World War II Emergency Coastal Battery and remains of a Victorian practice battery, at Battery Gardens


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1020411

Date first listed: 06-Mar-2002


Ordnance survey map of World War II Emergency Coastal Battery and remains of a Victorian practice battery, at Battery Gardens
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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 Park: N/A

National Grid Reference: SX 92092 56917


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

Reasons for Designation

The use of fixed artillery to protect the coast from hostile ships is one of the oldest practices in the history of England's defences, providing home security and protecting communications from the fifteenth until the second half of the 20th century. Emergency Coastal Batteries are one of the four classes of 20th century batteries - the other three are Anti-Motor Torpedo boat Batteries (AMTB), Defended Ports (DP), and Temporary and Mobile Artillery (TMA). They were set up at speed in the early years of World War II. Their construction and siting were often hurried, and many sites have evidence of change or adaptation in use whilst building was taking place. The guns on their holdfasts were generally the earliest fixed structures within the complex, but a pair of searchlights, magazines and support buildings were also required, as was a Battery Observation Point (BOP). The haste of their construction and the need to adapt to existing buildings, local topography, and camouflage requirements, led to many different arrangements in layout. Some have a more coherent appearance than others, however, with the various elements integrated to make their operation more efficient. Coast artillery was finally discontinued in 1956 and many Emergency Coastal Batteries were then removed. All Emergency Coastal Batteries, where sufficient physical remains survive to illustrate and provide information about the site's original form and function, will be considered to be of national importance.

The Emergency Coastal Battery at Brixham Battery Gardens has been identified as being one of only seven examples of this type of battery which have survived intact (from a recorded total of 116 Emergency Coastal Batteries set up around the coast of England in World War II). The Brixham Battery retains all of the elements of such a coastal battery in an excellent state of preservation within a public area where the remains can be viewed. Some interpretative panels explaining the role of the site in World War II are in place at the site and the historic profile of the battery is enhanced by the work of the Brixham Battery Heritage Centre Group who have produced guidebooks and detailed handbooks about the battery for educational purposes. The monument is well documented with original records available at the Public Record Office which give details of the manning and armament of the battery. The battery stands therefore as a well-researched and visible reminder of the measures taken to protect England against the threat of invasion during the 1940s, and of the degree to which earlier defence sites were often adapted to serve that need.


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


The monument includes the standing and below ground remains of the World War II Emergency Battery set up in 1940 to protect the Brixham harbourage, and the remains of an earlier 19th century practice battery. From at least 1780, a succession of batteries of varying longevity occupied the promontory of land which lies above the west side of Brixham Harbour. The presence of batteries at the site gave rise to the place-names of Fishcombe Point Battery, Furzedon Battery, and, in more modern times, Battery Gardens following the creation of a park in the 1930s. Brixham itself lies close to the tip of the southern crescent of Torbay almost directly opposite Torquay. The bay was considered strategically important for naval purposes from at least the late 18th century. The World War II battery formed part of the defences of Torbay between the period 1940-1945 and, together with a similar battery on Corbyn's Head at Torquay, it was sited to defend the bay against enemy invasion or attack. Brixham Battery was manned by various Royal Artillery regiments from 362 Battery and later 378 Battery, supported by D Company 10th Torbay Battalion Devonshire Home Guard. The battery was fully manned from 1940 and was in a state of readiness throughout the height of the threatened invasion period (codenamed Operation Sealion by the Germans) until the threat receded by 1942. The World War II complex comprises a number of different structures dispersed throughout the 14 acre (5.6ha) site; only fragmentary remains of the earlier practice battery survive. The World War II battery housed two 4.7inch guns each held within a separate gun floor of similar design built from level concrete with semi-circular aprons facing the sea and each defined by a low brick wall. The western gun floor was known as No 1 Gun and its companion to the east as No 2 Gun. The circular holdfast plates upon which the guns were mounted survive, each around 1m in diameter. The gun positions were protected by brick walls made blastproof by being encased in earth whilst the roofs were constructed of prefabricated steel and concrete sealed over with earth. A steel visor, which acted as an anti-strafing measure, extends down from an angle at the front of both roofs. Access to No 1 Gun was via a large doorway in the rear wall which led to an access channel; No 2 Gun was accessible via a stepped tunnel at its rear west corner. A war shelter which provided a stand- to area for the gun crews is located between the two gun floors. Although partly sealed, the north wall of the shelter is exposed and is constructed of splinter-proof concrete. Each gun was provided with a separate magazine, that for No 2 Gun lies some 40m behind it and comprises a concrete bunker almost totally covered by earth. All of the operations of the battery were controlled from the battery observation post (BOP) which is a Listed Building Grade II. The BOP is a two-storey flat-roofed building built into the slope and offering views over Brixham Harbour and the sea approaches. The building was constructed with thick concrete walls with a reinforced concrete slab roof. The lower room, according to Mr Ron Coleman, a veteran who served at the site as a leading sergeant with D Company, housed range finders used in identifying the positions of targets; the room has a wide observation aperture on the seaward side. The upper room has an aperture extending into the sidewalls giving a broader arc of vision. This room also housed a range finder and it is believed to have been the centre for radio communications. The battery commander's quarters were located in a room behind the BOP. A large range finder was housed in the brick emplacement which survives just to the north west of the BOP. The night-time task of protecting the harbour was assisted by two Coast Artillery Search Lights (CASL) positioned north of the gun floors and close to the cliff edge. The buildings which housed both searchlights survive. They are constructed of brick with bombproof flat roofs and would originally have been earthfast, although some of this mounding appears to have been removed. The searchlight buildings are unusual in having a rectangular ground plan rather than arc- or polygonal-fronted forms which, where in use elsewhere, provided a broader arc of operation. Instead, they had open fronts and cutaway side openings which were bricked up in the post-war period. The battery was equipped with its own Light Anti-aircraft and ground defences some of which could also be turned to protect the harbour. Oral evidence from Ron Coleman has suggested that the main anti-aircraft installation was a 40mm Bofors gun sited just behind the main gun floors. A 1m high earthwork mound with a maximum diameter of 10m just to the south west of, and a little higher than the battery, appears to represent the base for this emplacement. Approximately 10m west of this position is a level concrete platform which is believed to be the site of an non-rotating rocket projector which could fire 10 or 20 2 inch rockets at a time. Further to the south east is a surviving and partly restored gun position suggested by the Brixham Battery Heritage Centre Group (BBHCG) to have housed a 37mm Pom Pom gun. The position comprises a horseshoe-shaped, 1.4m high wall of concrete sandbags built onto a concrete base, with a concrete sandbag revetment to the rear. At the centre of the base is an upstanding, circular concrete plinth with protruding bolt studs for fixing the gun. Surviving elements of the ground defences include a concrete platform sited to cover the main gate of the battery and believed to have held a Lewis light machine gun, and at least three small-arms positions created at points around the boundary by the modification of the park wall in order to provide rifle platforms. A pillbox at the eastern side of the site overlooks the inner harbour. It has a triangular ground plan with an overhanging front and bevelled corners; a narrow loophole on the front has a protective iron doorway. The pillbox is said by Ron Coleman to have housed a 6-pounder Hotchkiss tank gun and it is believed to have been sited in order to protect against any enemy craft which had breached the main defences and gained access to the inner harbour. Support buildings for the battery which lie within the area of the monument include two generator houses which supplied electricity for the searchlights and the emergency supply for the battery, the `Altmark' a pre-World War II public shelter used as a store during the War, a small observation post almost at the summit of the hill (believed to be an emergency backup for the BOP), a reserve reservoir, the remains of an emergency cookhouse, and a concrete platform for artillery loading exercises. An Artillery Training Service (ATS) building lies just outside the area of the monument. It is a permanent brick single-storey building understood to be one of the most common forms of structure erected by the military in World War II. War Office documentation (now lodged with the Public Record Office) suggests that Brixham Battery had a somewhat irregular layout where, unusually, the searchlights lie to one side of the guns and the BOP was in a retired position. However, Emergency Batteries, by the very nature of their rapid construction, did not conform closely to any regular plan. The World War II battery position overlooking the harbour had been previously recognised as advantageous for artillery positions as far back as 1780 and at some stage in the 19th century the open heathland there was enclosed by the War Department (WD), although it was almost certainly already in their ownership and boundary walls were erected prior to the turn of the 20th century. At least two WD boundary stones survive, one free-standing at the north east corner of the former War Department property, and one embedded in situ in the boundary wall at Fishcombe Road; they appear to date from the second half of the 19th century. Of the same general period are some slight earthworks near the lip of a slope forward of the World War II No 2 Gun position; these are believed to be associated with a Victorian practice battery first recorded in 1852. To the rear of the earthwork are two arced traverse rails (known as racers) on which the gun (a 64 pounder Muzzle Loading Rifle) rotated. One rail survives complete and has a length of 3.3m; the other is partly buried with less than 0.3m visible. Associated with this period of use is a standing granite pillar surmounted by a mortar capping into which are embedded three iron bolts arranged so as to hold fast a detachable piece of equipment. The stone, which lies about 30m behind the traverse rails, has an inscription in six lines. Detailed study of the weathered inscription has revealed that it carries information on tides and heights above sea level. The most likely explanation is that the stone was a sighting post used in the calculation of range and bearing to target during firing exercises carried out in the latter half of the 19th century; the bolts could have held a range finder and a theodolite type instrument could also have been mounted. All modern surfacing for made-up paths, and all modern fencing, signposts and steps are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath these surfaces and 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: 33036

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Coleman, R, WWII Coastal Battery Defence System at Battery Gardens, Brixham, (2000)
Newman, P, Battery Gardens, Brixham, Devon, (2001)
Newman, P, Battery Gardens, Brixham, Devon, (2001)
Sheringham, R N, Tor Bay, (1852)
Dobinson, C, 'Twentieth Century Fortifications in England' in Coast Artillery, 1900-56, , Vol. VI.1, (2000)
Coleman, R, (2001)
Lawrance, E, (2001)
Ordnance Survey, Ordnance Survey 1904 1st Revision, (1904)
Pye, A R and Slater, W D, Berry Head Fort, Brixham: An Archaeological Survey, 1990, Unpub EMAFU Report No 90.10

End of official listing