Site of Napoleonic barracks of 1804.
Reasons for Designation
The site of Napoleonic Barracks 480m south-west of Foxhole Farm, Cuckmere Haven is scheduled for the following principal reasons:
* Potential: the monument has the potential to provide evidence of the plan and functioning of temporary Napoleonic coastal barracks sites, as well as the lifestyle of the troops stationed here;
* Documentation: evidence from aerial photographic surveys and documentary research has enhanced knowledge of the extent, establishment and function of the site;
* Group value: the monument is part of a continuum of defence from at least the Elizabethan period in this highly strategic valley; which was always perceived as vulnerable to enemy attack. It has group value with other defensive structures in the Haven.
Cuckmere Haven has long been a strategic defensive site because of its topography. Although steep chalk cliffs flank the Cuckmere Estuary, the flat beach and river mouth have always been perceived to be vulnerable to enemy attack. Although better known for its extensive and highly visible Second World War defences, there are references to and traces of earlier defences in the landscape of the Haven from at least the late C16. The name ‘Cuckmere Haven’ also rightly implied that there was good and safe anchorage off shore for vessels of shallow draught.
The barracks under assessment here were built in 1804 as part of the defences of this part of the Sussex coast against an anticipated invasion by the French under Napoleon. It was one of a pair of contemporary sites in Cuckmere Haven, the other being to the west of the river at Chyngton, south of the Outbrook Bank (Bannister 1999, 30). Both barracks are marked on the Ordnance Survey 1 inch: 1 mile map of 1813 (but by the 1925 edition only the western Chyngton barracks are shown). Although the Foxhole barracks was scheduled as a Napoleonic coastal gun battery and barracks there is currently no evidence to confirm the presence of a battery here although this cannot be ruled out as a possibility: future archaeological or documentary research may well assist with this question.
The history of the two barracks sites has been confused in recent documentation and is difficult to unpick without recourse to the originals. The western Chyngton site is recorded in contemporary documents cited by Bannister (op cit) and was built by one Sir James Pulteney who held the command of the defences from the autumn of 1803, and was therefore presumably also responsible for the Foxhole Farm site. The Chyngton site comprised six small buildings which are shown on the Ordnance Surveyor’s Drawings and on the 1st edition Ordnance Survey 1 inch map of 1803 (Banister op cit.) A factsheet for the Seven Sisters County park (and thus presumed to refer to the Foxhole barracks given the extent of the Country Park) describes how in 1804 the owner of the land, Viscount Gage complained in a letter to the Quarter-Master General that the soldiers’ dogs were worrying his tenant’s sheep and asked for their removal. This request was not granted – the invasion threat undoubtedly the over-riding concern – and the barracks remained occupied until 1814. Again the accounts are confusing: Bannister states that the Chyngton buildings were demolished in 1814 and the contents sold at auction (the map evidence conflicts with this) so perhaps this should refer to the Foxhole site. The NMR and East Sussex HER suggest a demolition date for the Foxhole barracks of c1814 which seems correct (see below) whereas the Country Park’s factsheet states that they were offered for sale in 1816. The HER cites an article which refers to advertisements in the Sussex Weekly Advertiser of 5th and 19th September 1814, listing items for auction from the barracks, which would suggest a terminus post quem for their closure. Coastal monitoring was subsequently taken over by the Coastguard Station on the cliffs to the west of the Haven built in c1822.
Ordnance Survey mapping indicates a continuing military use of this part of Cuckmere Haven after the demise of the barracks. Between at least 1899 and 1911 the area to the immediate south-west of the barracks site, on a broadly north-west to south-east alignment, was a rifle range. During the Second World War the whole valley was intensively defended (one component, anti-tank obstacles at the mouth of the river, have recently been listed at Grade II) and a bombing decoy site for Newhaven docks was established up river. There is no evidence of specific WW2 activity on the barracks site although the concrete footings of a possible Second World War building remain visible immediately north-west of the site. In the late 1950s aerial photograph indicates that the site was temporarily built on with rows of rectangular small white structures visible. Although at first glance this might appear to be a caravan park, their location, form, distribution and infrastructure do not sit happily with such an identification, but no alternative evidence as to function has been found to date.
The barracks have been plotted as part of the English Heritage: South Downs National Mapping Programme analysis of aerial photography.
The barracks site is located on the east side of the Cuckmere valley, south-west of Foxhole Farm at TV5202897955. The site comprises a series of very slight earthworks with some buildings seen as parch marks in appropriate conditions. As plotted by the National Mapping Programme, it is a linear site on a north-west to south-east alignment. Approximately a dozen rectangular buildings and/or enclosures are arranged in a manner which is suggestive, at least in part, of a central linear space between the buildings, perhaps a road or track. The north-western extent of the site is located as approximately TV5199397994. An additional building identified through the county aerial catalogue 2006 appears to be somewhat detached from the others and forms the northern extent of the known site.
To the south-east of the barracks is a water management system comprising a circular and rectangular trough with linking pipework are not contemporary with the barracks as they appear late C19 or early C20 in form and are first shown on the OS 1909 1:2500 map. They are not included in the scheduled area.