Royal Commission fortification known as Ernesettle Battery.
Reasons for Designation
The Royal Commission fortifications are a group of related sites established in response to the 1859 Royal Commission report on the defence of the United Kingdom. This had been set up following an invasion scare caused by the strengthening of the French Navy. These fortifications represented the largest maritime defence programme since the initiative of Henry VIII in 1539-40. The programme built upon the defensive works already begun at Plymouth and elsewhere and recommended the improvement of existing fortifications as well as the construction of new ones. There were eventually some 70 forts and batteries in England which were due wholly or in part to the Royal Commission. These constitute a well defined group with common design characteristics, armament and defensive provisions. Whether reused or not during the 20th century, they are the most visible core of Britain's coastal defence systems and are known colloquially as `Palmerston's follies'. All examples are considered of national importance. The term battery refers to any place where artillery is positioned to allow guns to cover a particular area such as a line of communication or the approaches to a defended location. Although often contained within artillery forts designed to withstand sieges, typically including resident garrisons, many batteries were lightly defended and only manned at fighting strength in times of emergency. Batteries not contained within forts or castles were either open, with some approaches left undefended, or enclosed, often with a loop holed wall, ditch and/or fence designed to repel small scale attacks. Battery design evolved over time with developments in artillery. By the late 19th century, barbette positions became the usual practice and, as the century progressed, guns were mounted in increasingly sophisticated emplacements, normally built in concrete with integrated magazines. Despite some subsequent re-use meaning slight damage to the gun positions and some deterioration to the ramparts as a result of scrub growth, the Royal Commission fortification known as Ernesettle Battery survives well and forms part of a limited number of important sites built specifically for the protection of Britain during a time of perceived threat. As a rare example of such a strategy this fort which is the westernmost in Plymouth is of strategic military, naval, historical, social and political significance.
This record was the subject of a minor enhancement on 14 October 2015. This record has been generated from an "old county number" (OCN) scheduling record. These are monuments that were not reviewed under the Monuments Protection Programme and are some of our oldest designation records.
The monument, which falls into two areas, includes a Royal Commission battery and length of rampart known collectively as Ernesettle Battery situated on a spur between two tributary valleys to the River Tamar at Plymouth. The battery survives as an irregular five sided polygonal defensive work standing to full height with deep ditches on all but the southern side where there is a gorge. The gorge is protected by a loop holed wall and musketry galleries covered the ditches. The main entrance, complete with a date stone marked 1866 is in the centre of the south east flank. There are five 1880s gun positions on the ramparts separated by three bomb proof expense magazines. The casemented barrack accommodation lies under the south eastern corner with an arched three bay battery facing north west. A caponier runs out into the moat on the northern side to provide cover for this feature. Construction of the fort began in 1863 and was completed in 1868. It was originally designed for 15 guns in open battery and six mortars under bomb proof arches on the western flank. The barracks were to house 60 men. It was actually armed with up to five guns and was disarmed shortly after 1893. Ernesettle battery was re-used in the Second World War as an anti-aircraft observation and fire watching post. To the south east is a rampart which survives as a slightly arc-shaped embankment measuring approximately 200m long, 3m wide and 3m high.