A Napoleonic coastal battery at Bath Side, 400m north west of Tower Hill


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1018957

Date first listed: 07-Jun-2000


Ordnance survey map of A Napoleonic coastal battery at Bath Side, 400m north west of Tower Hill
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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 25876 32446


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

Reasons for Designation

Batteries are self contained positions where guns were mounted for purposes of offensive or defensive action, located either in isolation or in association with wider schemes of fortification. The objective was primarily to bring guns to bear on a specific area, be it a harbour, river or line of communication. Batteries were therefore normally designed to provide the appropriate range and to protect the guns (and crew) during such action, rather than to repell prolonged assault or seige. Battery design developed alongside the improvements in ordnance in the 18th and 19th century, with earthen defences and gabions (barracades of wicker bundles or earth-filled baskets) used during the temporary campaigns, and more elaborate masonry structures placed in areas of permanent vulnerability - such as coastlines and harbours. The battery rampart could be divided by embrasures or sufficiently low to allow guns to fire over the parapet, the latter (en barbette) practice being most common in the early 19th century. Permanent batteries of this period operated smooth-bore cannons, slide-mounted on carriages which rotated around fixed pivots supported by wheels describing the arc on steps or rails (racers). Ammunition would be stored behind the rampart (the area known as the `gorge'), sometimes in purpose built structures (magazines) or in pits, boarded over to prevent accidental ignition. The gun crew might be supplied with a shelter and a guardhouse was commonly situated to oversee the battery when not in use. Batteries of the late 18th and early 19th century, despite being once numerous (especially along the south and east coasts during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars) now rarely survive due to subsequent military and civil developments and coastal erosion. In all some 22 examples are known nationally, the majority of which occur in Devon and Cornwall. As a source of information for the developments in military technology and as indications of the ebb and flow of international (and civil) conflict during this formative period in British history, all examples exhibiting a significant degree of preservation are considered worthy of protection.

The Bath Side battery is the last of the three Napoleonic batteries at Harwich to survive, and it is one of few such sites in England to have been investigated archaeologically. The results of the excavation have demonstrated that the structure remains substantially intact and, despite former erosion, the effects of decommissioning and subsequent development, it retains details of the original design, armament and alterations undertaken to improve its capability. The battery formed an integral part of the fortifications for the harbour, serving a documented role alongside the Harwich Redoubt, Landguard Fort and the Martello towers of the Suffolk shore. Although the other batteries have been lost, the Bath Side battery (portrayed in outline on the verge) compliments the major surviving features of the period and provides a valuable insight into a period when modern Britain faced the most serious threat of invasion prior to the major conflicts of the 20th century.


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The monument includes the buried remains of a coastal battery on the north western side of the Harwich peninsula, located beneath Stour Road and the verge which separates it from the Dovercourt Bypass, some 120m west of the Harwich town railway station.

The military defences for Harwich - the safest natural harbour on the east coast between the Thames and the Humber - were considerably enhanced following the resumption of the war with France in 1803. The period 1806-1811 saw the development of a ten-gun redoubt (or gun tower) in the centre of the peninsula, supported by seaward facing batteries at Angel Gate and Beacon Hill and the battery at Bath Side Bay looking west across the mouths of the Rivers Stour and Orwell. These were intended to provide crossfire with Landguard Fort and four contemporary Martello towers (numbered L-O) positioned on the Suffolk (northern) side of the haven. The redoubt, Beacon Hillfort and Landguard Fort, as well as the Martello towers are the subject of separate schedulings.

The Angel Gate and Beacon Hill batteries have been lost to coastal erosion and redevelopment. The remains of the Bath Side battery, however, are known to survive below ground level, having been partly excavated during the construction of the Dovercourt bypass in 1990-91. A map of Crown properties in Harwich dated 1813 shows that the battery was originally constructed above the high water mark on the western shoreline, extending beyond a coastal embankment which enclosed a wide area of marshland along the foot of the peninsula. The battery's present location (some 140m from the water's edge) results from a process of land reclamation which began around 1850. Permission for the batteries to be built was granted in 1809 following a report by Captain George Whitmore, (the Royal Engineer in charge of the east coast Martello towers) to the Inspector General of Fortifications, General R Morse. The construction contract for the Bath Side battery was awarded to James Frost of Norwich in 1810, and the armaments were ordered from Woolwich Arsenal in the same year. The Bath Side battery was built in brick (mainly shipped from Gravesend) and sandstone, with a semi-circular rampart facing into the estuary, set behind a deflective earthen slope (or glacis) retained by a lower brick wall. The interior of the battery, the area known as the gorge, measured some 38m in width and contained a small octagonal guardhouse placed centrally alongside a wooden fence enclosing the rear. The 1990-91 excavations revealed extensive remains of the rampart, retaining walls and the guardhouse (the latter located but not investigated) which had survived partial demolition and disturbance from later buildings. The material of the glacis, however, had been completely removed by tidal erosion - a process which had also led to the collapse of some sections of the walls. The gun emplacements also remained substantially intact. The battery was originally equipped with three 12-pounder cannons mounted on traversing carriages. These were set on pivots to the rear of the rampart wall and designed to fire over the parapet (en barbette). Remnants of the semi-circular steps (racers) for the carriage wheels and impressions of the pivots (9-pounder cannon barrels embedded mouth uppermost in the floor of each emplacement) were found during excavation, although these arrangments were largely overlain by evidence of subsequent modifications. It is thought that the original design, constructed in haste to meet an imminent threat of invasion, provided the guns with inadequate arcs of fire (50 degrees or less), and that alterations were made soon after the battery's completion. The three emplacements were moved forward through breaches in the rampart wall so that the relocated pivots stood in line with the parapet. Imprints of the pivot cannons' cascabels were also found in these locations, although the pivots themselves had long since been removed. These new positions increased the firing arcs to some 70 degrees and allowed for overlapping trajectories. They were encircled by new brick-built steps for the iron carriage racers (also removed) and protected by semi-circular embrasures projecting beyond the rampart wall.

The war with France ended in 1815 and in September 1817 the Board of Ordnance ordered the guns, which had never seen action, to be dismounted. The Harwich tithe map of 1843 depicts the battery intact, although land reclamation had begun to affect the shoreline in the vicinity. Some work was carried out in 1853 to maintain both the Bath Side and Angel Gate batteries, although a report by Lieutenant General Burgoyne in the same year advocated decommissioning on account of their close proximity to new buildings. In 1854 the Harwich Gas and Coke Company purchased the reclaimed land immediately to the north of the battery for the town's gas works, limiting the possibilty of any further military use. Improvements to the armaments mounted on the Redoubt in 1862 also undermined the value of maintaining the battery and by 1867 it was largely ruinous. The eastern side of the peninsula began to be developed for housing in 1873 and the battery was sold in about 1875 to the United Land Company. The area was divided into plots which retained the semi-circular outline of the battery and a row of cottages was constructed over the site in 1884. These were demolished in 1990 to make way for the bypass. Following the excavations in 1991 the battery was reburied, grassed over and the outline depicted with superficial brickwork. The site is included in the Harwich Maritime Trail.

The brick outline, together with the modern surface of Stour Road, adjacent fence and information board are all excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath 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: 29445

Legacy System: RSM

End of official listing