, and the approach to that anchorage and to the Bay on that side j and impossible to defend the entrance to Torbay which is about four miles across - I think therefore that the present disposition of the Batteries should be altered, and instead of so large a Battery at the Head looking entirely to Seaward, and not at all within the Bay, that the principal force of the Batteries should be directed upon the anchorage within the Head off Brixham, and on the approach to it - in this view in lieu of the 12 gun battery at the Head I would place there only six, to defend the entrance to the Bay on that side and the approach to the anchorage in question by the Head - with six other guns at or near each of the present two batteries on the Cliff marked B and C on the chart, [this accompanying document is not preserved] to protect the line of the said anchorage off Brixham and the approach to it -with five or six other guns at the present battery beyond Brixham at Furzham to form a direct and crossfire upon that anchorage.

I have mentioned that I would propose to place six guns at or near each of the present batteries B-C, because all the batteries being now at a considerable elevation above the water (A,B,C,D, being 184, 155, 127 and 90 feet respectively), instead of planting the battery C in its present position I think it should be removed to the platform that lies underneath it on the shore, or somewhere thereabouts, as perhaps to the right of the Hospital, so that it might be nearly what is termed a fleur d'eau - all the guns to be on traversing platforms.

In regard to the defences that should be preserved, or afforded to these batteries, it should be observed in the first place, as to the liability of a coup de main upon them, that there is no landing outside the Head for about a mile to the Westward of it, where are the Mudstone sands that lie open to the sea - and that within the Head to Brixham, and beyond Brixham to the small cove call [sic] Charston cove under the Furzham battery, there is no landing excepting upon the rocks, where boats may certainly land when there is not any sea upon them, but not otherwise -they are therefore much more than is generally the case, protected against a coup de main.

But as the batteries according to the disposition now proposed for them would have to be reconstructed - as masonry on the spot is cheap all the material for it being there - as there would have to be Guard Houses at the batteries in order that they might always be on the alert, - and as so much has already been done for their security and that of the Berry Head position which security it might be well to preserve if it could be effected at a moderate expence, I would propose to close the Battery B with a Tower or good defensible guard house, and with a loop holed wall - and also to close the Battery A at the Head by a loop holed wall from cliff to cliff connecting the present store House and Gun shed ( the latter to be converted into a Barrack and Guard House ) and embracing the present magazine.

By such means I imagine the line of rampart across the Head of No.3 Work might be dispensed with being manned, as the defence proposed to A and B batteries would see its line in front and rear and prevent it of being of use to the enemy - or if in extraordinary circumstances it were found necessary to occupy it, the defence at the battery B the intended site of one of the originally proposed works no 4, would form a flank to it, and the defence at that of A, a keep to it.

These defences thus combined I should think might be reckoned as affording sufficient security for the Batteries on Berry Head so that the Fort No.1 might be considered unnecessary and might be done away with -either by its partial or entire destruction - and in the above view of the subject I imagine part of the Land, the enclosed fields marked by red lines on the enclosed sketch might be disposed of- to shew which has been the cause of my entering into the abve observations and explanations. To these I should add that the present batteries, B.C, which are en barbette, nominally for 7 guns, have their platforms so placed or are so confined, that at any rate I think they would require to be reconstructed to have these guns bear properly - for of the three guns at C battery only one bears upon the water, The others being directed rather to the shore than to the sea - and of B battery two of the guns only are able to look to the anchorage, - and I should note that only part of the plateau under the battery C proposed for the new emplacement of it belongs to the Board, and that some small space of ground might have to be purchased for it.

In submitting the above observations I should state I do it with much deference, particularly impressed as I am with the idea that on the general defences of Torbay, as well as of any particular part of it, the opinion of Naval Officers well acquainted with the Bay is what in the first place merits attention, as a guide to the arrangement of those defences - and I would request leave to add that the importance of that Bay, and the invention of Steam navigation seem to claim that attention should be directed to it.

Respecting the closed fields which I have intimated might be sold, I would wish to subjoin that though in extent they are only about 20 acres yet in value I suppose them equal to the other part of the land being in general of a very superior quality to it - and, in respect to what I have said about the disposal of them, I should have explained that 1 conceived the same might be allowed as as much ground would afterwards be retained in front of the Works as is usually thought necessary in like cases - the fields are at present enclosed by stone walls or banks - and it is not probable that houses would be built upon them - or if there were that they would be of prejudice to the defences as proposed." [123]

This report was minuted on May 1 to the effect that it appeared that the twenty acres could be disposed of. "If the Master General should decide on the sale of this portion of Land, it might be proper to obtain in exchange for a portion of it, the small piece of Ground referred improve the site of C Battery." It appears from this minute that the Board were considering the possibility of modernising the defences according to Col .Birch's proposals.

The defences abandoned

The Plymouth Office notified the Board on March 26 1832 that the lease of the twenty acres would expire at Michaelmas. There were a surprisingly large number of tenants -

James Shears Philip Gillard

Henry Hoare

Frederick Baddeley

John Baddeley

Samuel Langley

Elizabeth Wheaton

Henry Francis Lyte

Samuel Milman

Roger Hyne

Apart from Roger Hyne, the other name in this list which recurs in the story of Berry Head is that of the Rev.Henry Francis Lyte, well known as the writer of "Abide with me."

Col .Birch's office was of the opinion that the land should be let rather than sold, and to one tenant rather than the present multiplicity. On April 11 the following letter was sent to the Board :

"- with respect to the Land at Berry Head, we are of opinion it is not Let for its full value, and beg to recommend the whole may be let in One Lot, for a period of 5 years from Mmas 1832, at which time the Lease of the Common and Hospital will expire, when the whole may be a desirable object for a Farmer or Butcher to Occupy." [124] This was minuted : "Approved & Ordered as recommended. The usual clauses for resumption being introduced in the Lease in the event of the Land being required for the Public Service." The Board had clearly terminated Hyne's lease.

Four tenders were received and sent to the Board on September 3. The highest tender - £40-10-6 - was from James Shears. Hyne had only offered £27-10-0, The Plymouth Office was asked to enquire about the suitability of Shears as a tenant : they replied on September 22. "Col.Birch had written in confidence to a most respectable person in Brixham who reported 'I am bound to answer that I do not consider him a responsible Tenant, I say this of course in confidence, but I should much prefer another Tenant at a Lower Rent, knowing that in many instances it has been difficult to recover the smallest sums from him". The Board therefore ordered that the next highest offer, £40, from Abraham Fogwell, be accepted. Incredibly, the same process was repeated, and Hyne was therefore approached at the beginning of October. His original offer was thought to be too low, and he was offered the lease for £35. In reply he suggested £30, which was accepted on October 18. [125]

The Berry Head was proving to be a very troublesome property. Col .Birch wrote to the Board on October 8 informing them that objections had been made to the proposed boundary fence, and requesting to be informed of any deeds which might clarify the situation. This was minuted on October 19 "Read & ordered that Col Birch be acqd there are no deeds in the department which will afford the information required, but the vesting Act of 34 Geo 3 defines the boundaries of the land on pages 1014-17 - A copy to be sent to him." [126]

On January 8 1833 Birch wrote to the Board stating that one Philip Glllard had by intrusion gained possession of some 2 rods 8 perches of Ordnance land. Gillard was willing to exchange this for a piece of his own land of 1 rod 17 perches; this land Birch considered would be of greater military value, and the deal would regularise Gillard's position. [127]

A new Inspector-General of Fortifications, Major-General Robert Pilkington, now interested himself in Berry Head, which had by this time accumulated a sizeable dossier, mostly concerned with land transactions. An Ordnance Board memorandum was sent to Birch inquiring what had been paid for the land originally and the reasons for its purchase. Birch sent a report to Pilkington on August 8 which largely repeated his earlier one, adding the information about the use of the site during the War of American Independence which has been given here. The following useful facts are also given:

"...The amount paid for The Land does not appear in the books of this Office.,. the Barracks, which were wooden buildings upon foundations of Masonry, were pulled down and sold after the last peace - the masonry foundations of them, with the Tanks remaining. [Within No.3 Fort are] An excellent Officers and Mens Guard House being a substantial building of Masonry, slated. An excellent Arched Magazine for 800 barrels of powder. A small Store House of Masonry Slated - in good order - dimensions 32ft by 20. A Shed for Artillery of Masonry and Slates, closed with gates in front (108ft by 23)....[Within No.l Fort are] A small guard house with store room adjoining - and a small arched magazine for 150 barrels of powder. [A small barrack building, pulled down at the peace] There is moreover a building called a cottage on the Common and let with it, including what was formerly the Engineers Office and apartments that served as a Mess Room -before the regular one within the Work was built." [128]

By the beginning of October 1833, presumably as a result of a deal with Roger Hyne, the Rev.H.F.Lyte was living in the Hospital. The Board at this time considered converting it into two buildings, and plans were drawn up, but the estimated cost of the conversion was £800, and it was thought that it would only realise some £50 a year, if it could be let at all. They wanted it to be lived in so that it would be kept in good order. [129]

On January 6 1834 Lyte wrote to the Board suggesting terms for his tenancy. These involved the Board repairing the house and giving some assistance with the construction of a road from Brixham to the Hospital, a seven year lease, with compensation if it were terminated early, and the option of renewal after seven years. In return Lyte would pay £20 a year, make some alterations to the building and keep it in good decorative order. What prevented him from laying out money on the place was the uncertainty of the tenure. A contribution to making the new road would be of lasting benefit to the building. [130]

The Board were by now clearly impatient with the bother of leasing land at Berry Head, and decided to sell the twenty acres outright. An order for the sale was drafted on June 13. Hyne wrote on July 5 demanding compensation for his standing crops: he was allowed to remain in possession for harvesting until October 31. On July 28 Lyte offered £1125 for the whole of the land, and £95 for some waste land. He paid a deposit of £225 on September 19, and on December 5 Coutts1 Bank paid the balance. On December 2 he made a formal offer to lease the Hospital, Cottage and Common, This was minuted on December 6 "It appears that it would be very desirable to accept the....Offer from the Revd.H Lyte to rent the Hospital, Common and Cottage at Berry Head." Over the years Lyte continued to acquire parcels of land from the Board. [131]

The question of financial help to build a new road was raised again in a letter of June 2 1836 from Sir John Yarde Buller, asking for support for the plan proposed by the Lords of the Manor of Brixham to connect Brixham with Berry Head. Birch's successor, Col.Whitmore, sent a report to the Board on the 15th with a sketch plan showing the proposal. He stated that such a road would be of no real benefit to the Board, as there was a reasonable road in existence which had gone unnoticed by Buller. The request was refused. [132]

The final document in the Board of Ordnance archives dealing with Berry Head is the "Inspection report on Hospital and adjacent premises leased to the late Revd Henry Francis Lyte." The inspection was made on January 26 1848. (Lyte had died at Nice the previous year.) [133]

The Forts vanish from the official files: but their usefulness to the local inhabitants increased greatly, though necessarily in an undocumented fashion, as they were stripped for building stone. This, together with the quarrying which cut away the north side of Fort No.3, is responsible for the present condition of the Forts, which are much more ruinous than could be expected for such relatively recent structures. The site was used as a rifle range during the later part of the nineteenth century, but its function as a coast defence was totally abandoned. The survey "Ports and Harbours in Western Districts. Revision of Coast Defence Armaments prior to August, 1892" has this to say of Torbay : "No works have been constructed for the defence of this anchorage. The Volunteers carry out drill and practice with a 64 pr.R.M.L, and a 32 pr. S.B. gun, from platforms at Brixham, Fishcombe Point, and with a similar armament from platforms at Paignton, on the beach, 34 mile from the town." [134]

After a hundred and twenty-five years of inactivity the Second World War brought the Army back to the Forts. It was not classified as a Fort, however, and no coast defence guns were installed there. It served three main purposes: a signal station, an anti-aircraft gun site and a Royal Observer Corps post. The R.O.C. post was adapted from one of the surviving roofless stone buildings, being given a protective cover with observation slits. This survives. The steel bases for several anti-aircraft guns are still discernible; Bofors guns were placed at the tip of the Head and at the north end of the rampart of Fort No .3 and before D-Day a battery of 3.7" guns were positioned between the two Forts towards the cliffs.

1 The best general account of the responses to the invasion threat is still that of H.F.B.Wheeler and A.M.Broadley, Napoleon and the Invasion of England, (2 vols., London, 1908).

For the French invasion plans, the same is still true of Edouard Desbriere's ill-arranged and flawed but indispensable Projets et tentatives de debarquement aux Iles britanniques, (5 vols. Paris, 1900-02.)

2 Samuel & Daniel Lysons, History and Antiquities of Devonshire. London, 1822, vol.1 pp.cccxi, cccli.

3 PLY O/1/3

4 PLY I/2/5

5 M.M.Oppenheim, The Maritime History of Devon. Exeter, 1968. p.115.

6 PLY O/1/3

7 PLY I/2/5

8 PLY O/1/3

9 PRO WO 78 MPHH 126

10 PRO WO 78 MPHH 692/2

11 BH pp.9-10.

12 PLY I/2/6

13 PLY O/1/3

14 PLY I/2/6

15 PLY I/2/6

16 PLY O/1/4

17 PLY O/1/5

18 PRO WO 44/12

19 PRO WO 55 2281, Register of Drawings. The Berry Head drawings were nos. 79 & 85 ; they do not survive.

20 PRO WO 78 MPH 381 5/6/7/8/9/10/11

21 Quoted in Alison Olson, The Radical Duke… Oxford, 1961, p.95. See chapter 6 for a brief account of the circumstances surrounding Richmond's dismissal.

22 Goodwood Papers 228. April 24 1793.

23 Ibid. Sep. 10 1793

24 J.T.Jones, Journals of Sieges carried on by the Army under the Duke of Wellington in Spain between the years 1811 and 1814. 2 vols, London, 1814. p.xii.

25 J.T.Jones, Memoranda relative to the Lines thrown up to cover Lisbon in 1810. Printed for private circulation. London, 1829. pp.87-88.

26 PLY I/2/11

27 PLY O/1/7

28 PLY I/2/11

29 PLY O/1/7

30 PLY I/2/11

31 PLY O/1/7

32 PLY O/1/7

33 PLY O/1/7

34 PLY I/2/11

35 PLY I/2/11

36 PLY O/1/7

37 PLY O/1/7

38 PLY O/1/7

39 PLY I/2/11

40 PLY O/1/7

41 PLY O/1/9

42 PLY O/1/7

43 PLY O/1/7

44 PLY I/2/11

45 PLY O/1/8

46 PLY I/2/11

47 DRK 1334

48 DSM 1360

49 PLY O/1/8

50 DRM 1334

51 Martin Dunsford, Miscellaneous observations in the course of two tours, through several parts of the West of England, Tiverton, 1800. pp.123-4.

52 PLY I/2/11

53 PLY O/1/8

54 PLY I/2/11

55 Parliamentary History, London, 1815. vol.25, cols.375-6.

56 The attempted landing at Pembroke.

57 DRO 152 M/c1797/OM 2

58 DRO 1262 M/L 22 ( Letter and leaflet )

59 DRO 152 M/c1797/ON 4

60 Col.H.Walrond, Historical Records of the 1st Devon Militia. London, 1897. For Col.Bastard see especially chapters 6-9.

61 BM Ms.Add.37877 ff .308-9.

62 DRO 1262 M/L 33

63 DRO 1262 M/L 33

64 DRO 1262 M/L 33

65 BM Ms.Add.37877 ff.306-7

66 DRO 1262 M/L 33

67 DRO 1262 M/L 28

68 A good collection of these orders and directives is in the Clifford archives at Ugbrooke House.

69 PLY I/2/12

70 PRO WO 55 797

71 PRO WO 55 797

72 PRO WO 55 797

73 DRM 1335

74 PLY I/2/12

75 PRO WO 78 MPH 381 (fair copy) Mercer's autograph copy is MPH 400.

76 DRO 96 add M/LL1-3

77 PLY I/2/12

78 PLY I/2/12, also PLY O/1/8

79 PRO WO 55 797

80 BH p.15

81 DRM 1190

82 PRO WO 55 797

83 PLY I/2/12

84 PLY I/2/12

85 PLY I/2/13

86 PRO WO 55 797

87 PLY I/2/13

88 PLY I/2/13

89 PLY O/1/9

90 PRO WO 55 797

91 PRO WO 55 797

92 PLY O/1/10

93 PLY O/1/10

94 PLY O/1/10

95 PLY I/2/15

96 PLY O/1/10

97 PRO WO 55 797

98 PLY O/1/11 See PLY 1/2/15 for letter from Morse.

99 PRO WO 55 797

100 PLY I/2/15

101 PLY O/1/11

102 PLY I/2/15

103 PLY I/2/15

104 PLY O/1/11

105 PLY O/1/11

106 PLY O/1/11

107 PLY O/1/11

108 PLY O/1/11

109 PLY O/1/11

110 PRO WO 78 MPH 233

111 PRO WO 44 540

112 PLY 0/1/19

113 PRO WO 55 1548/18

114 PRO WO 44 307

115 PRO WO 44 307

116 PRO WO 44 307

117 PRO WO 44 307

118 PRO WO 44 12

119 PRO WO 44 12

120 PRO WO 44 12

121 PRO WO 44 12

122 PRO WO 78 MPHH 692/1

123 PRO WO 44 12

124 PRO WO 44 12

125 PRO WO 44 12

126 PRO WO 44 307

127 PRO WO 44 12 Plan is WO 78 MPHH 692/4

128 PRO WO 44 12

129 PRO WO 44 12 Plan is WO 78 MPHH 692/5

130 PRO WO 44 12

131 PRO WO 44 12

132 PRO WO 44 308

133 PRO WO 44 12

134 PRO WO 196/29

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