Laira Emplacement, immediately south west of Laira Battery


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1020686

Date first listed: 11-Feb-2002


Ordnance survey map of Laira Emplacement, immediately south west of Laira Battery
© Crown Copyright and database right 2018. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
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This copy shows the entry on 22-Oct-2018 at 23:33:08.


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 51291 56201


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

Reasons for Designation

The Royal Commission fortifications are a group of related sites established in response to the 1859 Royal Commission report on the defence of the United Kingdom. This had been set up following an invasion scare caused by the strengthening of the French Navy. These fortifications represented the largest maritime defence programme since the initiative of Henry VIII in 1539-40. The programme built upon the defensive works already begun at Plymouth and elsewhere and recommended the improvement of existing fortifications as well as the construction of new ones. There were eventually some 70 forts and batteries in England which were due wholly or in part to the Royal Commission. These constitute a well defined group with common design characteristics, armament and defensive provisions. Whether reused or not during the 20th century, they are the most visible core of Britain's coastal defence systems and are known colloquially as `Palmerston's follies'. All examples are considered of national importance.

The Laira Emplacement survives as a nearly complete example of an unaltered earthwork battery gun emplacement of Royal Commission date which retains components such as its military access road, defensive embankment, magazines, and rampart and glacis, all in an excellent state of preservation. Laira Emplacement formed an integral part of the planned and coherent defensive position known as the Efford-Laira position. This position in turn formed a key part of the wider defensive system for the naval dockyard at Plymouth, a system which, by virtue of its grand scale and sheer strength, indicated the extent to which Britain would go to protect its naval interests. The monument survives therefore as a little-changed visual reminder of Victorian military power and thinking which led to the construction of a massive defensive system around the city of Plymouth.


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


The monument includes a mid-19th century gun battery known as Laira Emplacement which survives in the form of earthworks and brick-built expense magazines. It formed part of the north east land defences of Plymouth which encircled the Plymouth harbourage and were intended to protect it from land attack in the event of invasion. The emplacement is sited on a spur overlooking both the Plym valley and the rear of the associated and contemporary Laira Battery, the subject of a separate scheduling. Fears of a French invasion of Britain in the middle years of the 19th century led to the formation of a Royal Commission in 1859 to consider the defences of the United Kingdom. The Royal Commission's recommendations for Plymouth were acted upon by Major W F D Jervois and resulted in the completion, by 1872, of six new coast batteries and a ring of 18 land forts and batteries based on three principal forts at Staddon, and Crownhill on the Devon side of the harbour and Tregantle on the Cornish side. The land forts and batteries were linked by a system of military roads protected from the likely direction of attack by earth traverses and cuttings. The earthwork battery of Laira Emplacement was designed in 1869 to mount six guns, two to bear on the right flank of Laira Battery and four on the Laira River and the opposite riverbank at Saltram; it was connected to Laira Battery and other parts of the defences by a purpose-built and defended military road. Access to the battery was via a spur of the military road set into a cutting and protected by an embankment to the south east. The battery has an earth rampart gun emplacement, part of which faces south towards the River Laira, and part of which faces east towards Laira Battery; both sections of this earthwork have brick-built expense magazines buried within the rampart with entrances at the rear. The southern magazine has been blocked in modern times but the eastern magazine is open and the original chamber is visible to full height and with part of its flagstone floor surviving. The area to the front of the rampart was landscaped at the time of construction to form a glacis (a long sloping bank which would expose any attackers to prolonged fire). By 1885 none of the proposed 64 pounder rifled muzzle loading guns had been mounted, but by 1893 four 8 inch howitzers were put into place. The precise date of abandonment by the then War Department is not known but the site was released by the Ministry of Defence in 1961 at the same time as Laira Battery.

All modern fencing and fence posts are 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: 33052

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Pye, A, Woodward, F, The Historic Defences of Plymouth, (1996), 191

End of official listing