The Harwich Redoubt


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1017205

Date first listed: 21-Oct-1968

Date of most recent amendment: 11-Feb-2000


Ordnance survey map of The Harwich Redoubt
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Essex

District: Tendring (District Authority)

Parish: Harwich

National Grid Reference: TM 26156 32161


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

Reasons for Designation

Redoubts are generally defined as defendable low level works serving as platforms for a number of guns. The later, more heavily armed versions, devised during the Napoleonic War, share this concept but housed sizable garrisons for the operation of the armament and are in many ways more closely related to gun towers, a feature of coastal defence since the later Middle Ages. There are three such redoubts in England, one on the east coast at Harwich and two on the south coast, at Dymchurch and Eastbourne. All three formed an integral part of the chain of Martello towers (smaller fortified gun towers) based on a structure encountered by the British Navy at Mortella Bay, Corsica, in 1794 and constructed along the south and east coasts in the early years of the 19th century. As the expected Napoleonic invasion did not materialise, the defensive strength of this system was never tested, although it could be argued that it had served its purpose as an effective deterrent. In addition to the three redoubts, 43 of the original 103 towers now survive: 26 on the south coast and 17 on the east coast.

The Harwich Redoubt has undergone comparatively few later alterations, and it remains the most complete example of the three ten-gun fortifications. The tower is substantially unaltered since its completion in 1810 and, particularly when considered together with the surviving martello towers and other batteries along the east coast, provides a significant insight into a period when modern Britain faced the most serious threat of invasion prior to the major conflicts of the 20th century.

The redoubt also retains a range of minor modifications which demonstrate both the provisions made for improved ordnance in the latter part of the 19th century and the continued military importance of the harbour. The redoubt's involvement in later periods of warfare (both the two World Wars and the early stages of the Cold War), despite being relatively low-key, is nonetheless of considerable interest in terms of the history of the town, the harbour and the more general defence of the east coast.


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


The monument includes a fortified gun tower, or redoubt, situated on a slight hill towards the eastern side of the Harwich peninsula, flanked by Harbour Crescent to the north and east, Main Road to the west, and Mayflower Avenue to the south.

The Harwich Redoubt, which is Listed Grade II*, was built between 1807 and 1809 on the orders of Major Bryce, Royal Engineer in charge of the Eastern District, in order to protect this important deep water harbour in the event of invasion or attack by Napoleon's forces. The location, just outside the town gate, presented a wide field of fire across the peninsula and, combined with Languard Fort on the Suffolk side of the Stour/Orwell Estuary, allowed for cross fire over the harbour approach.

The redoubt is brick built with masonry details and exterior facings. The tower is circular in plan, measuring 61m in diameter, encircled by a dry moat and enclosing an open central parade ground (the Parade) measuring some 26m across. The ground floor has 18 rooms or casemates radiating from the Parade which served as stores for ammunition and general supplies, a cookhouse, ablution room, latrines and accommodation, once the garrision of 250 men and six officers became operational in 1810. The garrison's water supply was provided by a well in the centre of the Parade. The large octagonal cistern located outside the moat to the west (constructed of iron plates with leather seals) held a further 10,000 gallons which could be used for fire-fighting.

Apart from the main magazine and the shell store (which have modified doorways leading around internal blast walls) the inward-facing elevations of the rooms surrounding the Parade are broadly symmetrical: alternating between wide and narrow frontages, each equipped with square headed doorways and flanking sash windows (the doors and frames are modern replicas). Circular windows above the doors allow further light into the rooms, all of which have high barrel- vaulted ceilings to support the weight of the gun platforms above. Staircases ascend from rear passages between three pairs of ground floor rooms and lead to covered entrances on the north, east and south sides of the gun platform. The platform is equipped with ten embrasures, each originally designed for a 24 pounder smooth bore (SB) cannon, slide mounted on traversing carriages secured to central pivots (usually a further cannon barrel embedded mouth uppermost in the floor). None of the embrasures survive unaltered. In 1861 the embrasure openings were narrowed with granite blocks to protect the gun crews from rifle fire. The deflective parapet and exterior walls, originally clad in limestone, were refitted with granite to withstand heavier bombardment from improved artillery. In 1862 the ten guns were replaced with more powerful armament, seven 68 pounder cannons and three 8-inch (SB) guns. Ten years later three of the positions facing the harbour approach (known as Cook Street, Box Street and King Street from the original painted plaques) were modified to take 9-inch rifled muzzle loading guns (RMLs). One such RML gun, weighing 12 tons, was recovered in 1970 from the floor of the moat surrounding the redoubt and is now mounted on a concrete carriage in Cook Street embrasure. Two others, still buried in the moat, have been identified by geophysical survey.

It is thought likely that the ground floor magazine and shell store were overhauled at this time, improving the blast walls and separate light passages, and that rear windows (facing into the moat) were added to some rooms, replacing or supplementing earlier rifle loops. Ammunition was raised to the gun positions using five hoists mounted above wooden gantries over the Parade. One of these hoists is attached to the rear of the eastern stairhead structure, the others form part of brick built ammunition stores designed to house supplies for the guns. In 1903 the two emplacements facing the harbour (Box Street and King Street) were modified to take 12 pounder quick-fire (QF) guns and a doorway (or sally port) was added to the rear of the ground floor guard room to provide access into the north side of the moat. The moat is about 16m wide and 7m deep, the upper edge of the brick retaining wall set slightly below the level of the gun platform so as to conceal the bulk of the building while allowing an uninterrupted field of fire across the modified slope (glacis) of the hill. A generator house and oil store was constructed in the moat in 1903 in order to supply electricity to searchlights located on the slope below the fort. Access to the redoubt was originally provided by a fixed bridge, with a drawbridge section, leading to the gun platform on the WNW side. This was replaced with the present permanent bridge, capable of supporting heavy vehicles, after World War II.

In 1910 the QF guns were removed and the redoubt became barrack accommodation. Having seen little active use in World War I, the redoubt was sold to the Town Council in the 1920s and housing developments soon encroached around the foot of the hill. The hillside itself was used for allotment gardens. The redoubt was recommissioned for military use in World War II and served a range of support roles including a period as a detention room for British servicemen. A Bofors anti-aircraft gun was stationed on the forward gun platform as part of the air defences for the harbour. After the war the redoubt was retained as a civil defence centre for co-ordinating emergency services in the event of nuclear war. These operations were transferred to other more suitable buildings in the late 1950s, and the redoubt was abandoned until restoration work was initiated by the Harwich Society in 1969.

Clearance work has been followed by consolidation and repair and the redoubt is now a well maintained structure, open to the public and dedicated to the display of its former use. Of the various guns located on the upper platform the only original piece of ordnance is the 1872 RML gun raised from the moat, which is included in the scheduling. Its modern concrete gun carriage is excluded from the scheduling, although the platform structure on which it stands is included. All the other weaponry on display has been brought from elsewhere and is excluded from the scheduling, although again the structures to which they are attached are included.

Modern replacement items, such as the wooden floors of some of the ground floor rooms and the hoist gantrys, the sash windows and the doors facing the Parade are excluded, together with all modern plaques, notice boards, display cases and contents, furniture, workshop equipment and all modern plumbing and electrical systems, although all structures to which these items are attached are included. Original fittings, such as the ammunition hoists, the iron banisters around the inner edge of the gun platform and the various equipment racks in the ground floor room are included in the scheduling.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 4 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.


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

Legacy System number: 29443

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Medlycott, M, Harwich: Historic Town Assessment Report, (1998)
Trollope, C, Sheard, S, Rutter, A, The Harwich Redoubt, (1995)
Trollope, C, Sheard, S, Rutter, A, The Harwich Redoubt, (1995)
Trollope, C, Sheard, S, Rutter, A, The Harwich Redoubt, (1995)
Trollope, C, Sheard, S, Rutter, A, The Harwich Redoubt, (1995)
DOE, List of Buildings of Historic & Architectural Interest,
Text and photographs, Gilman, P, 0053: The Harwich Redoubt, (1987)

End of official listing