Resolution Fort: Civil War town defences at Friary Court


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1018732

Date first listed: 16-Nov-1998


Ordnance survey map of Resolution Fort: Civil War town defences at Friary Court
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: City of Plymouth (Unitary Authority)

National Grid Reference: SX 48700 54678


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

Reasons for Designation

The battles and sieges of the English Civil War (1642-52) between King and Parliament were the last major active military campaigns to be undertaken on English soil and they have left their mark on the English landscape in a variety of ways. Fieldworks are earthworks which were raised during the military campaigns or sieges to provide temporary protection for infantry or to act as gun emplacements. The earthworks, which are sometimes reinforced with revetting and palisades, consisted of ramparts and ditches often supplemented with a variety of more complex projecting works such as bastions and spurs. Where the earthworks were erected to defend a town, they could be even more sophisticated with strong points and forts at intervals along the enceinte and the provision of outworks beyond. These features can be recognised today as surviving earthworks or as crop or soil marks on aerial photographs. They are recorded widely throughout England, with concentrations in the main areas of campaigning, and have been recognised to be unique in representing the only evidence on the ground of military campaigns fought in England since the introduction of artillery. Plymouth was a key garrison held by the Royalists but taken by Parliament soon after the outbreak of the Civil War in 1642. The town remained in Parliamentarian hands for the remainder of the war but it was required to withstand five major sieges and several blockades. The town was surrounded by a series of defensive fieldworks of which the surviving defences at Resolution Fort provide a visible reminder of the role played by Plymouth in the Civil War as a Parliamentarian stronghold. The monument also provides archaeological information relating to the erection of purpose-built town defences of the period and information relating to the strategic military thinking of the times. This information is complemented by contemporary documentary and mapped sources which enhance the research value of the monument and, as a result, the remains are well understood.


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


The monument, a Civil War construction, includes part of an earthen rampart and bastion (projecting gun platform) fronted by a stone wall and defensive ditch, built by Parliamentarian forces in the early 1640s for the defence of Plymouth. The surviving portion of the rampart and bastion is known from contemporary cartographic sources to have been part of Resolution Fort, one of a number of named forts and features on the Plymouth fortifications. The monument is located at Friary Court off Beaumont Road. Soon after the outbreak of Civil War, Plymouth expelled its Royalist garrison and declared for Parliament. There was no earlier continuous medieval town wall with which to improvise a defensive circuit to resist the expected Royalist siege and work on erecting a new and continuous fortification on the landward side, in order to defend the city, began shortly after the summer of 1642. Excavations in 1989, in advance of a housing development at Friary Court, revealed a 17m stretch of these defences comprising an earthen rampart and bastion fronted by a limestone wall and a ditch. These remains lay just to the east of a former Carmelite friary which was surrendered to the Crown in 1538 and later passed into private ownership. The earth rampart of 1642 was about 6m wide and it originally had a turf-revetted face. Where the bastion was added, the rampart was built forward. The bastion in this case has been suggested, from the study of other complete known examples, to have been a broad diamond-shaped projection. A section of the earth rampart, about 4.5m long and part of its forward bastion, approximately 21m east-west by 12.5m north-south, survives above ground at Friary Court. Further archaeological investigation has demonstrated that a limestone wall on an exposed bed of natural shale, which survives to a maximum height of about 1.7m and which varies between 0.85m and 1.1m wide at its base, was inserted into the front of the earthwork defences at a slightly later date. The projecting wall angles clearly show the southern side of the bastion which was further defended by an external rock-cut ditch about 0.8m deep and 3.6m wide. This ditch is now partly infilled but is visible as a shallow depression running parallel to the bastion wall at the base of the shale scarp. A number of musket balls were recovered in excavation at the rear of the rampart at a point where an access leading up to the bastion platform was likely to have been located. Documentary research has revealed that the decision to upgrade the defences by the addition of a stone wall and parapet was taken on the 9th July 1643 and that the work was completed by February 1644. A map of the city's fortifications and the Royalist siege lines was drawn up by Wenceslaus Hollar in early 1644 and it still survives. This map is accurate enough, when combined with other cartographic and archaeological evidence, to permit the identification of the section of the defences exposed in excavation at Friary Court with the mapped depiction of Resolution Fort, one of seven forts or bastions which can be located with reasonable certainty on the eastern and northern sides of the Parliamentarian fortification. On the completion of the housing development in 1992, the wall of the bastion was consolidated and built up to something of its former height by the addition of a wall and parapet of Staffordshire Blue Brindle brickwork and the rampart and external ditch were grassed over. The Blue Brindle brickwork is included in the scheduling.

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: 29665

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Henderson, C G, 'Occasional Publication:Archaeological Investigations in Plymouth' in Excavation at Plymouth Whitefriars, 1989-94, , Vol. 1, (1992-93), 47-58
Stoyle, M, 'Devon Archaeology' in Plymouth in the Civil War, , Vol. 7, (1998)

End of official listing