The Fort on the Heugh and underlying midden


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1014733

Date first listed: 12-Feb-1953

Date of most recent amendment: 16-Jul-1996


Ordnance survey map of The Fort on the Heugh and underlying midden
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This copy shows the entry on 17-Jan-2019 at 00:13:42.


The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: Northumberland (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Holy Island

National Grid Reference: NU 12943 41649


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

Reasons for Designation

The fort on the Heugh is a good example of a late 17th century fortification. It functioned with the contemporary fortification of Old Beblowe (Lindisfarne Castle) to control the island harbour. Unlike Old Beblowe and the majority of other contemporary defence works, it was not subjected to rebuilding and redesign at a later date. It therefore provides an important insight into the technology of 17th century defence works. The reign of Charles II saw a range of new fortifications being built in England, primarily around the coast. Direct royal involvement in the design and construction of forts was evident on a scale not seen since the time of Henry VIII. During this period the most architecturally accomplished fortifications in England were erected. They were stimulated by the real dangers thrown up by the Dutch Wars, but fortress construction was also a very fashionable occupation for European monarchs at the time. Other forts constructed at this time include the Citadels at Plymouth and Hull, as well as town and dockyard defences at Portsmouth. Whilst there is no evidence of direct royal involvement in the construction of the fort on the Heugh, it should be viewed in the light of these wider developments in fortifications. Surviving fortifications of this date are rare nationally and all examples will be identified as nationally important.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


The monument includes a stone fort or gun battery, constructed in 1671 and located on a rocky promontory known as the Heugh. The promontory is formed by a dolerite (whinstone) dyke running east-west across the southern edge of Holy Island. The fort is also known as Osborne's Fort or Steel End Fort. It comprises an irregular pentagonal enclosure containing a redoubt with a lower gun platform around the south and east sides. The overall dimensions of the fort are 64m ENE-WSW by 32m north-south. The north east and south sides follow the edges of the promontory, whilst the north west side runs across level ground. It was built to support Old Beblowe (Lindisfarne Castle) in protecting the small harbour known as The Ouse. The redoubt is a tower which measures 6.6m square externally and stands a little to the east of the centre of the fort. The south wall of the redoubt is 1m wide, the east wall is 0.95m wide and the remaining two walls are each 0.8m wide. The walls are faced externally with squared and coarsed stone consisting of a mixture of limestone, sandstone and whinstone; the internal faces are largely of whinstone rubble. There is a chamfered plinth at the foot of the wall. The north and east walls stand up to 4m high and the south wall up to 2m high; the west wall has collapsed. Internally, in the north west corner the inner part of the north jamb of the doorway survives. In the south west corner the remains of a fireplace can be seen. In the north wall there is a series of five small irregular holes 1.5m above ground level; two of these penetrate the thickness of the wall and may be musket loops. One metre above are much larger sockets for the beams of the first floor. In the east wall another possible crude musket loop exists. The south wall shows three tapering apertures which are almost certainly musket loops; these would command the gateway onto the lower gun platform. The enclosure walls are of whinstone rubble with some irregular coursing attempted in the facing; they measure between 0.6m and 0.8m thick. The south wall stands up to 1.5m high externally and contains a gateway, c.1.8m wide, which gave access to the lower gun platform. The north east wall is the shortest of three sides of the fort and is best preserved towards the northern angle where it stands up to 2m high. The north west wall is visible as an intermittent earthwork with a few courses of stonework evident. A gap through the centre of the wall, c.2m wide, and marked by a single large squared block of stone, probably represents the south jamb of a gateway. Remnants of three angle turrets, shown on a plan of 1742, survive as short stubs of wall at the north and east corners; that on the west is visible as a rubble mound. The lower gun platform follows the line of the south wall of the main enclosure, but is about 1.5m lower in level and measures 5m wide internally. Some of the outer wall has been lost to coastal erosion, but the lower part of the west end wall, the north east end and its south return, a few footings of the east end and a 5m length running along the south side survive. The building of the fort was entrusted to Major Daniel Collingwood, the captain of Holy Island. A plan of the fort by M Beckman dated 1683 states `Platforme and Redoubt made and designed by Dan: Collingwood Esquire and Mr Robt. Trollope'. The plan shows the fort with steeply pitched roofs to the redoubt and corner turrets. A drawing dating to 1742 shows the central redoubt intact and roofed but the perimeter walls apparently in decay. Beneath the fort, where coastal erosion has created an open scar, stratified layers of a midden have been exposed. The lowest layers of this exposed section are thought to be prehistoric in date and consist of animal bones, charcoal and flint waste material. The erosion scar has now been repaired but, before this was carried out, environmental samples of plant remains from within the midden were sampled and analysed by the Ancient Monuments Laboratory. The plant remains were found to consist of a high percentage of rye and may be associated with early medieval Scandinavian occupation of the island. Charcoal was found from the possible prehistoric layers. This evidence suggests that the Heugh has been occupied at various times over the last 8,000 years and that further archaeological remains await discovery.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number: 24600

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Ryder, P, The Fort on the Heugh Historical Notes & Structural Account, (1994)
Williams, A, The Heugh, Holy Island, (1995)
Williams, A, The Heugh, Holy Island. Archaeological recording...ground surfce, (1994)
Beavitt, P , 'Northern Archaeology' in Fieldwork on Lindisfarne, Northumberland, 1980-1988, , Vol. 8, (1987), 6-7
Huntley, J P, 'Durham Environmental Archaeology Report' in The Heugh, Lindisfarne. The Carbonised Plant Remains, , Vol. 38/94, (1994)

End of official listing