Cawsand Fort


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1016102

Date first listed: 31-Jul-1973

Date of most recent amendment: 21-Aug-1997


Ordnance survey map of Cawsand Fort
© Crown Copyright and database right 2018. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: Cornwall (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Maker-with-Rame

National Grid Reference: SX 43325 50385


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

Reasons for Designation

The strategic position of Plymouth, vital to the defence of the South West and the Channel Coast and supporting a major naval dockyard, has led to the development of extensive and complex systems of fortification. Many of these systems owed their design and construction to periods of political unrest within Europe, or to specific threats of invasion, both real or imagined. Their development can also be seen as a response to the sometimes rapidly changing nature of warfare. Plymouth is one of four locations in England where there has been continuity of fortification over at least five centuries and, of these, it has the greatest concentration of 18th and 19th century forts and batteries.

The mid-19th century fort at Cawsand, which was part of the network of defences on the western approaches to Plymouth harbour and docks, survives as a near complete example of a Palmerstonian fort. It just predates the recommendations of The Royal Commission of 1860 which engendered the construction of some 70 forts and batteries in response to the strengthening of the French navy. The available historical documentation provides a wealth of detail and War Department reports of the late-19th century give precise details of the cost of construction of the fort and its subsequent armaments over the period from 1867 to 1903. The fort retains a near complete circuit of original walling including a bastion and demi-bastion on its landward side as well as a glacis. Many features of its interior are particularly well preserved including the main magazine and many of its raised gun platforms. The fort figures as an element within the defence of one of the nation's most important naval ports and dockyards during a period in which an invasion by the French was thought to have been possible.


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


The monument includes the remains of a late-18th century battery, superseded by and incorporated within a mid-19th century fort and battery with associated glacis. The monument is situated at the eastern end of a spur which lies between the villages of Kingsand and Cawsand overlooking Cawsand Bay on the Cornish side of the coastal approach to Plymouth. Historical sources provide details of the battery of 1779 and the construction of the fort and battery in 1860 following a recommendation of 1858 that it should be constructed to defend against ships entering the bay to enfilade the shore. An extant boundary stone on the north east side of the fort, one of a number which indicated the extent of the War Department property, reads W-D 1867 and has been taken as indicating that the fort was completed in that year although parliamentary reports record it as complete in 1863. It was abandoned as a military installation in 1926 following which it has been used for private residences in between periods of dereliction. A pair of granite sett gun platforms located just to the east of the highest ground within the fort provide the only visible remains of the battery of 1779, although below ground remains will survive. The fort of 1860 includes a substantial loopholed curtain wall of monumental limestone ashlar. This mostly survives for its entire circuit defining an area near triangular in shape. Entry was gained by way of two entrances, one through the north wall and one through the south wall. The main entrance way to the fort on its north west landward face was approached by a curving trackway. Much of this entrance way has been destroyed and then rebuilt in the 1990s. This wall was defended by a pair of musketry canopiers at the northern corner, a further two along the sea face, and another at the south corner. The landward face had the additional protection of a loopholed bastion, demi-bastion, and a dry moat which is now infilled over much of its length. Inside the fort are seven gun positions on the seaward face, most retaining elements of their racer rails and two retaining central pivots of reused cannon. These guns would have fired en-barbette over the parapet wall in front of them and over the outer curtain wall. Lying within the array of gun positions is a partly sunken earth covered expense magazine with surviving alcoves and shelving; it has a new stairway built over it. A further expense magazine lies just to the south of the seaward gun positions; this may have served gun positions to the south east which have now been removed. It is now used as a workshop. The main underground magazine is located in the centre of the fort under a traverse and cavalier. The major element of this magazine is the shell store which is surrounded by a lamp passage with splayed lamp windows which retain some of their original fittings and thickened glass fragments. The magazine also retains other original features such as timber battens and door surrounds. A passage way, totally covered by the traverse, gave access to the magazine and connects the inner walkways on both the north and south sides of the fort. The magazine is also accessed via a spiral stairway from the cavalier, the entrance being covered by an iron trapdoor. The main magazine served, by way of a hoist, those gun positions mounted on the cavalier. Still surviving are many elements of the hoist which at its upper level feeds into a recess in a purpose built part sunken stone built expense magazine which retains some wooden fragments of its original door frame. Mounted on top of the cavalier are four granite gun platforms, revetted with brick walling, facing the landward side of the fort and thus placed to cover the glacis and hillside to the west. The guns fired through limestone ashlar embrasures beyond which splays have been cut in the earthen rampart. The southern curtain wall of the fort has incorporated on its inner face a row of former barracks, which are Listed Grade II, and have been converted into dwellings as has the demi-bastion and caponier on the south west corner. An original entrance way through the barracks in the southern curtain wall survives as does the exterior ramp which served it. The fort has associated land within the original War Department boundary marked by boundary stones, one of which survives at the northern corner of the glacis whilst another dated 1867 lies on the north east corner of the fort. The land exterior to the fort itself comprises a glacis and a long curving approach road leading from the original military road to the entrance at the north. A number of features are excluded from the scheduling, these are; the row of barracks (now converted to housing, Nos 1-12) lying against the inner face of the south west curtain wall, all modern structures and buildings built after 1926 including all private dwelling houses, second expense magazine, used as a workshop, all garages, modern fencing, gates, gateposts and stiles, builders' waste dumps, soil dumps, benches and fittings, modern surfacings of paths, roads and hardstanding areas, and the retaining wall at the south west exterior of the dry moat; although the ground beneath all these features is included except that below the four most westerly garages. Totally excluded from the scheduling are the four most westerly garages lying east-west, opposite the northern exterior curtain wall of the fort. Also totally excluded is a septic tank and the ground beneath it located behind the row of east-west garages in the area of the glacis.

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: 29617

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Dixon, M, The Existing and Proposed Defences of Plymouth, (1780)
Pye, A, Woodward, F, The Historic Defences of Plymouth, (1996), 72-3
Pye, A, Woodward, F, The Historic Defences of Plymouth, (1996), 73-5
Sheppard, P A, Cawsand Fort Survey, (1979)

End of official listing