Reasons for Designation
Artillery castles were constructed as strong stone defensive structures
specifically to house heavy guns. Most date from the period of Henry VIII's
maritime defence programme between 1539 and 1545, though the earliest and
latest examples date from 1481 and 1561 respectively. They were usually sited
to protect a harbour entrance, anchorage or similar feature.
These monuments represent some of the earliest structures built exclusively
for the new use of artillery in warfare and can be attributed to a relatively
short time span in English history. Their architecture is specific in terms of
date and function and represents an important aspect of the development of
defensive structures generally.
Although documentary sources suggest that 36 examples originally existed, all
on the east, south and south east coasts of England, only 21 survive. All
examples are considered to be of national importance.
Despite some damage by coastal erosion and possible slighting during the
Commonwealth period, the surviving remains of Fort Charles are well-preserved.
The walls, buried remains and rock cut features contain information relating
to the construction and use of the monument, and will add considerably to its
This monument includes Fort Charles, an artillery castle constructed in the
1540s by order of King Henry VIII, and sited on a natural rock island near
the mouth of the Kingsbridge Estuary. Local views of the estuary from Salcombe
to the sea are visible from the fort. The fort was later reconstructed and
strengthened in 1643 on the orders of Prince Maurice. It was then besieged by
Parliamentary forces under Sir Thomas Fairfax between 15th January and 7th May
1646, when its Royalist garrison, under the command of Sir Edmund Fortescue,
surrendered. A small watch tower was built onto the ruins of Fort Charles in
the 18th or 19th century.
The monument survives as a ruin, best preserved on the landward side, where a
large semicircular, four storey tower of dressed slate rubble on the south
west side of the site is flanked a short distance to the north east by the
remains of a narrower rectangular tower. The two are connected by a straight
section of wall facing the cliff. Large quantities of earth and rubble lie
against the interior, preserving remains of several rooms. On the seaward side
of the fort, traces of a semicircular battery of at least two storeys survive,
with six gunports facing across the estuary at ground floor level. These are
visible as cuts in the rock, with one pier surviving between the gunports; a
shaped corbel which supported the gunport lintel survives on its south west.
A door connected the south west tower with the battery. Low walls projecting
from the now buried rear part of the fort show that a rectangular kitchen with
an oven on its west side abutted the straight wall on the landward side, while
rooms on either side lay within the two flanking towers. The only identifiable
entrance is a sally port at the north east end of the main gun battery. This
had a narrow `L'-shaped passage 1.2m wide, with doors at its inner end into
the basement of the north tower and the seaward gun battery. A large stone
pier at the south west corner of the kitchen partly supported the first floor,
with a recess for a newel stair alongside, leading to a second gun deck above
The monument is a Listed Building Grade II.
The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.