Hull Castle, South Blockhouse and part of late 17th century Hull Citadel Fort at Garrison Side


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

City of Kingston upon Hull (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference:
TA 10444 28739, TA 10511 28548

Reasons for Designation

The increasing use of gunpowder and the development of artillery from the late medieval period onwards saw fundamental changes in fortification design. Blockhouses were specifically built to house guns and to protect the gunners and ammunition from attack. In contrast with the high walls and towers of medieval castles, blockhouses typically presented a low profile to hostile canon fire, often with sloped walls to deflect shot. The earliest known blockhouse dates to 1398, but the majority were built in the first half of the 16th century by Henry VIII, typically to command strategic locations such as anchorages. Varying widely in layout and design, the main components of a blockhouse were normally a stone built tower and bastions or gun platforms; although in some cases only the tower or bastion was present. Distributed along the east, south and south west coasts, there are 27 examples which are known to survive as standing structures, ruins or buried archaeological remains, many incorporated into later military installations.

Hull Castle and the South Blockhouse were amongst the last to be built nationally. Their unique style using segmental pointed bastions marks an important Italianate development of the round bastion form. They are also notable for the survival of contemporary documents, including plans. Conflicts in Europe saw the rapid development of the use of artillery by field armies. As numbers of guns increased, becoming more powerful and accurate at the same time, the stone built blockhouse increasingly became vulnerable. New fortifications became larger, utilising stone or brick revetted earthwork ramparts, which could more effectively absorb the impact of canon fire, surrounded by a broad moat. In England, new fortifications in the late 16th and 17th centuries typically followed developments on the continent, particularly the Italian and Dutch schools of military engineering. Hull Citadel is an example of a very rare self-contained fort. Only 25 of these sites were constructed nationally between 1660 and 1865. Of these Hull Citadel, Plymouth Citadel, Tilbury Fort and Clifford's Fort are the earliest examples and all date from the late 17th century. In view of the rarity of such sites nationally, and the important insight they provide into the historic development of defence strategies, all examples retaining surviving archaeological remains are considered worthy of protection. The Hull site is notable for its rarity, the survival of remains from phases of its construction, and the clear influence the fort had on later land-use. A careful layout of large, straight sided angle bastions was used so that guns could be positioned to fire on all of the surrounding area of land without leaving any dead ground. The tops of the ramparts were wide enough to allow the free movement of guns and troops, and were typically protected by a stone parapet, sometimes pierced by gunports known as embrasures. Sometimes casemates, brick or stone vaulted chambers with an earth covering designed to make them bomb-proof, were constructed in the body of the ramparts as further gun positions. Magazines were also sometimes housed in casemates, but as an explosion in a casemated magazine could breach the surrounding rampart, gunpowder was frequently housed in separate buildings inside the fort. At Hull, the castle was reused as a magazine until separate purpose built magazines were constructed in the early 19th century. Hull Citadel also had a number of small casemated magazines constructed within the ramparts, typically adjacent to sallyports which provided access to the base flank batteries. These batteries, sited at the foot of the ramparts, were also a common feature of the period, allowing crossfire to be brought to bear along the foot of the ramparts. Unlike blockhouses, which were not designed to be inhabited for prolonged periods, artillery forts were typically provided with a permanent garrison of troops. Consequently, within the enceinte protected by the surrounding ramparts, there were barracks, officers' quarters, stores and other auxiliary buildings, typically around a parade ground.

Excavation of various parts of the Citadel and associated Henrician fortifications has shown that demolition in 1864 was far from complete. Substantial and still well-preserved stone and brick structural remains survive in situ, together with evidence of the earthwork ramparts. In addition many individual items have been uncovered ranging from a 16th century canon to waterlogged organic materials such as strips of cloth which would have been used as wadding for musket balls. Extensive contemporary documents concerning the Citadel and earlier fortifications also survive, adding considerably to the monument's importance.


The monument includes the buried remains of a significant part of Hull Citadel, an artillery garrison fort constructed between 1681-1690. It also includes the buried remains of the earlier defences built by Henry VIII in 1541-42 that were incorporated into the Citadel. A book `Town and Gun' by Audrey Howes and Martin Foreman published in 1999, draws on extensive surviving documents concerning these fortifications, as well as details uncovered through numerous small scale archaeological excavations undertaken since 1969.

The monument lies in two seperate areas of protection. The northern area includes the remains of Hull Castle. The southern area includes part of the Citadel and the remains of the South Blockhouse. Further nationally important remains of the Citadel survive to the north of the A63, although they are not included in the scheduling owing to the extensively built up environment overlying them.

Kingston upon Hull was founded by Edward I in 1293 on the west bank of the River Hull at its confluence with the Humber. Founded as a commercial enterprise as well as a supply base for his campaigns against Scotland, it quickly became a major port with international trading links, outshining the older established inland ports of Beverley and Hedon. In the following century the town was fortified with a brick built town wall and a substantial outer ditch. However, Hull's independent spirit in defiance of the Crown was demonstrated during the Pilgrimage of Grace, a popular uprising against Henry VIII in 1536-37 when Hull fell into the control of the rebels. In response to this the King ordered the refurbishment of the medieval defences and in 1541-42, his military engineer John Rogers constructed three blockhouses linked by a curtain wall on the eastern bank of the River Hull. These defences not only protected the eastern approaches to the town but also dominated both the anchorage on the river and the town itself. The middle blockhouse, larger than the other two, became known as Hull Castle. The buried remains of this, along with that of the South Blockhouse and the curtain wall connecting the two, form part of the monument and are shown in detail by several 17th century plans and illustrations. A century later Hull once more defied the Crown when on 23 April 1642, King Charles I was refused access to the town and thus the second largest arsenal in the country that it contained. In the subsequent English Civil War, Hull withstood two Royalist sieges and remained in the control of Parliament. Following the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660, the defence of Hull was neglected despite the threat of Dutch raiding during the Anglo-Dutch Wars. It appears to have been domestic unrest which finally prompted the refortification of the town with rebellion in Scotland in 1679 and unrest fuelled by the conspiracy theory known as the Popish Plot. Major Martin Beckman, second to the Chief Engineer Sir Bernard de Gomme, surveyed the defences in 1681 and was immediately commissioned to strengthen them. His design plan for the triangular artillery fort is preserved by the British Library. Between 1681-83 the Castle and South Blockhouse were repaired and incorporated into a new defensive work overlooking the harbour and town. The eastern, landward defences were constructed in 1683-84, complete with a broad wet moat. The following year the fort, referred to as Hull Citadel, was rapidly put into a state of readiness in response to rebellions in Scotland and the south west. Perhaps demonstrating that civil unrest rather than naval attack was deemed the most serious threat, it was not until 1686-90 that the defences facing the Humber were built. At the time, however, this last side of the Citadel fronted directly onto the Humber, with the tides and ground conditions posing serious engineering difficulties.

The Citadel became a major arsenal and included most of the 117 guns recorded at Hull in 1716. However, it was allowed to decay in the early 18th century with only some ad hoc renovations taking place in response to the Jacobite Rebellions of 1715 and 1745. In 1802 the Henrician North Blockhouse, which had been damaged during the Civil War and never fully repaired, was finally demolished. It is not known if any buried remains of this structure still survive and thus the North Blockhouse is not included in the monument. Between 1804 and 1815 various improvements and repairs were carried out on the fort which was now mainly used as a depot and barracks. In 1805 the Castle was turned into an armoury and the following year the South Blockhouse was converted into a naval store.

By 1811 the Citadel housed nearly 800 men, up from 400 in 1797 and 200 in 1688. The military occupation of the fort was wound down between 1848 and 1860. It was surveyed in detail by the Ordnance Survey in 1850 and the guns fired for the last time to salute the Prince of Wales's wedding on 12th March 1859. By this time rifled artillery, with its longer range, had made the siting of the Citadel defensively ineffective against naval bombardment. The commercial development on the east side of the River Hull had also compromised the Citadel's eastern defences from landward attack. In 1863 the Crown sold off the site and the buildings were levelled the following year. However, the substantial nature of the defences made them difficult to clear and instead they were buried beneath a raised ground surface that later formed a railway marshalling yard. A series of excavations from 1969 have shown that substantial archaeological remains of the Citadel along with remains of the earlier Henrician defences still survive. It is these remains that form the monument.

In overall design, the Citadel enclosed a triangular enceinte, or defended area. Extending from each corner there was a low lying, straight sided angular bastion each linked to the next by low, straight curtain walls and ramparts. Further protection was provided by a broad wet moat around the north east and north west sides. On the south side, until silting in the late 18th century, the Citadel fronted straight onto the Humber. The ramparts of the north bastion and north eastern curtain were principally constructed from rammed earth which excavation has shown now survives as dense clay layers buried below later deposits. These ramparts also included stone and brick features, some of which have also been uncovered by excavation. Features that have been investigated archaeologically include the original main gate, which was in the centre of the north east curtain, as well as two of the sallyports which provided access to batteries sited at the base of the ramparts. The Henrician Hull Castle lies towards the northern apex of the monument, within the north bastion. The South Blockhouse lies towards the apex of the south western bastion. Both have been investigated by small scale excavations revealing parts of their ground plans, details about their construction and evidence for later modifications. They both have substantial outer walls built with chalk and limestone rubble mortared corework faced with brick, with limestone blocks used for quoins and other architectural features. In style they are unique for England, with small segmental pointed bastions (bastions with two curved sides coming to an outward facing point), rather than the more typical rounded form of the period. During the construction of the Citadel, both appear to have had their ground floor handgun loops and the canon embrasures bricked up, and in 1805-6 they were provided with new cobbled floors. The north western curtain between these two strong points was also mainly of rammed earth construction, however it utilised the earlier Henrician curtain wall, which excavation has shown to have been 3m thick, as a retaining wall. The rampart was topped by a battery of 27 gun embrasures overlooking the River Hull and the town. Along its base was a walk protected by a parapet for troops with handguns, and to either side were base flank batteries. Remains of these will survive as archaeological features. The southern side of the Citadel was very solidly constructed to withstand the Humber tides. Parts of the southern curtain and the two southern bastions have been exposed by small scale excavations. The remains uncovered have confirmed the 17th century documentation of the building works and provided additional information. The walls are substantial, built on a timber lattice foundation supported by timber piles, they are mainly of brick with a lower outer facing of massive limestone ashlar blocks. To the rear, the walls are supported by irregularly spaced brick buttresses. The excavations typically exposed the top 1.5m of the lower ashlar facing without reaching the foundations. In addition, the ground plan of an 1805 traversing gun position was identified in the south west bastion, and the footings for a sallyport and casemated magazine in the south east bastion were also uncovered. Following excavation, part of the ground plan of the south east bastion was marked out on the ground for public display and a small section of walling was reconstructed, topped by an original sentry box. These features are also included in the monument. The original main gate to the Citadel was located in the centre of the north east curtain and has also been partly exposed by excavation, uncovering one of the guard chambers flanking the gate. By 1735, this gate was disused, replaced by an entrance at the south west bastion, and during the Napoleonic Wars the guard chambers served as magazines. In the interior of the Citadel was a broad parade ground with buildings along the insides of the western and eastern curtain ramparts. On the west side were two large barrack blocks and associated buildings such as wash houses. Officers were provided with separate accommodation in a pair of buildings on the south side of the parade ground. Excavation evidence suggests that archaeological remains of these buildings and associated structures also still survive in situ.

A number of features are excluded from the scheduling; these are all buildings and standing structures, except the reconstructed walling and sentry box noted above, all fences, telegraph poles, sign posts, street furniture and playground equipment, and all road and path surfaces. The ground beneath all these features is, however, 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.

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Books and journals
Howes, A, Foreman, M, Town and Gun, (1999)
Foreman, M, Goodhand, S, 'Post-Medieval Archaeology' in The Construction of Hull Citadel, , Vol. 30, (1996), 143-185


This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

End of official listing

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