Berry Head Fort and battery and Hardy's Head Battery


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1017322

Date first listed: 09-Nov-1950

Date of most recent amendment: 14-Mar-2000


Ordnance survey map of Berry Head Fort and battery and Hardy's Head Battery
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: Torbay (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Brixham

National Grid Reference: SX 94048 56668, SX 94489 56499


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

Reasons for Designation

The upheavals following the French Revolution and the general political situation in France at the end of the 18th century, coupled with the Napoleonic Wars of 1800-1815, sparked a very real fear in England that an invasion might be mounted by the French. By 1803-05, when the threat of invasion was at its greatest, the decision had already been taken to revive and heavily strengthen the defences of the south and east coasts in anticipation of a French naval attack. At Berry Head, work was underway as early as 1794 on the recommissioning of batteries first constructed in 1780, as a response to threats arising from the American War of Independence. A new fort and redoubt to protect those batteries from land attack were under construction on Berry Head before the turn of the century. Berry Head Fort and Hardy's Head Battery (together with the Old Redoubt, SM29695), formed part of a very strong defensive network, the remains of which represent a major and rare survival of a monument of the Napoleonic era on the south coast of England. The Berry Head defences are exceptionally well preserved and the fort is one of only a very small number from this period which survive with anything approaching completeness. The monument is well understood and will provide information relating to the strategic military thinking at a time when the threat to English naval power and the country as a whole was considered great. Despite some loss to quarrying, Berry Head Fort, together with Hardy's Head Battery provides a visible reminder of the seriousness with which this threat was taken. The fort is particularly well documented with plans and accounts of its construction and armament being held at the Public Record Office and a major study having been published on its fortifications. This information complements the standing remains and enhances the research value of the monument. Berry Head figured again in the 20th century defence of Britain with the erection of a Royal Observer Corps post within the monument during World War II and the construction of an underground Cold War monitoring post in 1959-60.


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


The monument, which falls into two separate areas of protection, includes Berry Head Fort and battery and Hardy's Head Battery. Berry Head is at the southern tip of Torbay and it commands extensive views of the western coastal approaches to the English Channel and of the Torbay harbourage. Berry Head Fort was a heavily defended garrisoned fort built around a half moon coastal battery constructed on the main promontory of Berry Head at the turn of the 19th century. This was in response to the repeated threats of an invasion by the French under Napoleon Bonaparte. Such forts and fortifications built at this time are generally referred to as Napoleonic. Much of the defences of Berry Head Fort, its half moon coastal battery site, and some of its interior buildings have survived later quarrying of the headland for limestone. The ramparts, revetments, and walls of Berry Head Fort are Listed Grade II* whilst some of the other fort buildings in the interior are Listed Grade II. Hardy's Head Battery is a former coastal battery of 1780, lying to the north west of Berry Head Fort. It was dismantled around 1783 but was later reactivated as part of the response to the Napoleonic invasion threat; its gun platforms and parapet wall survive. Contemporary plans and documents of the late 18th century show that, initially, three garrisoned forts (numbered 1-3), designed by Lt-Col Alexander Mercer, were planned for construction on Berry Head. Ultimately only two were constructed, these being the northern fort on the main headland (Fort 3, now known as Berry Head Fort), which incorporated the promontory coastal battery, and the southern fort (Fort 1, more properly a defensive redoubt) which lies about 450m further to the south, and which is the subject of a separate scheduling (SM 29695). The main purpose of the half moon coastal battery on Berry Head was to defend the Torbay anchorage whilst Berry Head Fort and its associated redoubt were intended to defend the battery in the event of a land attack. Another fort (Fort 2) was intended to provide a further land defence on the western side of the main fort, but it was never built. In order to recompense for the omission of Fort 2, a further battery, Hardy's Head Battery, a redundant coastal battery lying to the west of the main fort, was recommissioned and pressed into service in its stead. Berry Head Fort was built in the years following 1795 although it was not completed until 1809. The major landward defence was formed by a stone- revetted earthen rampart with a parapet fronted by a wide dry moat strung across the neck of the headland. The dry moat, which is revetted on the landward side by a battered stone wall, is nearly 7m in width and is accompanied by an inner rampart wall over 5m high of roughly coursed squared Devonian limestone topped by a parapet pierced by multiple splayed gun embrasures. A single western entrance to the fort was approached by a drawbridge but this has been replaced by a much later earthen causeway. Additionally, the slopes of the headland enclosed behind the wall and moat were provided with musketry walls which enclosed a long area of the flattest and highest ground, about 140m wide and about 450m long, from the entrance to the tip of the headland where the coastal battery was located; this area amounted to about 6.3ha. The northern musketry wall has mostly been lost to quarrying but the western section of the southern wall survives and it has a redan (a salient angle to provide enfilading fire) and a garde foux (a wall running along the revetment to protect the soldiers behind it). The fort was intended to be heavily garrisoned and at least eight barracks, in two parallel rows of four, were planned for the interior although it is unclear whether all were built. The area intended for the northern barracks has been quarried away but the foundations of some of the southern barracks together with their cisterns and drainage works are partly visible. Other buildings of the same period within the interior of the fort survive in various states of completeness. The best preserved are the officer's guardhouse located just to the south of the entrance, which has undergone changes and extensions in the 19th and 20th centuries, and the buildings supporting the battery at the eastern end of the fort, these being the artillery store which has been much restored and re-roofed as a public shelter, and the main magazine for the coastal battery. The guard house, store and magazine are Listed Grade II. The magazine had already been established at the tip of Berry Head around 1780 during the American War of Independence; it was remodelled for the purposes of serving the Napoleonic battery. Associated with the magazine, and again considered to have been built in 1780, is a coursed limestone rubble sentry box which is Listed Grade II. It is an octagonal building of ingenious design which allowed the four sentries to remain in contact with one another through apertures placed in the partition walls. The Napoleonic half moon battery at Berry Head occupied the same site as its earlier predecessor of 1780. It was built in 1795 and was armed with twelve 42-pounder cannon set within a wide terrace with a low parapet bank along its seaward sides (this bank forming the half moon shape from which this type of battery gets its name). The gun platforms were originally of wood and later of moorstone but these were removed in 1817; the terrace revetment wall remains to indicate the site of the battery and traces of four of the gun platforms can still be seen. About 280m north west of the entrance to Berry Head Fort is Hardy's Head Battery. This battery was built in 1780 during the American War of Independence. It comprised three 24-pounder cannon on wooden gun platforms `en barbette' (ie the guns fired over their surrounding parapet rather than through them). It was dismantled in 1783 at the end of the war but was resurrected in 1794 as part of the Napoleonic defences. In this second phase its armament was increased from three to four cannon, one of which could offer fire to cover the northern side of the main fort. The wooden gun platforms were replaced by moorstone blocks which still survive, as does the surrounding low parapet of compacted earth and limestone rubble which encloses the battery on its north, east and west sides, forming a trapezoidal shape facing the sea approaches to the Torbay harbourage. A magazine, possibly associated with the battery and shown on early 20th century maps, has been quarried away. Following the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815 Berry Head Fort was maintained under military control until at least 1832 although the barracks were dismantled; a walled garden abutting the southern musketry wall was probably constructed shortly after 1815 during the period of continued military occupation of the site. Some of the fort buildings have been converted for other uses whilst post-Napoleonic War structures within the fort include a lighthouse constructed on the northern tip of the headland in 1906, a coastguard lookout station built into the former magazine building during the same year, a Royal Observer Corps (ROC) post built onto the foundations of a Napoleonic store building in the centre of the fort in 1943, and an underground ROC Cold War monitoring post built, also in the centre of the fort, in about 1960.

Excluded from the scheduling are the Guard House Cafe which is also a residence (Listed Grade II), the old artillery store, now a public shelter (Listed Grade II), the magazine (Listed Grade II) which has an incorporated coastguard lookout, the Berry Head lighthouse, its ancillary buildings and enclosure walls, the concrete triangulation point, the putting green fittings, all fixed benches, lamp posts, bollards, information boards, fixed telescopes, all purpose built observation points, all fencing, all modern hard standing and paving, and the 20th century northern safety wall, although the ground beneath all of these features is included.

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: 29694

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Evans, D, The History of the Berry Head Fortifications, (1986)
Wood, D, Attack Warning Red. The ROC and the defence of Britain 1925-1992, (1992)
Lowry, B (ed), 'Practical Handbooks in Archaeology' in 20th Century Defences in Britain, , Vol. 12, (1995), 125-29
Pye, A R, Berry Head Fort, Brixham: An Archaeological Assessment, 1989, Unpublished report 89.04

End of official listing